Westwood leads British day at London catwalks

LONDON, Alice Ritchie - The gothic splendour of London's Royal Courts of Justice was the dramatic backdrop for Vivienne Westwood's new Red Label line Sunday as she rounded off a day of shows by some of Britain's top designers.
Westwood's trademark tartan, the slouchy dresses and fabrics draped almost effortlessly around the models' bodies were even more striking when set against the cathedral-style arches and marble floors of the courthouse hall.

A model presents a creation by Vivienne Westwood during the Autumn/Winter 2010 Red Label collection show at London fashion week (AFP/Geoff Caddick)
A model presents a creation by Vivienne Westwood during the Autumn/Winter 2010 Red Label collection show at London fashion week (AFP/Geoff Caddick)
A purple tartan cape, matching shorts and scarlet cut-off wellies were followed by a sheepskin top and skirt with elastic edging, a simple, sexy coral silk dress, and a draped pink checked corset matched with a huge hooded top.
Shiny snakeskin was used for a belted, strapless evening dress, and one outfit in multicoloured mirrored fabric lit up the whole building.
Some of the models also wore t-shirts specially designed for Naomi Campbell's Fashion for Relief charity, which is raising money for women's healthcare in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there.
The show rounded off a day dominated by the biggest names in British fashion, from Matthew Williamson -- recently returned from years of showing in New York -- to London Fashion Week stalwarts Betty Jackson and Jasper Conran.
Opening with a structured grey dress with protrusions in stiffened wool and a cape-style top, Williamson offered sumptuous fur coats, collars and gilets mixed with playful bright dresses and multicoloured prints.
Belts inlaid with huge jewels were laid on sparkling wrapped mini-dresses, tapered trousers had glittery detailing down the front, and bolero jackets were embellished with swirling fans of fabric at the shoulders and heavy beading.
Among Williamson's friends in the front row were actress Sienna Miller and 1960s model Twiggy, who said he was "the best".
"I think it's really exciting, because he's totally evolved. The last couple of seasons he's been heading in a totally new direction and I think this is cementing it," said Miller, whose own Twenty8Twelve line is showing here.
Earlier, Betty Jackson opened the day with a collection using wools, leathers, furs, silks, and swirling and horizontal prints inspired by the sunsets and colour blends of English artist JMW Turner.
One year off the 30th anniversary of her collection, she was on trend with denim drainpipe trousers and a matching cape-like top, and a high-waisted denim skirt worn with a black leather crop-top.
Aubergine corduroy trousers with big pockets and mannish jackets in a shiny brown tweed-like material were a nod to the trend for masculine clothing also seen at Margaret Howell, who matched boyfriend trousers with slouchy big knits.
Celebrating 40 years since she founded her label, Howell used multiple layers with mannish suits showing untucked shirts underneath.
Oversized shirt dresses in corduroy, red, and blue and black checks were matched with long-belted cardigans or under a fitted classic red jumper -- always belted, with a thin leather strap to define the waist.
Elsewhere Jasper Conran, who has been showing here since 1979, broke this season's trend for a muted palette with bold colours in voluminous shapes.
Rosewood-coloured heavy silk was moulded into a pod jacket, while a stiffened orange knit was laid over a classic grey shift. Softer volume was obtained through a pod dress of layered, mocha-coloured silk.
Conran also played with shapes by cutting out rectangular panels from fuscia, red and yellow silk dresses, and laid metallic panels onto sheer dresses in strategic places to protect the models' modesty.
Some of the biggest British brands are yet to show in London, however, with Pringle of Scotland still to come on Monday and Burberry Prorsum on Tuesday.

Monday, February 22nd 2010
Alice Ritchie

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