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Light frocks, simple suits tipped at London Fashion Week

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LONDON, Sept 19 (AFP) - Flowing dresses and simple suits were the focus of Nicole Farhi, Ghost and Betty Jackson at London Fashion Week on Monday, where attention was also fixed on the upcoming debut by a high street retailer.

Britain's biggest fashion carnival, which opened on Sunday, is packed with new and established designers, showing their spring-summer 2006 collections until Thursday.

"I think everyone is fed up with boho (gypsy-style). It is time to move on, " Jackson, a prominent British designer, told AFP after presenting her catwalk show in a makeshift hall at the Natural History Museum, where the five-day fashion fest is based.

"It should be much sleeker and sharper," she said.

Her collection featured a series of largely snug-fitting mono-coloured dresses and trouser suits for women, but there were also several loosely cut numbers that looked a bit like maternity wear.

Many designers have chosen toned down colours and cuts for next summer compared with the more vibrant outfits a year ago.

Farhi, one of the best-known names featuring this week, set the scene for a summer of flowing, frilly dresses and skirts in simple whites, blacks, maroons and greens for the ladies as well as a range of smart but casual outfits for the men.

In a majestic start to the day, she held her show in the glass-roofed, arch-shaped Floral Hall at London's Royal Opera House on an unusual four-sided catwalk.

A couple of swirling black-and-white-print swimsuits were also paraded before a hungry pack of photographers, buyers and press crowded inside and outside the square-shaped catwalk, with more watching down from balconies above.

Frilly dresses also graced the next show by Ghost -- another British fashion success, launched by the designer Tanya Sarne in 1994 - along with layered petticoats and lacy underwear worn by models with large bouffant-styled hair.

Matching many of the outfits with a single accessory such as a bag, large belt or chunky necklace, the collection also used pale colours, such as purples, yellows, greens and oranges with the cheeky splash of pink thrown in for good measure.

"It was a kind of fair ground, you know hodge-podge, throw your clothes on in the morning all tasselled and frayed with lovely fabrics," Sarne told AFP backstage.

"There was also a very sophisticated elegant part of it which is very lovely, very beautiful dresses," she said. "It is a mixture, but it is essentially a girl dressing up."

A big talking point on Monday was the catwalk debut by Top Shop, a popular British budget clothing chain aimed at young people which already sponsors many of the emerging labels.

Its upmarket Unique collection will mark the first time a high street store has displayed its wares at London Fashion Week alongside the exclusive garments worn largely by the rich and famous.

Top Shop, along with a growing number of high street stores, hires catwalk designers to come up with cheap but trendy clothes for mass marketing.

It was thus only a matter of time before the trend-follower became the trend-setter, fashion exerts say.

London is generally regarded as the poor cousin to better-established fashion weeks in Paris, New York and Milan. But the city is nonetheless famous for attracting unknown names and elevating them onto the international stage.

The likes of Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Stella McCartney all debuted in the British capital.

This year, 19 new names are taking part in the catwalk shows or presenting their outfits at The Exhibition -- a specially set up area at the Natural History Museum, packed with 170 exhibitors.

Among the overall highlights so-far was the London debut of top Indian designer Manish Arora, along with a new industrial look from crowd-favourite Giles and fur protesters at Julien MacDonald's show.



COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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