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Alexander McQueen shows again why he’s making fashion history

March 1, 1997

LONDON (AP) _ A month after he electrified Paris with his first couture collection for Givenchy, Alexander McQueen came home to London and showed once again why he is making fashion history _ and he isn’t the only young British designer who’s hot.

Remember the names Hussein Chalayan, Antonio Berardi and Owen Gaster, part of a growing band of young designers who are producing revolutionary new looks and nipping at McQueen’s heels for fashion stardom.

This new generation of designers showed on London’s catwalks this week that they are at the cutting edge of contemporary design.

``It’s a whole new approach to British style,″ said Susanne Tide-Frater, head of fashion direction for Selfridges, a leading British department store. ``The influence of the street wear in the tailoring really give it that edge that you can’t find in Paris.″

And designers are ``taking creativity much more seriously,″ she said.

``It’s a breath of fresh air,″ said Jeannine Braden, a buyer for Fred Segal Flair, which has two shops in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. ``I was just in New York. In London, they’re not scared to be funky and over the top and they incorporate that into their personal style.″

McQueen, 27, chose city devastation as a theme for the trend-setting fall collection under his own label, which he showed in a fruit and vegetable market not far from London’s tough East End where he grew up.

It featured splash-bleached denim, flowing frock coats, leather jackets with reptilian tails growing out of the shoulders and a crocodile’s head sprouting from the back of a man’s coat. It also displayed McQueen’s expert tailoring _ black leather finished with Chinese flowers and sharp trouser suits.

McQueen is following in the footsteps of another British design sensation, John Galliano, who moved from London to Paris, first to Givenchy and this year to Dior.

During London Fashion Week, which ended Friday, buyers and fashion writers were scouring the catwalks for the next Galliano or McQueen.

Annette Worsley-Taylor, consultant to London Fashion Week, walked out of Chalayan’s show Thursday night raving about its modern spirit and creative ``designer edge.″

``I think it showed a really new major designer,″ she said.

Chalayan, 26, has abandoned radical outrage for modern sculptured-looking knits and wonderful long wool dresses with strategically placed sheer patterns that exposed legs, breasts, or midriffs.

There were gasps and applause when a model came down the catwalk in a long, clinging burgundy jersey dress with tiny gold chains on the front and back which danced as she walked.

Berardi, 28, a former assistant to Galliano, scored with sharp leather suits and tiny chiffon dresses with asymmetric hems, one of the big trends for fall and winter.

Gaster, 26, who built a reputation for ``neo-punk″ designs, produced a much more wearable collection this year and picked up the French department store Galerie Lafayette as a new customer. He featured heavily tailored shirts with wing collars in a variety of fabrics, including black fake ostrich skin.

Several other young designers also won kudos from buyers and fashion critics.

Maria Grachvogel’s burnt-orange velvets and asymmetric slip dresses were big favorites. So were John Rocha’s sheepskin coats and chiffon dresses.

The design duo of Reynold Pearce, 32, and Andrew Fionda, 29, crowned Britain’s best new designers in 1994, showed lovely sleek jersey jackets and pants that flattered every curve, snappy suits and dazzling orange jersey evening dresses with draped, plunging backs.

Fashion consultant Katherine Samuel said it was their best collection yet.

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