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London Out of Fashion Doldrums and Back In Spotlight

February 29, 1996

LONDON (AP) _ The city that invented the miniskirt is out of the fashion doldrums and back in the spotlight.

For the first time in years, London has launched the European fashion season, featuring a host of hot young hopefuls and a big-name designer who’s back from Paris.

``I think that we are full of very innovative young designers who are causing waves of excitement,″ said Annette Worsley-Taylor, consultant to London Fashion Week. ``It’s a cyclical thing. At the moment, it’s London’s turn.″

London has always been Europe’s third fashion center, behind Paris and Milan. Only two years ago, it held just 18 shows and canceled the parallel fashion exhibition.

This year, fashion glitterati can feast on 29 shows and 135 exhibitions before moving to Milan on Saturday.

The big fashion news is that John Rocha, Britain’s Designer of the Year in 1993, is showing in London again after three seasons in Paris _ and his autumn and winter collection, called ``Love Comes To Town,″ is innovative and stunning.

Born in Hong Kong and of Chinese and Portuguese descent, Rocha has lived and worked in Dublin for 16 years. He had some success in Paris, but he said he ``always loved the energy and atmosphere″ of London Fashion Week _ and with it’s prestige growing, he decided to return.

A master mixer, Rocha blends different textures and fabrics. He topped long, lean skirts with jersey shirts and hand-painted knits. Stretch pinstripe pants were worn with laminated lace tops and shapely khaki army jackets with wide trousers.

Rocha joins Katharine Hamnett, another former Designer of the Year who returned from Milan in 1995, at the top of London’s list of fashion stars. She described her fall collection as ``wantable, wearable clothes″ that women search for and rarely find _ like a simple, bias-cut gray flannel dress.

But much of the focus this week is on London’s new talent.

``I think everyone is looking for the new Galliano,″ Worsley-Taylor said, referring to John Galliano, one of the few British designers to become a star on the Paris fashion scene.

Marks and Spencer, the British department store chain, is sponsoring catwalk shows for three New Generation young designers _ and provided exhibition space for nine other hopefuls.

At the spring shows, the buzz was out that Antonio Berardi, a 27-year-old former assistant to Galliano, was one of the names to watch.

His second catwalk show Wednesday showed off his design talent, with sharp and nippy tailored shapes and sexy high-necked catsuits trimmed in yellow. Short yellow taffeta dresses had strategically placed slits, some with huge roses and flyaway panels.

Another young designer, Owen Gaster, showed a racy collection featuring neon-colored slip dresses, cellophane-look shirts, and metal piping accents.

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