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Fall Collection Mixes Elegance With Offbeat

March 18, 1985

LONDON (AP) _ Mixing traditional elegance with zany eccentricity, British designers have come up with a fall collection inspired by every era and offering everything from knitted mini skirts and upside-down jackets to luxurious paisley brocades.

The key word was imagination - and there was plenty of it from Georgina Godley’s Chanel-inspired jackets and minis for Croalla to Jasper Conran’s outsize Dr. Zhivago coats, some with mink collars dyed shocking pink and electric orange.

″There’s an enormous mix at the moment - tremendous extremes,″ said designer David Sassoon of Bellville Sassoon, one of Princess Diana’s favorite labels. ″I think a lot of enthusiastic young people are producing a lot of exciting fashion. And there’s a lot of mainstream fashion and quality fashion as well.″

Britain’s growing importance on the international fashion circuit was reflected in the record number of buyers who had registered by Sunday, about 2,500 including over 1,500 from overseas.

At a reception for top buyers and designers Tuesday night, the government is producing its best advertisement for British fashion, Princess Diana. Organizers said her appearance was just one indication of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s interest in promoting the fashion industry, which last year saw exports top $1.2 billion.

At the top end of the market, buyers had their choice of Caroline Charles’ embroidered paisley jackets and trousers, Janice Wainright’s panne velvet gowns, Bellville Sassoon’s raspberry 20s-style mini-shifts, Roland Klein’s fuschia and black lace print blousons and David and Elizabeth Emanuel’s long silk jackets and slinky dresses.

The English country theme featuring riding clothes, hunting prints and jodphurs ran through several collections including John McIntyre, Arabella Pollen and Jasper Conran.

But it was the offbeat collections of the young designers that had tongues wagging - and buyers lining up with their checkbooks.

″The overseas reaction is incredible,″ said Betty Jackson, who had buyers lined up five deep waiting to see her collection of long blousons over slim ski pants and big teddy boy jackets in dog-tooth checks mixed with long striped skirts.

″If we’re anything to go by, Britain has made it,″ she said. ″More people are here than last time and obviously the strong dollar and the weak pound has helped. But I think they’re here because they like the stuff. We have great designers here.″

The buyers also flocked to see Wendy Dagworthy’s flannel coats with swirling skirts, Katherine Hamnett’s tight short skirts over legging pants with baggy jackets, and John Galliano’s half-woman half-bird silhouette with cropped jackets worn upside down to sprout wings.

″We think it’s really very exciting,″ said Ellen Alpert, fashion coordinator for Bamberger’s in New Jersey, who was leading a team of buyers for Macy’s shopping for contemporary clothes.

″Because of the dollar being so good, we’re looking into buying more resources than before,″ she said.

Sharon Lewis, a buyer for the Encore speciality store in Pacific Palisades, Calif., agreed. ″It’s forthright. It’s a new direction. Some aspects of wearability are questionable. But it’s a whole new mood for people to break out.″

Liz Aragona, a buyer for Associated Dry Goods which owns Lord and Taylor and Robinson’s in California, said: ″So far, our reaction has been very favorable. Betty Jackson is the one. Some buyers have felt there’s a lot like last year, but they still like it.″

While waiting to see Betty Jackson’s collection, Fred Rogers, owner of L.H. Rogers boutique in Salem, Mass., said he believed British fashion was improving.

″They’ve gotten better and better. They’ve got a lot of updated merchandise ... Their only problem is that their shipments are late from London,″ he said.

Designer Benny Ong, showing slinky cashmeres and with voluminous jackets, said British designers had gotten better at selling. ″If there’s proper management, I think London will make it, but it depends on the next two seasons. Certainly, there’s great design talent in Britain.″

Added Caroline Charles: ″We seem to have been telling ourselves we’re top of the pile for the last 18 months - and the dollar has helped. So I feel quite cheerful, hence the colors of my collection, red, greed, blue and fuschia.″

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