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London Fashions Keep Bold Reputation

September 25, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ A topless bride struts in a see-through tulle dress bulging with straw. Supermodel Jodie Kidd twinkles in a $350,000 evening gown sprinkled with 2,000 diamonds _ reportedly the most expensive dress ever to hit the catwalk.

London Fashion Week is sticking to its reputation for boldness as it lifts its skirts to show what British designers have in store for the spring and summer of 2001.

``This season, there is even more of the new,″ said Nicholas Coleridge, managing director of Conde Nast Publications and new chairman of the organizer, the British Fashion Council.

Fashion writers agree it’s the show to see. ``If you’re in fashion, you’ve got to be here,″ announced The New York Times’ Cathy Horyn.

Several young designers, including Anthony Symonds, Arkadius, Boudicca, David Wyatt and Maria Chen have been sponsored this time by retail giant Marks and Spencer.

They and London’s big guns _ Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Julien MacDonald _ keep the buyers and press coming, providing a window onto an industry now worth more than $28 billion a year.

It was Polish-born Arkadius Weremczuk who came up with the eccentric, all-enveloping bridal gown of sheer tulle, worn by a model clad only in the smallest of flesh-colored bikini briefs and a hat resembling a multicolored bird’s nest.

At Arkadius’ weekend show, run to a soundtrack of farmyard noises, another model crushed strawberries into her white chiffon blouse and dribbled juice down her leather skirt.

A third sported a skirt with a cutout at the crotch that was held together with a plastic bird’s nest.

There were more wearable offerings from other young designers who showed over the weekend, including Matthew Williamson, who produced candy-striped sundresses and cashmere sweaters in bon-bon shades, along with prom skirts festooned with bugle beads and stiffened with bright tulle underskirts.

He also offered hot pants and flowing, feminine blouses in candy-colored camouflage prints and an array of cropped fishnet tops.

Maria Chen featured ruffles and prints and crystal appliques in a collection she described as ``urban dandy″ _ it included a man’s shirt with trompe l’oeil ruffles.

There are 49 scheduled catwalk shows for London Fashion Week, which runs until Wednesday at the Natural History Museum, and scores more on the fringe.

The exhibition halls are showcasing shoes, jewelry, handbags and scarves by more than 150 designers.

Celebrities are out in numbers, from Grace Jones _ who donned a gold-sequinned top hat and sprawled across a stretch limo for mad hatter Philip Treacy’s sidewalk show in upscale New Bond Street _ to Luciana Morad, the mother of Mick Jagger’s youngest child, who stepped out for Paul Costelloe.

Maria Grachvogel, a veteran of several seasons who specializes in evening gowns, said she produced the diamond-encrusted dress with daring silk corset and draped transparent chiffon skirt and train as a challenge to herself.

Grachvogel, who has designed for actress Joely Richardson and Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, plans to auction the dress next month for Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund.

``We wanted to retain a link with South Africa, where the diamonds came from,″ the 31-year-old designer said.

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