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Fashion 87 : Wit, Whimsy Reign on Wet London's Runways

October 13, 1987|BETTIJANE LEVINE | Times Fashion Editor

LONDON — Torrents of rain and spring fashions arrived here simultaneously as an international group of 6,500 retailers and members of the press began their slosh through the long weekend of London designer shows, presented under the auspices of the British Fashion Council.

From the first outing on Friday night by designer Rifat Ozbek, it was clear that even flood conditions would not dampen the enthusiasm of buyers, who had just endured a stultifying sameness among mini-minded designers in Milan. As Bullock's fashion director Monty Ventura explained, after exploring the British market, "Milan's were very serious clothes, whereas London is chock-full of wit, whimsy and creativity."

London is also full of soft, pretty fabrics, small rounded shoulders, bare midriffs, high waistlines and short skirts.

In his show, Ozbek's contribution to the look was Mexican-inspired, featuring raffia frills poking out on skirts, pants and jackets. Slim cotton and Lycra knit minis, brightly striped in what Ozbek called his "Mexican blanket motif," turned up along with flouncy, short, full skirts featuring rows of ruffles. Topping these were a variety of small, linen bolero jackets and shrunken T-shirt looks that fit close to the body, often cropped or tied just below the bosom.

Waistlines were often high, especially on skirts and wide pants which are cropped a few inches above the ankle. Ozbek's colors were South of the Border, too. Yucatan earth shades combined with mariachi shades of aqua, pink and green.

Although curvy shapes, short skirts, high waistlines and bare midriffs were repeated often throughout the shows, as were punctuations of hot color, few designer collections in this city looked alike.

John Galliano's standing-ovation show Sunday night was a triumph of individuality and grace. Palest pearl gray was his color of choice, along with white and wispy pastels in

featherweight wool, cotton, taffeta and chiffon. These were shaped into styles that will almost certainly be bought (or reproduced) by some of America's youth-oriented, fashion-hungry stores.

The designer took waistlines to new highs, carrying them up to or onto the bosom, and often down to the hips as well. Skirts were wearably short in slim, coatdress styles. Or they billowed gently to longer lengths, arching out over the hips, falling into poufs and drapes along the way. Some hems dipped lower in front than in back, and vice versa. Tucked into these softly high-waisted skirts, which never pinched in at the body, were the simplest shrinks of blouses, either of stretch knit, woven cotton or pale silk chiffon.

For evening, the chiffons had halter necklines, cap or cape sleeves. Often they topped bell-shaped skirts of pastel plaid taffeta with hemlines that dipped from calf to ankle.

Hugging Skirts, Swingy Jackets

Brick, grape, bright yellow, and plenty of white showed up at Betty Jackson's well-received show. The designer offered a variety of narrow-shoulder, snug, knit tops that wrapped in front and often stopped just below the bosom. With these, there were very short, snug, miniskirts along with less figure-hugging skirt styles, topped by loose, swingy jackets. A navy-and-white linen group featured cropped, wide-leg pants, loose tops and above-the-knee, linen dresses that hung away from the body but were marked with Empire seaming to denote a high waist.

Bias-cut, wide pants ending above the ankle or the knee were teamed with bra tops and loose jackets. Bicycle pants, shown here and elsewhere, went with long tops or oversize cotton-knit shirts.

Alistair Blair offered retailers some curvy ideas, with his fitted torso look that rises above the waistline to the bosom and below the waistline to the hips. Often these dresses and suits had a slim belt fitted through loops to mark the body's natural midpoint. Lots of long, boxy jackets were shown with short skirts or pants. For evening, a red organza duster topped a strapless dress with red top and short, sequined skirt.

Frills surfaced at the usually unruffled house of Workers For Freedom, a 2-year-old firm owned by designers Graham Fraser and Richard Nott. Here, among the oversize, khaki-colored linen pants with pink organdy roll-sleeve shirts, the white satin lounging-pajama looks for men and women, the baggy-fit pale-blue pique men's walking shorts and matching shirt dresses for women (both saturated with colorless sequins to lend a shiny look), were tiny ruffles that sounded an unusually delicate and romantic note. The ruffles were placed all around the low, horseshoe-shaped neckline of a lilac peplum dress, around the beautifully scooped-out neckline of a white satin suit blouse and around an off-the-shoulder neckline of a blue cotton outfit that looked like a one-piece dress in front, a skirt and jacket in back.

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