What's hot for next winter

London Fashion Week, renowned for spawning strange, eclectic collections, is in full swing. Irish designer Paul Costelloe's catwalk show got this year's proceedings underway but, as Katy Evans found out, the classic look is still hot.

London Fashion Week, renowned for spawning strange, eclectic collections, is in full swing. Irish designer Paul Costelloe's catwalk show got this year's proceedings underway but, as Katy Evans found out, the classic look is still hot.

SUMMER has not yet been and gone but in the world of fashion autumn/winter is already sewn up.

Dublin designer Paul Costelloe, whose entire family, it seemed, were in tow to see his eye-catching autumn/winter collection, got London Fashion Week off in style at the British Fashion Council tent at the Natural History Museum.

Not only was it the first show of the week, it was also my first ever fashion show. So excited was I that I arrived unfashionably early and had to wait 20 minutes outside the gates, watching as models (I assumed they were as their legs were the same width as my arms) scurried back stage to have their hair and make-up fixed.

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Once inside the purpose-built marquee, coffee, champagne and doughnuts were served (a strange choice of food for such an event, I thought, but then some were sugar free - 'diet donuts' perhaps?).

By 9.20am a mixture of fashion press, businesses men, ladies who lunch, and friends of the designer were all jostling for space, so the PR girls began admitting people to the auditorium.

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I watched from my front row seat as a gaggle of photographers squeezed themselves into a tiny space at the end of the catwalk, looking ready to pounce.

As people were still being seated, the lights dimmed, the music blared, and a succession of gazelle-like girls stalked out onto the runway, accompanied by the sound of clattering shutter release buttons.

Costelloe, renowned for smart, functional clothing for ladies in their 30s-50s, heralded the return of the tailored, layered look for autumn/winter. Going back to the post war era when fashion was again flourishing and women wanted to look sophisticated and smart, the Irish designer showed nipped waists, cropped, fitted jackets, and slim skirts finishing mid-calf for a sleek silhouette.

Waists were accentuated with high-cut trousers and skirts teamed with both thin and wide leather belts, which were also worn over winter coats and simple silk crepe de chine blouses.

Jumpers looked cosy and snug, including fine gauge argyle knits and chunky grey belted cowl necks.

Trousers came in every length imaginable, starting with thigh-skimming shorts to knee-length and three quarter length flares, skinny-cut pairs and those with floor-skimming wide legs (teamed with fitted waistcoats and striped shirts for a tailored, more masculine look).

Both shorts and skirts were teamed with opaque tights (no one would be daft enough to wear shorts and have bare legs in the midst of winter), mainly in grey and aubergine although some were canary yellow, although I can't see this colour working anywhere but on the runway (and even then they made the models seem somewhat bird-like - which of course they are, being size 6).

Coats were mid-calf to floor-length and included the return of the double-breasted look. Dresses were also a key part of the collection, mainly with puffed up, short sleeves and some with large pussy cat bows for the prim and proper.

There was no shortage of colour and pattern with key hues for the season including aubergine, marl, and teal, with highlights of ultra violet, and red.

Tartans and large checks were all the rage, plus grey and black being staple shades for the less adventurous.

Fabric-wise, the key materials were a mixture of compact, shrunken tweeds, short taffetas and rich, washed silks. Shoes were at least five inches high, in either classic court styles of chunky wedges, and hair was loose, flowing and softly curled to counter balance the sharp tailoring.

After the show, I managed to get back stage to talk to the designer about his collection.

“This is my interpretation of the late 40s. It's very tailored and has lots of texture,” said Costelloe. “I've emphasised the shoulder area by using padding, and also drawn attention to the waist.

“I'm bringing back the corset look. I remember watching my mother getting dressed with a corset. It's a look that is very interesting to men I think!” smiled the father of seven.

“But it's not about over-styling or accessorising, it's about clean shapes, great fabrics and expert tailoring,” he added.

Costelloe first trained in Paris in the 60s, then worked as a designer for Marks and Spencer. Having worked in Milan, New York and Philadelphia, he launched his own label in Ireland in 1979.

The jovial designer was accompanied at the show by his wife of 25 years. Does he design with her in mind?

“Not really but she does wear my things. She buys from Top Shop and other places, and mixes it with my stuff.”

So what keeps him designing year upon year?

“I still enjoy the challenge; that and I'm a bad loser and I don't want anyone to take away my little space in the fashion world,” he smiled.

“I've got all these children to encourage me; they're my biggest fans. Plus my wife always bullies me into going further and doing better.''

Paul Costelloe is at House of Fraser in Chaplefield Shopping Centre, Norwich (0870 160 7259), and JLP Robert Sayle at 62-74 Burleigh Street in Cambridge (01223 361292).

PRESS and buyers alike queued up to catch a glimpse of what we will be wearing next winter as London Fashion Week got off to a great start on Tuesday.

Having floundered for some years, 2006 sees London proudly stamp its mark back on the fashion map.

US Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, is also making a visit to the capital for the first time in several years - clear proof that LFW is back on top form.

A change of dates has also helped raise the profile. Formerly following on the heels of New York's Fashion Week, London's event has been moved closer to the start of Milan's Fashion Week, meaning foreign fashionistas have more easily been able to combine the two.

In total, 48 catwalk shows are taking place across London, including the Natural History Museum; the Royal Academy of Arts, where a mixture of established and new talent will be on display; plus the usual smattering of derelict East End warehouse-style locations.

London Fashion week continues until Sunday February 19. The Evening Standard London Fashion Weekend, a ticket event for members of the public, is on February 23-26 where there will be designer bargains, beauty and more.

London Fashion Weekend website

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