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The BBC's David Sillito
"Many in the fashion world like London's eccentric style"
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Monday, 19 February, 2001, 13:19 GMT
Is the catwalk out of step?
We may scoff at many of the outlandish designs paraded at London Fashion Week, but how much does the catwalk influence the average wardrobe?

Fashion is all about being noticed, right? Well, yes and no.

As London Fashion Week gets into its strut, predictably, it is the most outrageous outfits that are making the headlines.

Could you go outdoors, or even through doors?
First up for the title of Enfant Terrible 2001, was Polish-born designer Arkadius Weremczuk, who stole the opening day with a collection that included two models wearing different halves of the same suit.

The London-based designer, who tends to go by his first name only, also exhibited a corset with a balloon-like sphere covering the upper body of the model who was wearing it.

That creation might have had the assembled photographers snapping with delight, but to the uninitiated it looked like a bulbous beekeeper's mask.

And therein lies the age-old point - is this fashion for the masses in all its undiluted glory, or just a cynical ploy to get the media in a froth and hence some cheap publicity?

Street wear

The couture world naturally shuns any charge of opportunism, claiming instead that the influence of even the most radical outfits eventually filters through to the High Street multiples.

"You'll all be wearing these one day"
There are some notable examples. The public guffawed at Jean-Paul Gaultier's "pointy bra" creation in the late 1980s but there was no looking back once the Frenchman had Madonna on-board, sporting the cone-shaped brassiere.

In recent years there has been much talk about "underwear as outerwear" - ordinary folk have become positively eager to offer glimpses of the designer smalls beneath their regular attire.

But sometimes, it seems, fashion is simply for fashion's sake.

"Haute couture? I can't see it myself"
Stylist Mo White, who has worked with many of London's top designers, spoke out last year to dismiss the notion that all catwalk creations filter down.

"Outrageous designs are only on the catwalk to try to attract attention," Ms White told a daily newspaper.

"They are being shown to try and catapult them into the newspapers and the designers into jobs. Many of the outfits are never meant to be worn."

Russell Sage's money dress
Is money at the root of catwalk craziness?
There are perhaps many notable examples. Arkadius was not alone in making a tabloid splash on the first day of London Fashion Week. Another headline-grabber was Russell Sage's dress made of sterling banknotes - about 10,000 worth.

And who remembers Suitsyu Siritsveriyu's dress made entirely of After Eight mints? Or Hussein Chalayan's coffee-table skirt - literally a coffee table that converted into a skirt.

But does it matter that these outlandish designs will never make it into your nearest branch of New Look or Dorothy Perkins? After all, fashion is supposed to be fun.

Fashion victim

Not according to Lisa Armstrong, fashion writer for The Times, who has seriously questioned the motives of many designers.

The look of the future, or a ruff guess?
"From the various sexual fetishes on parade to the facile rubbish that spewed out on to the catwalks during the past month... it seemed that designers were out to get women, or at least make them look foolish," she asked recently.

So could the continued fashion for sending female models before the world part naked or in approximations of bondage betray a sign of the industry's misogyny?

"Clearly creativity is about pushing boundaries, but why is it always this one?"

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See also:

19 Feb 01 | Talking Point
London Fashion Week: Fun or folly?
17 Feb 00 | UK
Frocks and freakery
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