LONDON: THAT'S ALL, FOLKS
THE LONDON SHOWS CLOSED WITH A GREEK-INSPIRED PERFORMANCE BY SOPHIA KOKOSALAKI, WHILE HUSSEIN CHALAYAN'S COLLECTION GOT SMASHED--LITERALLY.

Sophia Kokosalaki: In the past three seasons, she has made a hit with her hip looks inspired by her native Greece. Kokosalaki stayed on that path for spring 2001 and came up with one of the best shows of the London season.
While the designer's draped and fringed styles fit in perfectly with the Eighties mood that's been all over London, she avoided the mistake made by many of her peers by simply nodding to the past rather than traveling back in time. The collection bore her own stamp, emphasizing leather in the form of patchwork tops, slim pants, skirts and fringed waistcoats; silk tulle tops and skirts with patches of leather or cotton and fringe, and softly draped, jersey or tulle skirts, dresses and tops. The colors were earth tones, with the occasional flash of bright green or blush pink. Folk touches appeared in the form of wrapped leather belts or wide straps cinching the ankles of leather pants. But Kokosalaki recognizes that, while a little bit of Grecian formula is fine, too much can be damaging.
The designer got a master's degree in fashion from Central Saint Martins two years ago, after obtaining a literature degree in Athens. Her previous collections have been bought by the likes of Henri Bendel in New York, Joseph and Browns Focus. "I always knew I'd do fashion, but five years of studying it is too long," she said. "I wanted to do my own collection because I didn't think that anyone would hire me."
She's wrong about that. Ruffo has signed her up to do both the women's and men's collections for its Ruffo Research line, which she'll show during the Milan collections. But it's easy to see why the company was impressed with this relative newcomer when she talks about the need to balance the avant-garde and the commercial. "I like to experiment with new ideas but also to do some classic pieces," Kokosalaki said. "I don't want things to look too overdesigned. Being too experimental can be death."Hussein Chalayan: Ah, the weight of expectation! Retailers and the press were desperately hoping that Chalayan's show on Wednesday night at the Gainsborough Studios in North London would be a stellar event that would help redeem a generally so-so season. But they were disappointed. The presentation seemed to lack the energy and drama of the past three seasons, when the designer has justifiably become one of the most watched around. The crush at the door and the need to eject 50 ticketholders for health and safety reasons didn't help anybody's mood, either, nor did the vertigo-inducing set. And it's always dicey to start a show with a movie, especially a computer-generated story of a murder and rebirth via seeds and clothing. (Yes, it was unclear even to those who were there.)
As for the clothes, Chalayan explored many of the themes that he's introduced in previous seasons--volume via draping or ruffles, contrast stitching, prints and fabric insets. There were fresh touches, including the great-looking acid-washed denims and the graph paper checked dresses and tops. But much of it looked too similar, and not even the fact that the models smashed spun-sugar dresses and skirts onstage had the same impact as some of his former theatrics.
Recently, Chalayan has struck the perfect balance between his conceptual ideals and the need to produce wearable women's wear. But this show seemed to represent a half-step backward to the time when he let the concept overwhelm the clothes.

Around Town: London had so many new designers, off-schedule and off-off schedule shows this season, that trying to keep track of them was like being an air-traffic controller at Heathrow. The effort often wasn't worth it, either, since many of the new flock can produce only one good jacket or nice skirt at most out of a collection that rivals Giorgio Armani's in breadth. But there were a few designers who stood out, both on the runways and at the London Designer Exhibition at the Natural History Museum.
The best pieces included Jessica Ogden's swirl dresses and skirts, showcased in her cute ballroom dance of a show; the draped and pinned satin dresses of Roland Mouret, who was showing officially for the first time; Godfrey's cyber-printed skirts and tops; the two wrap mackintosh dresses trimmed in leather at Robert Cary Williams, and the red suede jackets and skirts at Anthony Symonds. At the exhibition, the standouts were the accessories, including the gold jewelry at Lara Bohinc 107; the bright, geometric acrylic necklaces and bracelets at Scott Wilson; Samantha Heskia's seashell-trimmed bags; Ginka's Op Art-inspired print hats, bags and scarves, and Orla Kiely's leather sampler bags, along with her floral print tops. Sara Berman's Fifties-style corduroy skirts and jackets with poodle embroidery and Brach & Brach's Turkish print swimwear were also strong.

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