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Hamnett Returns for Spring

LONDON — Katharine Hamnett is back at the Fashion Coterie with a new, Italian-made collection — and she can’t stop talking about it.<br><br>"I have landed at the far end of paradise with a divine manufacturer. It’s a family-run...

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LONDON — Katharine Hamnett is back at the Fashion Coterie with a new, Italian-made collection — and she can’t stop talking about it.

“I have landed at the far end of paradise with a divine manufacturer. It’s a family-run business, and the mother is a technical genius,” said Hamnett during an interview at a showroom on the King’s Road here.

Hamnett has just produced her first collection under license with a Venice-based company known as Pier. The 120-piece collection is filled with soft, vintage-inspired looks made from printed and striped silks, prewashed chiffon, handembroidered organza, and stonewashed cotton.

“This is a collection you can wear — and you’ll want to wear — in the garden, on a boat, or to dinner with Prince Charles. And it’s not going to date,” said the designer, who was taking orders in London during the city’s fashion week. “They’re pretty dresses and clothes that you need, but can’t find.”

The collection features soft cotton poplin dresses with Empire waists, Fifties-inspired prom dresses made from hand-embroidered organza and snazzy, striped, stretch-cotton trouser suits with low waists and preshrunk jackets.

Wholesale prices in Europe are about $72 for the silk dresses, $87 for a cotton jacket and $145 for a chiffon dress. Hamnett said she set out to make the collection “as affordable as possible.” The firm projects sales for the collection at about $4 million a year.

Not only is she happy with her new partners, she’s thrilled to be spending so much time in Italy. “Next season, I’m getting two inflatable canoes so I can get to work. My only problem will be finding an assistant willing to ride home in a canoe at night.”

Hamnett said she’s happy to be back in the fashion show loop. She’s been absent from the London runways for four seasons because of manufacturing glitches and the decision to cancel her show after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In the spring of 2001, Hamnett signed a licensing agreement with the Florence-based designer manufacturer Gibo, but that partnership quickly fizzled. However, it was Gibo that hooked her up with Pier. Next winter, she said, she even hopes to set up a mail-order service for her main line.

This story first appeared in the September 26, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Hamnett is still plugging the use of environmentally friendly materials — including organic cotton — and also said she hopes next year to finally publish a global directory for the fashion industry of environmentally-conscious farmers, spinners, finishers, and dyers.

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