By and  on February 25, 1994

LONDON -- London is clawing its way back onto the fashion map.

Despite continuing financial problems and doubts over whether there would even be shows in London, a core of up-and-coming young designers is giving the scene new life. They're part of a revival here that extends from the streets to the runways.

Daphne's, the hot restaurant, is packed every night and is replacing San Lorenzo as the choice of the younger royals and Britain's pop musicians. The club scene is raging again from acid house to disco and soul at such venues as Atomic Model at Iceni, Bohemia and Blowup at Maximus.

The street scene is forever eclectic -- from vintage Westwood to disco glamour queens -- and though the pierced and the punctured have lost the limelight, there's still plenty of holey bodies around. England's fashion colleges continue to churn out creative graduates, many of whom are launching their own lines rather than apprenticing in the ateliers of Paris and Milan.

Owen Gaster, Sonja Nuttall, Clements Ribeiro and Lainey Keogh all turned up this season to maintain the momentum begun by last fall's new crop -- Abe Hamilton, Xavier Foley, Copperwheat Blundell, Sonnentag Mulligan and Bella Freud.

"There are more young designers starting here than anywhere else in the world," said Freud, who presents her collection of Fifties Bond Street chic -- twinsets and Harris Tweed-style cropped blazers -- today.

Whether on the runways or at the Liberty and St. Christopher's Place exhibitions where some designers presented their collections, looks have been virtually gimmick-free. Except for the occasional off-the-wall idea -- a skirt made from layers of newspaper from The New Renaissance or Owen Gastor's leather underwear-revealing miniskirts -- designers are going the wearable route, though not quite as commercially safe as they were last fall.

Yards of men's wear material hit the stage in great-looking pantsuits and jackets, and mohair is making a big comeback in little A-line skirts and tank tops. Layers are still floating about and so is the sporadic bias-cut slip dress in various lengths.

Abe Hamilton kicked off the week with a lilac-filled ethereal collection of long, wispy georgette dresses with his signature flower petal trim, sometimes doubled up or thinly layered with a sheer robe.

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