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Tales by the Thames

The ghostly and Gothic mix with the sweet on London’s runways. <BR><BR><STRONG>Julien Macdonald:</STRONG> Restrained, classic, simple. Julien Macdonald dumped the vamps, the sexy Miss Marples, and the Russian trophy wives this season and moved...

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The ghostly and Gothic mix with the sweet on London’s runways.

Julien Macdonald: Restrained, classic, simple. Julien Macdonald dumped the vamps, the sexy Miss Marples, and the Russian trophy wives this season and moved on to the fresh-faced socialite. The collection had an innocence rarely seen on Macdonald’s glittering runway. His latest girl wears sweet, crocheted dresses with matching jackets; crocheted tops paired with swingy minis, and zip-front color-block cardigans over fluid A-line dresses. For evening, Macdonald upped the glitter factor with short, tiered sequin dresses in Harlequin colors and patterns, and sparkle-studded flapper dresses with marabou edging. But the show was too long, and by the end Macdonald had lost his way. His strappy dresses — with or without buckles on the shoulder strap — resembled old Versace, and his bejeweled and fringed flapper dresses smacked of old Alice Temperley.

Christopher Kane: Kane’s raw materials this season weren’t promising: Bon Jovi shredded denim, reptile prints reminiscent of Roberto Cavalli and boho flounces à la Stevie Nicks. But somehow, out of the darkness, Kane’s girl emerged looking like a goddess. She wore faded denim that was shredded or artfully sliced into ruffled skirts, jackets and skinny jeans. Her python- and lizard-print frills and flounces — which spilled over dresses, skirts and cowboy shirts — were subtle and came in shades of gray, peach and taupe. Some were even edged in delicate strips of python. There were rock ‘n’ roll jersey T-shirts, too, with colored Swarovski spirograph-like designs. Kane works with a deft hand, and this show might well be his best possible CV for a future job at Ungaro.

Luella: Sugar and spice and everything subversive: That’s what Luella Bartley’s gals are made of. This youthful, playful collection was packed with flower prints, tropical punch colors, and sweet green plaids. Bartley paired them with black plastic collars, chunky zipper details, and come-hither glimpses of tulle peeking from under hemlines. Bartley, who moved her show to London this season to celebrate the opening of her first boutique, dressed her ladies in dainty, flower-print dresses and blouses with plastic corset belts or collars; pleated, tiered pouf dresses with zipper teeth edging; and yellow T-shirts with cartoonish black bat prints.

“She’s a geeky girl who’s still feminine and sexy,” said Bartley, who plunked oversized, black-framed eyeglasses on models, and pulled their hair into goofy buns and pigtails. “She’s into cartoon books and her heroine is Thora Birch from ‘Ghost World.'” Even when Luella travels to the spooky side, she never stays for very long. As the show rolled on, the flower dresses lost their plastic bits and picked up sparkly red, black and blue stripes, and the finale was an explosion of red plastic sequins the size of silver dollars on a strapless mini. Finished off, of course, with a Batgirl mask.

Gareth Pugh: Pugh’s reign as London’s Prince of Darkness remains undisputed. The designer’s formidable lineup for spring — if seasons count in the underworld — featured a stole crafted entirely from what looked like stuffed white mice, a dress made from ribbons of leather and a dazzling black, fringed Swarovski dress. The model’s head was obscured by a box in the same material. But Pugh’s look seemed a little more glam than usual, and he cited Michael Jackson’s Eighties film “Moonwalker” as a reference. And the collection may be getting a little more commercial, too: Peel away the edgy styling — horse-tail headdresses, buckles and chains — and there are pieces that could work on the shop floor. Take the beautifully cut, textured leather trench, a body-conscious, black Swarovski minidress and a knife-pleated circle skirt. OK, so it’s not everyday wear, but it wouldn’t be out of place on the red carpet.

Peter Jensen: In Jensen’s world — which revolved around John Waters’ kitschy films this season — rebel rockabillies wearing skintight, black denim bustier dresses rubbed shoulders with Fifties housewives in blouses covered in sweet desert-island prints. The Fifties, in fact, were everywhere, from candy-colored poufy cocktail dresses to tight strapless gowns with trains. But all the twists and knots in the dress fabrics gave the collection a modern — rather than a costume party — feel.

Marios Schwab: It was body conscious, and then some. Schwab’s stick-to-the-ribs ensembles featured prints inspired by human cells, muscles and nerves. But the result was a gentle kaleidoscope of color and texture, rather than the stuff of first-year medical school classes. Playing on the dissection theme, fabric was often peeled back to reveal layers of print beneath. The collection wasn’t just inspired by lovely bones; there were sporty touches, too — some dresses featured oversize plastic zippers swiped from wetsuits, while others boasted harnesses crafted from plastic tubes or pearls.

More From the Shows

Todd Lynn: Lynn played with the proportions and textures of his signature tuxedo jackets for spring, shrinking them into razor-sharp boleros and crafting biker jackets from heavy stretch cotton.

COS: The design message was simple, echoing Nineties Jil Sander with clean lines, playful use of volume and blocked muted tones accompanied by occasional bursts of color.

Unconditional: Unconventional formalwear bogged down a lively collection, which was at its best focusing on quirky blends of streetwear and off-the-wall items.

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