By  on February 12, 2008

As the London collections got under way, designers were playing with proportions, inflating here, shrinking there — all to "Alice in Wonderland" effect.

Biba: Biba's girls took a sophisticated turn this season, the second under the aegis of artistic director Hector Castro, with polished silhouettes, subtle details and some great tailored coats. Gone were the obvious references to the label's heyday, and in their place were small nods here and there — a ruffle tumbling down the front of a simple tunic, an Egyptian-eye motif winking its way across a short skirt, a playful snowflake pattern on a shrunken wool twinset. There were also enough coats to keep devotees warm during their chilly romps through the damp London streets: They came in egg and trapeze shapes, some with padded shoulders that pointed straight up. The collection seems to be moving forward with confidence. Let's hope it continues.

Poltock & Walsh: Fiamma Poltock and Katie Walsh's lineup featured geometric blocks of color in muted eggplant, deep red and midnight blue, shown on slinky silk T-shirt dresses and swingy wool coats. The duo's signature ruffles were there, too, adding subtle volume to the hem of a plain silk dress.

Sinha-Stanic: Barring those crazy padded pouf skirts in leather and wool jersey, Fiona Sinha and Aleksandar Stanic's collection was a strong one, filled with some fabulous knitwear. Skinny skirts and matching tops came in shades of orange crush, clotted cream and coral, while spiderweb knit tunics were fashioned from lime, raspberry and tomato-colored wool.

Eley Kishimoto: Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto are famous for their fantastical prints, and this season was no exception. The duo's dancing rabbits, trotting horses and pink-and-white harlequin prints two-stepped their way onto delicate tea dresses, Sixties-style silk smock dresses and bowed jersey blouses for fall. "We were inspired by the idea of a magician," said Kishimoto after the show. For their muse's more subdued moments, there were gray tweed palazzo pants and trenchcoats, along with luxurious cream wool jackets.

Jaeger London: Jaeger London, the venerable firm's secondary line, made its runway debut with a strong lineup of tailored jackets and trousers, maritime-meets-Seventies-inspired outerwear, and sexy, sylph-like blouses. Design director Brigid Loizou put an emphasis on texture, which included faux fur, mohair and cashmere for scarves, capes and cardigans. She also showed a sharp eye for detail with a range of covetable accessories, including tasseled shoulder bags, clutches adorned with chunky beads and wool sou'wester hats.

Amanda Wakeley: Amanda Wakeley's trademark is wearable, sexy clothing, and for fall she stayed true to form. She turned out a range of dark, body-conscious tailored suits, black cashmere cape coats nipped at the waist and pale, flowing silk jersey evening gowns reined in with graphic black straps. There were some shots of color and texture, too, with electric green gowns and heavy chain-mail details on other evening pieces.

Osman Yousefzada: Osman Yousefzada put a luxe spin on the austere, high-collared shirts and shift dresses he has been developing over the past few seasons. He sent out simple tunic dresses in mauve, lilac and electric blue silk, some with ornately embroidered cummerbunds, and worked patent white crocodile skin into a layered miniskirt and sporty bomber jacket. Some pieces, though — such as the tasseled silk matador jackets — took the designer's "celestial migrants" theme a little too literally.

Emilio de la Morena: Emilio de la Morena can drape and fold with the best of them. He worked his magic on chunky bouclé sweaters and heavy wool dresses alike. A black cocktail dress was fashioned from nothing but bunches of silk pleats. The designer's quilted duvet coats, however, were too bulky.

Modernist: Abdul Koroma and Andrew Jones gave their couture-inspired pieces a punky edge with biker-boy zips on gauzy, puff-shouldered jackets and pale gray leather for wide-leg trousers. But the duo's limited color palette felt a little repetitive.

PPQ: The ever-subversive Percy Parker and Amy Molyneux toyed with British debs' cocktail wear for fall, sending out black taffeta party dresses with bubble skirts covered in sequined polkadots along with "Alice in Wonderland"-style satin circle skirts. But as befits a label whose front row was crammed with hip London girls, including Lily Allen and Peaches and Pixie Geldof, those very proper looks were given a grungy twist. Models wore oversize mohair sweaters and leather biker jackets over some of the dresses and woolen socks with their patent Mary Jane platforms.

Ossie Clark: After almost three decades as a beloved vintage label, the Ossie Clark collection is being relaunched under the creative direction of Avsh Alom Gur. The designer is still finding his way with the new line, however. Gur's take was literal in some instances, as with the proliferation of floral and geometric prints, oversize ruffled collars and looks such as a bell-sleeve mustard evening dress, but he also broke into more contemporary territory with jersey sweatshirts overlaid with printed silk and turquoise python suits.
Topshop Unique: Topshop's in-house label revisited the early Nineties with oversize chunky knits, tailored black leather jackets and fluid pale denim skirts. Many pieces, especially the voluminous gray frock coats, will no doubt please the brand's devotees.

Jean-Pierre Braganza: Jean-Pierre Braganza toyed with sculptural and geometric shapes, working them into draped minidresses, curvy tunics and tailored, cropped jackets with rounded shoulders.

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