LONDON
GROWING PAINS

Byline:

This city’s got the adolescent blues. It’s in a tricky transition phase of turning buzz into biz, and along the way it’s lost some sizzle. In the place you expect to see “edge,” everything’s a rerun, from the wacky — nudity, rubber and sheer — to the wearable — sportswear that other towns do better.
In fact, in their quest for orders, some designers have become a little smitten with Mum Chic.
The first three days of shows have solidified London’s reputation as a market for items rather than collections.
Here are the weekend’s main bulletins.

BELLA FREUD : She wanted to prove that “babes can have as much fun as transvestites.” That meant flirty suits, sexy sweaters and girly touches like lace trim, all delivered with subtle humor.
SONJA NUTTALL: It was Rei Kawakubo meets Edith Sitwell, and it looked great. Nuttall also had the weekend’s most interesting fabric, a distressed paper-on-wool recipe that sounds gimmicky but worked.
NO BOOM: All the hype of the last three seasons hasn’t turned London into Easy Street for designers.
Helen Storey and Nicholas Knightly had to seek foreign car companies for sponsorship.
Flyte/Ostell and Sonnentag Mulligan aren’t showing collections at all this season, and one of the hottest names around, Alexander McQueen, didn’t produce his spring line. Sources say McQueen, who shows today, had a falling out with his factory and a new deal is in place for fall, but details are vague.
ANTONI & ALISON: Sexy little stretch dresses with doodle prints and message T’s that aren’t stupid — what more could a hip girl want, except underwear? And Antoni Burakowski and Alison Roberts had that too in one of the weekend’s best collections.
HUSSEIN CHALAYAN: His use of original materials, like paper and wood, has made him one of the most watched of the new corps. Chalayan’s collection took flight with skintight suits bearing jet-streamed prints, but the too-long presentation got lost in space.
RED OR DEAD: Diversity ruled with classic menswear suits, skiing cat women and babes in risquA plastic teddy bear prints. And just when you thought you’d seen it all, out came a rubber-and-tulle bride whose train was carried by two dwarfs.
WORKERS FOR FREEDOM: A pleasing ode to Victorian gents from Richard Nott and Graham Fraser, but it was missing some of their quirks.
DI’S BYE: She made it to the CFDA Awards, but Princess Diana will be among the missing tonight at the government reception for British fashion. Designers are not amused.
MAXFIELD PARRISH: Impeccable down-filled leathers, light-as-air shearlings and beaver-look lamb coats — it’s no wonder this is one of London fashion’s success stories.
ZANDRA RHODES: She called it a “New Age” collection, but Zandra’s still in her own orbit. All those inset mirrors, metallic laces, embossed velvets and draped chiffons still have an eccentric charm.
EDINA RONAY: Very slinky, a little kinky and one of the liveliest weekend shows. Ronay’s Hollywood parade had tailored suits, siren dresses and a bounty of bosoms.
PEARCE FIONDA: Hard-core glam for the woman with a Raymond Chandler fixation. SMOOTH RUNNING: The fashion may be a little lackluster, but everything else has been running like clockwork.
The British Fashion Council under-chairman, Clinton Silver, has ensured shows start relatively on time, put together a two-floor exhibition with the air of a salon and even organized a fleet of cars to run buyers and press all around town. What it really needs, though, is a star or two, and there are reports the B.F.C. has approached Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, Rifat Ozbek and Katharine Hamnett about repatriating from Paris and Milan.
JEAN MUIR: It was “Rule, Brittania” with English tailoring, Scottish cashmeres and upper-crust model India Hicks.
NEW GENERATION: A lot of rough edges but good evening wear from Anthem, Lo & Cabon.
ALLY CAPELLINO: Go for the day, forget the evening. NO SMOKING: It may be the rage in Milan, but London has turned thumbs down on smoking. The government’s Health Education Authority launched a “Quit Smoking Out of Fashion” campaign that was backed by many of the designers. NICHOLAS KNIGHTLY: Some nice shirtdresses but the sea of jersey overflowed with mumsy looks.
HELEN STOREY: The subway setting was right out of “PrEt-e-Porter” and the mass of bare behinds gets similar reviews.