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MILAN — If you see a six-wheel, 20-foot-long Mini Cooper fitted with a Jacuzzi darting around Milan, you haven’t had one too many glasses of chianti. It’s the new Mini XXL model by the British automaker, which is appearing with a flock of other regular-sized Minis specially designed by Julien Macdonald, Clements Ribeiro, Tristan Webber and others. The car company is sponsoring the “British Fashion in Milan” exhibition which runs during fashion week here. It’s a study of British style, from clothes to accessories and jewels, over the past 50 years.

“British Fashion in Milan” is held at the city’s Triennale museum and coincides with a calendar featuring a number of British firms, from Pringle of Scotland to Belstaff and Daks, along, of course, with Burberry. “This is a lovely idea, since Milan is a very important mirror of fashion and important British talent is here — designers working behind the scenes for a number of Italian brands,” said Zandra Rhodes of the exhibition. Tristan Webber, whose silk evening gowns have been worn by Beyoncé and Victoria Beckham, concurred, praising the fact that the exhibition shows British designers “in their own context,” and saying that this is a way to better understand what inspires them. Some of the looks are displayed in roomy cubicles dedicated to specific designers and houses such as FrostFrench; Temperley London; Tata-Naka; Julien Macdonald; Clements Ribeiro, and hat maker Misa Harada.

In one large open space, a group of 20 looks from London’s Fashion Textile Museum, founded by Rhodes, are displayed on mannequins against a black backdrop. Gity Monsef, creative director of the museum, said that she selected designers who she felt best represented British fashion and who were “quintessentially English.” Along with Mary Quant’s black-and-white knitted minidress, Paul Smith’s Union Jack velvet dress, Belville Sassoon’s off-white satin and silk evening gown and a yellow-and-red striped pouf dress by artist Giles Deacon, there are ensembles by Vivienne Westwood, Thea Porter, Jean Muir and Nicole Farhi. Also included in this portion of the show are pieces from Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Julien Macdonald and Stella McCartney.

Aquascutum, which celebrates its 154th anniversary this year, showed the evolution of its brand, together with photos of Winston Churchill, Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart wearing its coats.

This story first appeared in the February 22, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“The exhibition highlights a new desire for British style and how Milan has become the chosen location for British designers,” said Marina Garzoni, consultant to the British consulate, which organized the exhibition. “Italians like British fashion, as it is reassuring, blending tradition and imperturbability together with a dose of rebelliousness and fashion fervor.”