Thursday, September 20, 2007

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He may fuse African or uber ethnic patterns, fabrics or techniques with western finish and hedonism, but what comes out of Williamson's mind does not feel "sampled" but the fruit of an elusive imagination.

Whether pizzazz on the plage georgette camisoles or sequined bikinis or flip geometric beaded mini dresses, the clothes had great sex appeal, without ever being vulgar.

Prince's dance duo had ignited the mood with their hair shaking, hip swaying, foot tapping fashion moment, the best dancing any of us are ever likely to see on any runway, before the man from Minneapolis, mike in hand, top-hatted, left his front row seat to lead his band in one soaring number.

The collection that followed was Williamson's best in years, with echoes of the ambition of America and the sensuality of Italy, scene of the designer's successful night job at Pucci.

It helped that this show was also a lesson in styling, where Kate Phelan's astute edit gave the clothes a relaxed credibility they had lacked, and kept the bags to a minimum - though the posh punk sacks we saw were easily London's best. Kicked on by a natty soundtrack by DJ Michel Gaubert featuring lots of M.I.A., Williamson won himself a standing ovation.

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Staged in a tent central London's classiest quadrangle, Eaton Square, the show was easily London's slickest affair: the dappled light beneath huge trees, The Artist-inspired door pandemonium, the truly excellent dance performance by Prince's dance duo.

The return of Williamson could easily have been seen as a retreat after showing for half a decade in New York. Instead, surfing in on a major investment a US investment fund spearheaded by famed former department store exec Marvin Traub, Matthew flipped his homecoming into a triumph with an imaginative collection that composed of quite unique fashion

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Over at Aquascutum, one of Britain's best known clothing brands, the mood was more subdued but the color scheme for spring and summer next year chimed with Williamson's show and the clothes were just as wearable.

Skinny-legged pants and embroidered shirts were lightened up by the hint of a Japanese aesthetic in the cut of jackets and the design of painted leaves on T-shirts.

Aquascutum and Matthew Williamson share a focus, though having an age gap of nearly 150 years and being of markedly different size. They are both seeking to expand during an unprecedented boom for luxury goods.

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By that time, many in the audience, who included actress Trudie Styler, the wife of musician Sting, were on their feet clapping and snapping photos with their mobile phones.

"He really wanted to do this, and you don't say 'No' to Prince," Williamson told Reuters TV after the show, his first in London since he left for New York five years ago.

After the impromptu gig, Williamson, who is in London celebrating his 10 years as a designer, sent models down the catwalk in richly embroidered skirts and dresses glittering with seed pearls.

Striped jackets -- a theme throughout London Fashion Week -- were offset with splashes of turquoise, pink and orange.

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The singer, who is playing a series of concerts in London, at first appeared to be only a front row guest at Williamson's spring-summer 2008 collection.

But the usual fashion scene became a pop concert when a Prince track struck up and the first two models onto the catwalk -- a pair of identical twins in purple dresses -- started to dance.

Prince, wearing a black suit and hat, then began singing into a microphone from his seat before jumping up and performing on the runway flanked by his band.