Missionaries opt to take a walk on the wild side


Will black ever relinquish its position as the fashion world's favourite colour? Enjoying the advantages of versatility and practicality, black is indisputably hard to trump, which is why it remains dominant in every collection every season.

Furthermore, black - and the complementary shades of charcoal grey and navy - tends to suit western skin tones best. Other colours may look wonderful, but they are rarely easy to wear with success.

A shift towards bold brightness may yet occur, however, if designers such as Matthew Williamson have their way. Williamson, who made his debut at London Fashion Week a mere two years ago, has consistently proclaimed a preference for peacock hues.

His palette is bedecked with vivid shades of pink, green, yellow and blue, all of which were abundant in the designer's collection for autumn/winter 1999 shown yesterday afternoon.

Williamson has powerful advocates for his colourful cause; among the audience were Jade Jagger, his "creative consultant", and Elizabeth Hurley, while the models included Naomi Campbell and Amber Valetta.

The clothes themselves provided the most powerful argument in favour of black's abandonment. What woman, after all, would want to don funerary shades when she could opt instead for a long pashmina shawl skirt in mauve or a buttermilk jacquard smoking jacket hand-embroidered with pink flowers and finished with lilac velvet collar and cuffs?

Who could prefer something sensible and dark over a pale coffee cashmere smothered in pretty pink beading and teamed with a shocking pink silk skirt decorated with still more lavish examples of embroidery?

Matthew Williamson thinks pink, a colour the late Diana Vreeland once described as the navy blue of India. It remains to be seen, however, whether next autumn this colour becomes the new black of Europe.

Paul Smith is another fashion missionary, although he has been proclaiming his crusade for longer and with a gentler tone.

Smith's proposal is that traditional British design, especially tailoring, should be celebrated but also updated. He has shown how well this can be managed in menswear and of late has been attempting to promulgate the same argument, with various degrees of success, for women.

Yesterday the argument was impeccably presented and made perfect sense.

Smith offered relaxed suiting with either trousers or knee-length skirts, always using the best and most familiar fabrics such as tweed and twill. Colours were by no means as vivid as those employed by Williamson, but still varied enough to encompass mustard and salmon pink.

Enchanting floral embroidery played around the borders of satin crepe dressing gown coats and silk georgette slip dresses.