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Menswear with a feminine touch

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iol life feb 24 london fashion week pic

A model presents a creation by French designer Hedi Slimane for Dior as part of the men's Spring/Summer 2007 fashion collection

London - Boys will be girls, and girls will be dressed by them: that was the confusing message at the final day of London Fashion Week yesterday. The event wrapped up with a day devoted to menswear, but the main trend on the catwalks was, surprisingly, womenswear.

With rumours abounding that cult menswear designer Hedi Slimane may be moving into womenswear shortly, it seems that men's specialists are becoming more comfortable with creating clothes for women.

As creative director of Dior Homme from 2000 to 2007, Slimane is credited with having revolutionised the modern male silhouette in the Noughties and has previously spoken about his desire to design for women. His super-slim and skinny suiting may have been challenging to wear, but it has no doubt informed the modishly narrow tailoring and lanky physique that is still so prevalent in men's fashion. Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld famously went on a strict diet in order to wear Slimane's clothes.

There have been more than a few nods toward the crossing over of disciplines. Raf Simons, creative director at Jil Sander, is first and foremost a menswear designer, but his spring/ summer 2011 womenswear collection - which featured long skirts in bright pinks and oranges - has been lauded as one of the best of the season. Sir Paul Smith too, is a designer who reworks his masculine tailoring for female customers.

And Slimane's influence was evident this week. Acclaimed designer Jonathan Saunders showed his first men's pieces, including colourful, textured tailoring, and at Tuesday's Fashion East show, James Long, who also presented his fourth men's collection yesterday, showed a coherent and strong women's range of tasselled Aran knits and chiffon shirts inspired by Joan Baez and Nancy Spungen.

While his womenswear was resolutely androgynous, his men's collection included pink boucle biker jackets and collarless, polka-dot smock shirts.

But it wasn't just clothes for the girls; womenswear influenced the men's ranges too. Christopher Shannon showed clothes that took particularly feminine references and melded them with masculine sportswear tradition: classic grey shirts in anorak fabric and with rows of delicate pink and blue frills cascading down their fronts, while polyester tracksuit bottoms came with giant frills creeping up the legs.

Meanwhile New Power Studio - showing as part of the MAN collective - had female models in baggy T-shirt dresses, adorned with questionable joss-stick bracelets and phallic headgear, which questioned modes of gender dressing.

For those more resolute in their virility, there were more traditional collections from two of the menswear labels of the moment. Revived Savile Row label E. Tautz, now under the direction of Patrick Grant and currently holding the British Fashion Award for best menswear brand, presented a collection of heritage tweed and herringbone wool coats in deep burgundy and gold.

And cartoonish club wear designer Carri Munden of label Cassette Playa chose the ultimate icon of manhood as her inspiration: Ken, of Barbie and Ken, who may turn 50 this year but would no doubt suit Munden's soignee silk dressing gowns and shorts printed with red roses. Her nod to womenswear was a T-shirt dress printed with Ken's muscled torso - that's certainly one interpretation of androgyny. - The Independent


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