When Russell Sage put a heap of gleaming coins center-stage at his show as
payback to his mortgage-lender sponsors, Britannic Money, the audience had
an opportunity to contemplate the deeper symbolism: Can UK fashion stay
If money was in the spotlight, though, talentand lots of itwas also on
display. As his first model appeared in a waisted, full-skirted dress made
from eighteenth-century golden silk curtain fabric, complete with tassels fringing
the hemline, Sage instantly proved the value of British designers'
gloom-busting resourcefulness. He followed up with equally spirit-lifting,
richly romantic one-of-a-kind pieces fashioned, Scarlett O'Hara-wise, from
antique drapes. Sage's silhouettes might be vaguely outlined on 1950s
couture volumes, but his crafting of materials, raw edges, arty embroideries
and jigsaw-puzzle piecing are strictly 2002. And after mastering the new
feeling for gilded fabric, he effortlessly nailed another major trend:
brilliant chunky knits. Working with Bidyut Das, a knitwear graduate from
the Royal College of Art, Sage sent out a spectacular high-waisted gray wool
dress, knitted in graduated stitch to fall to the floor in sculptural waves.
Wound along one arm was a huge spiral glass armlet with a $25,000 diamond
embedded in it.
Cash-poor but imagination-rich, London designers like Sage still have the
optimism (not to mention sponsors like the Diamond Information Centre and
Swarovski) to help them face the challenge of staying afloat. "It's really
tough," he says. "But I don't think I could show anywhere else. And
remember: McQueen and Chalayan came out of London's last downtime."