Quiet designs shout with sophistication

SUMMER will see a return to the 1970s, according to Ms Winnie Kwan, manager and buyer for the women's fashion department at Seibu.

''The hippy look is hot,'' she said on her return from Europe where she was buying up big for the new season.

''I saw a lot of bell-bottoms. The style is more relaxed.

''There are also practical pants suits which the customer can co-ordinate herself.

''The ankle-length skirt is hot. Everyone is doing it.'' Ms Kwan said summer looks were ice-cream colours in sophisticated shades - lemon, banana, and a lot of lilac in violet and pink hues rather than the baby pink of last year's pastel season.

Navy is also strong this year.

In swimwear, Seibu is sporting its Missoni, Gotex and one-piece Issay Miyake labels.

Evening wear includes dramatic black and white designs from British designer Jenny Packham, affordable styles from US designer Victor Costa, velvet dresses and short gowns.

''Personally, I prefer the sophisticated Italian look,'' Ms Kwan said.

''The cutting and workmanship is excellent.

''French tends to be either very haute couture classic or very casual.

''New York is more fun and quite different from European fashions.

''Again, English are extreme - either avante garde or classic.'' Day-wear labels at Seibu include Cacharel with simple, clean jackets and suits for work, co-ordinated print blouses, blazers and shorts.

French designer Vanessa Bruno has jackets and suit co-ordinates. Likewise, Natalie Valentini appears with co-ordinates, drawstring waists and details on collars and lapels.

Helen Storey has gone back to the 1970s along with Anni Kwan from New York.

''I've seen so many people in Europe wearing bell-bottoms,'' said Ms Kwan. ''They are co-ordinated with chokers and gilets [waistcoats] - a very hot item.

''Platform shoes are also back, along with slip on mules and sling-backs.

''Colourful patchwork - usually in gilets - is big, from Helen Storey, Jean Paul Gaultier, and John Richmond.

''Pant suits are popular.''