Fashion File: London's Fashion Week proves whimsical and fantastical

Diamonds, butterflies, leather and lace.

All made appearances during London's Spring 2001 Fashion Week.

Styles on 49 runways ranged from a mussel-shell skirt to a $1.4 million diamond-and-gold-encrusted gown ... to, of course, live butterflies as "accessories."

'Bedlam' at McQueen Show

Perhaps the most spectacular show came from fashion bad boy Alexander McQueen, whose models wore fantastic neck-to-toe garments made of white shells, molded transparent red sleeveless tops, garments covered in cloth roses and huge feather dresses.

The McQueen show, set in a garbage depot along the Thames, was a spectacular success, wowing both audience and designer. According to Women's Wear Daily, McQueen considers this week's show — influenced by Victorian images of madness and a photo by morbid photog Joel Peter Witkin — the best he's ever done.

And as if the clothes weren't enough, the finale was astounding — the smoked glass walls of a large box in the middle of the stage fell away and shattered to reveal an enormous woman wearing a mask, an unidentified breathing apparatus and nothing else in a cloud of disoriented butterflies.

Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend

For a celeb-studded audience (including Baby Spice), Welsh knitwear whiz, and the man-of-the-moment for London starlets seeking posh outfits, Julien MacDonald went heavy on the crystal, disco beading and jewels, strewing them on dresses so tiny they almost didn't qualify for the name.

MacDonald also produced a dress strewn with hand-embroidered 18-carat gold balls and two-carat diamonds on the shoulder strap. The dress, valued at $1.4 million, bested the $350,000 diamond-encrusted gown shown by Maria Grachvogel earlier in the week.

Maria Grachvogel, a veteran of several seasons who specializes in evening gowns, said she produced her own diamond-encrusted dress — with daring silk corset and draped transparent chiffon skirt and train — as a challenge to herself.

Weremczuk's Farm

On the less ethereal end of the fashion spectrum, Polish-born Arkadius Weremczuk presented a rural idyll dotted with hay bales, painted birds and peasant outfits — all set to the very bohemian soundtrack of farmyard noises.

One model crushed strawberries into her white chiffon blouse and dribbled juice down her leather skirt. Another sported a skirt with a cutout at the crotch that was held together with a plastic bird's nest.

Conran's Finesse

Borrowing heavily from 1950s tailoring, Jasper Conran's offerings were classically elegant. Among his monochrome hot pants and strapless bra top combinations were skimpy bikinis barely hidden beneath transparent silks. He also introduced pale melon and peach hues to give his collection a lighter, airier feel.

"It's all about the beach, summer in the Hamptons, rich American heiresses," Conran told Reuters after his catwalk show.

Blade Runner and Urban Dandies

On the other hand, Hussein Chalayan, ever the showman, dressed his models as replicants from Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, in futuristic outfits featuring topstitching on imaginary pockets and seams and graph-print fabric crisscrossed with zigzag threads.

At Burberry, Roberto Menichetti reworked the famous check into a diamond pattern in candy colors that featured on tops, coats, trousers and layered wrap skirts.

Ben de Lisi came up with pink silk skirts to the knee and floral print chiffon shirts in bold turquoise and orange. And Elspeth Gibson showed geometric chiffon prints in lilacs and pinks.

Young designer Matthew Williamson produced candy-striped sundresses and cashmere sweaters in bonbon shades, along with prom skirts festooned with beads and stiffened with bright tulle underskirts.

Maria Chen featured ruffles and prints and crystal appliques in a collection she described as "urban dandy."

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report