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By Clara Ferreira-Marques

Written by: Staff

MILAN, Feb 22 (Reuters) Never mind the new black. London designer Matthew Williamson brought his love of rich colours to Milan with a debut collection at Emilio Pucci that mixed his delicate touch with the Florentine fashion house's classic 60s dresses and swirling prints.

Williamson took over last October after Frenchman Christian Lacroix resigned from Pucci, saying he would dedicate time to his own-name brand.

Packed with fashion's aristocracy and celebrity fans including actress Sienna Miller, yesterday's show was filled with flowing v-front dresses and prim round-collared frocks in cherry, lilac and purple hues, worn with black tights that were more ladylike chic than garish Pucci.

''It's romantic, sexy, feminine,'' Williamson said backstage after the show at Milan's Fiera.

''It was about looking at the archives, looking at what Emilio did. He did a lot of things other than prints, and this collection pays respect to that. No woman can wear prints all the time.'' Tunics were worn 70s-style, with flowing scarves and wide trousers or tight leggings in swirling pink, grey and black.

The collection -- bound to please the Pucci brand's French owners LVMH for its wearability -- included a dazzling silver brocade tailleur and coat with puffed sleeves and fur collar, as well as platform shoes trimmed with coquettish black bows.

''He's young and he brought with him his own model, a bit of his work of his Englishness with those purples and pinks,'' said Vogue's Anna Piaggi, doyenne of Italian fashion journalism.

''There was a touch of the 60s as I remember them, and of (iconic fashion store) Biba with the shoes. It's a totally different take on Pucci,'' said Piaggi, sporting her trademark lopsided hat and sliver-and-blue streaked hair.

LVMH bought Pucci in 2000, almost a decade after the death of Emilio Pucci, who took the postwar fashion world by storm with his colourful swirls on sporty clothes.

Earlier yesterday, normally boho Marni produced a collection steeped in sober ladylike chic with elbow-length gloves, muted tones of grey and black and neat belted coats.

Designer Consuelo Castiglioni offered a smattering of the hip Italian brand's trademark chunky necklaces over draped dresses or puff-sleeved shifts nipped at the waist and tops worn with antracite-grey wide trousers.

Other shows which were due yesterday include Milan favourite Prada, while today's line-up features Gucci under the creative direction of Frida Giannini, Alberta Ferretti and Giorgio Armani's diffusion line Emporio.

Reuters SI BS0850

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