28 FEBRUARY 2006

For much of her life Princess Diana was the epitome of sensational style, as well as, an "ambassadress" who flew the flag for Britain wherever she went. And at Paris Fashion Week yesterday a Cool Britannia-inspired collection paid tribute to both roles when her portrait was emblazoned across a Union flag dress.

In a funky, colour-drenched show, his first for four seasons, veteran French designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac - who's been a purveyor of wearable art for more than 30 years - referenced British icons ranging from the late Princess to Shakespeare and Queen Victoria.

The Diana dress featured epaulettes and was accessorised with oversize pearls, while Queen Victoria's face adorned the front of a pillar-box red, empire-waisted number. Another model took to the catwalk in a Union-print coat, topped off with a busby-style hat similar to those worn by Buckingham Palace guards.

For inspiration, Jean-Charles drew on an adolescent trip to Britain, where he became entranced by the country's rock groups. Dedicated to "The Who, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Pretty Things of today", the range marks a comeback for the designer, who having once dressed Madonna and Pope John Paul II, passed through a creative nadir in the 1990s.

His love of UK culture saw the maestro through the decade he refers to as "the dark years". "Culturally part of me feels a bit more English than French because this eccentricity, this humour, has been something that has saved my life," he explained.

Photo: © Alphapress.com
Diana's portrait adorns a Union flag dress from the latest collection by Jean-Charles de CastelbajacPhoto: © AFPClick on photos for gallery
Photo: © Alphapress.com
The designer has been an Anglophile since he visited Britain with his father as a teenagerPhoto: © AFP
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