The British press showed up in the Danny Noble showroom one afternoon recently to find out what all the hoopla was about. The British-born Noble has lived in Philadelphia for five years, had his own collection for two years, and was nominated for a Coty Award -- the fashion industry's Oscar -- this year. His business, which includes strong sales at Garfinckel's and Saks Jandel, should pass $3 million this year.

Noble, 33, started as a messenger for British designer Bill Gibbs, later became his assistant, and eventually had his own collection -- until 1980, when he was imported to Philadelphia to design one of the Pearl and Albert Nipon collections. Two years ago he opened his own collection, with himself as designer and his wife, Annette, in charge of production.

The clothes have the mix of humor and classicism that comes from Noble's British background, and the smart merchandising and good prices honed in his business here. The current collection includes wonderful oversized shirts that button (and unbutton) in both front and back, with collars that button on and off, oversized jackets and vests, long skirts and baggy pants.

The prints are witty variations on classic menswear patterns -- foulards, pajama stripes and paisleys, in black, gray and white. "This year they may seem different and unexpected," Noble says, "but next season, rather than appearing strange, they will simply be classics."