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Commercial London Fashion Week lives up to the hype

London Fashion Week stamped its mark on the international buying calendar this week, impressing buyers with some of the most commercial collections seen in years.

The designers returning to London Fashion Week were the stars of the schedule. Burberry Prorsum lived up to the hype surrounding the label with a collection that plugged into the trend for commercial yet feminine and playful product. It used sugary tones of mint and baby-pink chiffon, injecting fresh takes on its signature trench coats and girly dresses.

Matthew Williamson firmly shook off his boho mantle to team ethnic undertones with futuristic shiny fabrics and metallic detailing.

The best of the rest went to Christopher Kane, whose signature style of sinister yet innocent, came through with checked prairie dresses and sherbet silks with cutaway panels.

With big British names such as Burberry Prorsum and Pringle returning to London from rival international catwalks, the pressure was on the organiser, British Fashion Council (BFC), to live up to its promise that its 25th anniversary event would restore the buzz the capital had lacked since the late 1990s.

Early reports suggested the BFC largely succeeded, with a 15% rise on last season’s visitor figures and a host of international buyers and press.

BFC chairman Harold Tillman said: “We had great feedback from international and UK attendees. There are always things we can improve and work on but that is what drives us forward.”
Buyers were impressed by new talent as well as the much-hyped big-name returns.

Liberty buying director Ed Burstell said: “London Fashion Week certainly lived up to the hype with the return of Burberry and Matthew Williamson. Both put on outstanding shows. Other favourites were Luella, for her flirty and very saleable dresses, and Mark Fast and Mary Katrantzou as new talent to watch.”

He added that the relocation of the event to Somerset House had been long overdue. That sentiment was echoed by Harvey Nichols’ fashion buying director Averyl Oates, who said Somerset House and 180 The Strand “proved that in London we don’t always need a faceless warehouse space for ambience”.

However, other buyers found the venue confusing. Pamela Shiffer, owner of the eponymous two-store London indie, said: “It was hard to get an overview with all the different rooms in Somerset House.”

Some exhibitors said the new exhibition space at 180 The Strand was quiet, but Tillman argued that brands that marketed themselves well made good sales. He said: “The exhibitors that made appointments and created a focus on their area wrote business.”

Visitors were confident that LFW would now become an essential fixture on the buying calendar. Selfridges’ director of womenswear Anita Barr said: “If the BFC can persuade labels such as Burberry to show here again it will cement London’s importance.”

Tillman added: “We know we have our work cut out but we are confident that we can continue to raise the bar.”

Burberry shares rise following London Fashion Week comeback

Burberry’s shares were up 5.5% to 502.5p yesterday, following a much acclaimed catwalk show, which closed London Fashion Week on Tuesday.

Confidence in the luxury fashion label has grown following comments from chief executive Angela Ahrendts, who reportedly said that, “the UK business has been on fire for quite a while now”.

More than 1,500 guests, including US Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Arcadia owner Sir Philip Green, M&S chief executive Sir Stuart Rose and Sainsbury chairman David Tyler, turned out to see Burberry’s return to the London catwalk. The British fashion house usually shows at Milan Fashion Week but changed location to celebrate LFW’s 25th anniversary.

The collection received rave reviews from the fashion press. See backstage and runway pictures here.

London Fashion Week – Burberry Prorsum

Taken from Drapers:

Christopher Bailey’s exquisite Burberry Prorsum collection was a fitting end to London Fashion Week’s 25th year.

Victoria Beckham, Anna Wintour, Claudia Schiffer and brand ambassador Emma Watson were all on hand to watch Bailey’s return to London with baited breath, and were not disappointed.

Following on from the ultra-feminine feel seen leading the charge through the London collections this week, Bailey also plumped for sugary tones, twisting, knotting and wrapping shades of mint, baby pink and duck egg blue chiffon into gently swathed takes on his signature trench and girlish dresses.

Pleating on shoulders added subtle volume to the upper half of the body, which draped down from the waist and out from the hips. Ruching offered the most surface texture options – other than a silver encrusted coat and jacket at the end of the show – and was deployed on trenchcoat sleeves, all the way down skinny trousers and used to add impact to nude slip dresses.

Chiffons were interspersed with stiffer satin fabrics which were bunched and tied into voluptuous peaks along the bottom of double-breasted shirt dresses and cap-sleeved minis.

Watch the runway video on the Vogue website.

The final day at LFW is traditionally not quite as exciting as the penultimate one, but this season London saved the best until last, and alongside Burberry, the day’s guests were also treated to in-your-face colour pop prom dresses from Nathan Jenden, a clean and Nineties-inspired sugary-hued collection from Jonathan Saunders and some ultra-pretty floral print gowns at Erdem.

London Fashion Week – Row over plus size models

Fashion Week is back in London for its 25th anniversary, but aside from the glamour, the hedonistic designs, the glitterati and the parties; this season also receives hundreds of column inches on sizing used on the runway.

This time the issue has been raised because of the use of plus size models. According to reports (read The Guardian article here) a back-stage row erupted at London Fashion Week after knitwear designer, Mark Fast) chose to use ‘normal-sized’ models in his show.

Fast, who is known for his sculpted ‘bodycon’ dresses, used three models who were sizes 12-14 to showcase his designs – which prompted his stylist to resign.

The news emerged after a journalist from the fashion magazine Elle posted a message on Twitter within an hour of the show. Fast’s managing director, Amanda May, said she was ‘so happy we stuck to our guns over the casting’ adding that she was ‘really grateful’ to another stylist, Daniella Agnelli, who had stepped in at the last minute.

Fast used size 12 model Hayley Morley in his catwalk show after working with her for the London Fashion Week photography exhibition, All Walks Beyond the Catwalk.
It launched on Friday at London’s Somerset House with a party attended by prime minister’s wife Sarah Brown (who admitted she had “sneaked out” of a number 10 reception for British designers she was hosting) and Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, who wrote to leading designers asking for larger-sized clothes for the magazine’s photo shoots. She said: “We have now reached the point where many of the sample sizes don’t comfortably fit even the established star models”.

The exhibition features models aged 18 to 65, in sizes 8 to 16, wearing outfits created by young London designers. It aims to change the narrow vision of beauty offered by the fashion world. The size issue is always a sore point within the industry. The 2007 Model Health Inquiry was launched by the British Fashion Council in response to the death from starvation of several models who had been slaves to the size-zero trend. It failed to set out any firm industry guidelines but the debate has gained momentum; this month, plus-size model Crystal Renn launched her autobiography at a glittering Manhattan party and talked of a new vogue for women “lush and sparkly without a jutting collarbone in sight”.

All Walks Beyond the Catwalk aims to change the perception of young designers towards age and weight. Exhibition curator and fashion TV presenter Caryn Franklin said: “Working with designers early in their career to introduce this shift is crucial.” In Fast, she may have found her first true convert.

New York Fashion Week

Reading the reviews from this years’ New York Fashion Week (unfortunately students can’t afford the jet-setting lifestyle) there doesn’t seem to be much in terms of inspiration or excitement. I’m not that surprised, honestly there is not a single American designer who wows me. With only two more days of New York Fashion Week left, yesterday it was Michael Kors, Oscar de la Renta, Marchesa, Anna Sui, Proenza Schouler, Peter Som and 3.1 Phillip Lim who were showing.

Oscar De La Renta might not be one of the most inspiring designers, never straying far from his luxury cocoon, but despite recessional headaches he remains true to form for spring 2010. In general, De la Renta seems to have received positive reviews by “embracing fresh and contrasting colour combinations with blue and orange, the aforementioned on elegant dresses cinched by scarlet belts, and recalled the Twenties with cloche hats completing the look,” according to Vogue.

Safari suits in teal satin, embroidered three-quarter length jackets teeming with sequins, and brightly coloured cardigans edged in golden beads all spoke a luxe language and younger customers will enjoy the spotty tutu skirts, cropped chambray jackets, doily effect playsuits and brocade purple houndstooth dresses with puffed sleeves, as well as the frothy tulle ruffles on the finishing evening gowns. According to Vogue, The Oscar de la Renta woman this season mixes her textures with crochet and tweed combined. In general, I do like this collection, I think it’s one of the better ones from this week (this may be because it reminds me of Luella’s spring 2009 collection though).

However, it’s Prosenza Schouler who Drapers appear to be supporting. Sportier aesthetics took to the catwalk at Proenza Schouler, where skirts were seemingly constructed from a shirt or jumper tied around the waist, and where little dresses came in shiny shocking shades. Drapers wrote : “After a number of New York designers failed to ignite imaginations over the pond this week, the cool which oozed from Proenza Schouler’s spring offering made up for some lost ground in the innovation stakes. Designed – it appeared – purely with the rock chick in mind, the duo opted for less ladylike refinery than in previous seasons. A young take on the wraparound shape saw deconstructed tie-dyed shirt dresses cris-cross along the front, and wet look fabrics fold and fall around the hips.

Rounding off the first week of four in a month of collections is Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Threeasfour and Isaac Mizrahi tomorrow.

New York Fashion Week – Marc Jacobs

Marc Jacobs seems to have caused some controversy with the critics after showing his newest collection at New York Fashion Week. His Spring line attempted to fuse together East meets West but looked more like costumes from the King and I or Aladdin. The styling was not one for the St Tropez lover, using geisha-like makeup and the low-heeled shoes looked like Japanese slippers.

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