Kanye, Beckham mourn tutor as London Fashion Week opens
London Fashion Week opened Friday on a sombre note, as Kanye West and Victoria Beckham joined some of the leading lights of the British industry at a memorial to inspirational tutor Louise Wilson.
Catwalk shows were put on hold for the morning to remember the straight-talking 52-year-old, who was director of the fashion course Central Saint Martins (CSM) college for 22 years until her death last May.
Wilson had a passion for riding, and a model wearing a black top hat, veil, jacket and trailing skirt by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen stood guard on a horse outside St Paul's Cathedral as 1,300 guests mourned inside.
Wilson's alumni read like a roll call of London's most talented designers, from the late McQueen to Stella McCartney, and many joined the family and friends in paying tribute.
Former students Christopher Kane, Louise Goldin, Simone Rocha and Roksanda Ilincic all spoke at the ceremony, which was also attended by designer Roland Mouret and milliner Stephen Jones.
Beckham, the former Spice Girl turned fashion designer, was among the guests as was West, the US rapper and Wilson's friend who wore a white jacket over black jeans.
As well as those who launched their own labels, countless other Wilson graduates went on to staff the studios of the world's big fashion houses.
Alber Elbaz, the creative director of Lanvin who said when she died that the students Wilson sent him were "always the best", gave an address at the service.
"The wonderful thing about Louise was her ability to pick people and to train them," Suzy Menkes, international editor of Vogue, told AFP.
"She was tough, she wasn't an easy person, but the designers now say they were so pleased that she brought them out and made them themselves."
Natalie Massenet, the founder of Net-a-Porter and chairwoman of the British Fashion Council, added: "Without her ability to cultivate and nurture talent, London Fashion Week and indeed the wider global fashion industry would be a much poorer place."
In the evening many of the guests will head to the graduate show by current Central Saint Martins students.
"These are the last we'll ever see that have been picked by Louise Wilson herself so I think that will also be a very emotional moment," Menkes said.
- Avant-garde designer returns -
Central Saint Martins, which also counts John Galliano among its alumni, is the only college to have a London Fashion Week show and is crucial to the city's reputation as the place to find new talent.
Many of the graduates leave as they grow more successful but more and more are returning as London's reputation as a commercial as well as creative centre grows.
Fashion now contributes £26 billion ($40 billion, 35 billion euros) directly to the UK economy, according to new figures from the British Fashion Council, up from £21 billion in 2009.
About 5,000 buyers and journalists are expected for the five-day event, which falls between New York and Milan fashion weeks.
This season will see the hotly anticipated return of Wilson graduate Gareth Pugh, the avant-garde designer famed for his conceptual, otherworldly clothes, often inspired by clubwear.
He normally shows in Paris but is returning to his native country to mark his label's 10th anniversary at the V&A museum on Saturday night.
Another of Wilson's former students, Turkey's Bora Aksu, showed a collection on Friday that mixed romance with a tougher edge.
He layered long or cropped jackets and shawls over sheer blouses and voluminous skirts in royal blue, gold, grey and dusty pink.
There were also delicate dresses adorned with his signature thread work embroidery, in intricate feather and rose thorn shapes.
There are 78 designers showing in London this season, including J.W. Anderson on Saturday, Topshop Unique, Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood Red Label on Sunday and Burberry Prorsum and Christopher Kane on Monday.
© 2015 AFP