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London mixes it up for fashion week

Published on 19/09/2009

London - London Fashion Week kicked off Friday with a typical mixture of established and fresh talent, heralding the start of six days of shows that will see some of Britain's biggest designers return home.

Veterans Paul Costelloe and Caroline Charles were the first to send their spring/summer 2010 collections down the runway at the 18th century Somerset House in central London, a new venue for the event which turns 25 this year.

They were swiftly followed by examples of some of the emerging talent that is London’s trademark, with Eun Jeong and Bora Aksu taking a twist on the modern lace dress, and Headonism displaying the best of British millinery.

But much of the excitement this season revolves around the return of the big guns — Matthew Williamson, Burberry Prorsum, Pringle of Scotland and Antonio Berardi are all coming back for the anniversary event.

"I think it’s wonderful. I will hope they stay for more than one show… and keep London up there, where there is such excitement at the moment. I wouldn’t like to see the baton being dropped," Costelloe told AFP before his show.

The designer has opened fashion week for the past five seasons and this year began in classic style with a collection of strong silhouettes in cream, chocolate and metallic colours with splashes of pink and mandarin.

"To start first at London Fashion Week is somewhat a poisoned chalice," Costelloe admitted.

"Number one, you are first and so people say there must be something better. Number two, some of the press are still in New York. But at least I appear number one on the running order, I’m happy about that."

He was followed on the catwalk by Caroline Charles, whose breezy beach-side collection mixed red and white yachting apparel, safari bikinis and camel cut-offs with ethereal ivory, pearls and lace.

She described the mood as "optimism for a new decade", and her fun heart-shaped sunglasses, bold prints of blue, green, white and red and soft, sleek lines were enough to make the economic downturn seem far away.

Eun Jeong also took her show to another world, as the Korean-born former Fashion Fringe winner based her collection on the 16th century ballet.

Models with trailing tresses floated down the catwalk in a stunning array of silk chiffon and georgette in various shades of white and cream, as lace, silk and other fabrics were laid onto each other with pearl beading.

Turkish-born Bora Aksu, who graduated from college here in 2004, also relied heavily on lace and silk chiffon for his striking and sexy collection.

He rendered soft, feminine shapes in pink, gold, salmon and yellow into gothic masterpieces with thin black panels and tights reminiscent of the make-up worn by 1970s band Kiss.

Meanwhile, Spain’s Emilio de la Morena made his debut on the main catwalk with a chic look that brought the sea to London, using fishing nets and shell shapes to create fluid silhouettes superimposed with multiple layers.

"London is about new looks, it’s about innovation, it’s about originality. You see that in our emerging designers," Caroline Rush, joint chief executive of the British Fashion Council (BFC), told AFP.

"You’ll see some real wow factor this week. But you’ll see it in our established and iconic designers as well. So look out, London’s strong."

The return of the big designers is a welcome boost for London Fashion Week in this gloomy economic climate and organisers the BFC said they had registered 5,000 visitors to the event, including about 1,000 potential buyers.

The event injects 20 million pounds directly into the city, it says, and the fashion industry, including retail, is the second biggest employer in Britain.

Williamson, one of the darlings of British fashion who counts Sienna Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Moss among his clients, will show on Sunday after seven years showing in New York, with just one special show in London in 2007.

Alice Ritchie/AFP/Expatica