LONDON (Reuters Life!) - London kicked off its leg of the catwalk calendar on Friday as journalists and buyers descended on the British capital to see what city known as the loveable rogue of fashion has in store for next spring.
London is best-known as a showcase for cutting edge talent and avant garde trends, mixing up-and-coming names like Erdem with established designers like Vivienne Westwood.
One of the big four catwalk fixtures alongside Paris, New York and Milan, London Fashion Week, will run until September 22 with both British and international designers seeking to entice recession-weary shoppers with their spring/summer 2011 womenswear. One day will also be dedicated to menswear.
The economic downturn has changed the way people shop for fashion, with an eye for a special one off piece. In New York, whose shows kick off the fashion season, buyers said they were on the lookout for eye-catching collections to wow customers.
The direct value of the fashion industry to the British economy is nearly 21 billion pounds ($33 billion), a report on Thursday showed.
As Friday's shows began with brands like Paul Costelloe, PPQ and sass & bide, the wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged her support to the industry, that has produced some of fashion's biggest names but has struggled to maintain a global profile on a par with the other fashion capitals.
"We have so much young talent that needs to be supported and nurtured to ensure we are building brands and businesses for the future," Samantha Cameron said.
Highlights in London will include the Burberry show, which is expected to further the fashion industry's latest trend in embracing the power of the Internet.
Over the last few seasons, fashion houses have been making room for bloggers in their front-row seats and streaming their shows live on their websites.
Burberry will go one step further with a new concept which will allow customers to buy live from the show.
Its Retail Theater will broadcast the label's show directly into 25 flagship stores. Following the private viewing, customers will be able to browse the collection on iPads where they can buy pieces directly. Such a move will shorten the usual six-month cycle of buying and production, with customers getting their orders in seven weeks.
The international fashion community will also pay tribute to late British designer Alexander McQueen at a memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral on Monday.
McQueen, known for his controversial collections and unconventional catwalk shows committed suicide in February.
London Fashion Week will have more than 60 catwalk shows, picking up the pace this weekend with Matthew Williamson, Julien Macdonald, John Rocha followed by Erdem -- favored by U.S. first lady Michelle Obama -- and a string of others until next Wednesday -- after which the crowd moves on to Milan.
Editing by Paul Casciato