Kate-mania pervades London Fashion Week kick-off

Fri Feb 18, 2011 5:23pm EST
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By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - London took over the fashion week baton on Friday, kicking off six days of catwalk shows in a British capital known for its verve and creativity. Royal bride Kate Middleton, who will marry Britain's Prince William on April 29, brings a new level of interest to the city's catwalks as she cements her status as a style role model and speculation about who will make THE dress for the royal wedding of the year at Westminster Abbey is on everyone's lips.

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. Middleton is expected to choose a British-designed wedding dress.

One of the big four catwalk fixtures alongside Paris, New York and Milan, London Fashion Week will run until February 23 with both British and international designers showing their autumn/winter 2011 womenswear to an expected audience of 5,000. One day will also be dedicated to menswear.

The direct value of the fashion industry to the British economy is nearly 21 billion pounds ($33.88 billion).

It is estimated that orders of more than 100 million pounds are placed during fashion week each season, but the months ahead are set to be tough as Prime Minister David Cameron's government implements the harshest austerity measures in decades.

"We feel very upbeat and excited about the week ahead," British Fashion Council chairman Harold Tillman said at the opening on Friday, which was attended by Cameron's wife Samantha, in her new role as an ambassador for the council.

"But no doubt this year will be difficult as we are all suffering alongside many other organizations from the cuts the government have made."

Friday's shows began with Irish-born Paul Costelloe, who has just announced a new backer for his womenswear label as well as Caroline Charles and Orla Kiely. Looking ahead, one of the week's most sought-after tickets is for the Issa London show on Saturday after Middleton wore a blue Issa gown when she and William appeared before the world's media to announce their engagement.   Continued...

<p>Opera Gallery Director Jean-David Malat poses with "God Save the Future Queen", a mixed media artwork by Zoobs and reminiscent of the cover of the 1977 Sex Pistols album in London, February 4, 2011. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett</p>