Polished London Fashion Week sheds its quirky image

Wed Feb 22, 2012 6:04pm EST
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By Michelle Martin

LONDON (Reuters) - London Fashion Week shook off its traditional image as a mere playground for quirky emerging talent with a display of grown-up elegance for the autumn/winter 2012 season that had leaders of the global fashion pack singing the British capital's praises.

By the close of the shows, top British designers such as Paul Smith, Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton and Burberry's Christopher Bailey had presented catwalk collections which more than suggested that the "edgy" London of yesteryear had matured into a sleek and sophisticated luxury powerhouse.

"We used to come here and think it's all going to be eccentric and street chic and actually it's incredibly grown up, polished and sexy, glamorous clothes so it's a global stage now -- it's wonderful," U.S. Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour told Reuters on the sidelines of the shows.

London has always been overshadowed by New York, Milan and Paris on the fashion map, and often derided by critics as the "capital of quirk," despite spawning industry stars such as Stella McCartney, McQueen and Vivienne Westwood as well as leading global luxury labels such as Burberry and Mulberry.

Military styles, bright prints, furs and quintessentially English looks dominated the catwalks, while bejeweled, sequined and embroidered creations also featured prominently this season.

Many of the collections included paneled creations. Belstaff delivered tailored leather jackets with armor type paneling. Burberry sent paneled trenchcoats down the runway and Peter Pilotto dressed his models in figure-hugging stretch dresses slashed with mesh panels.

Designers accentuated the female figure by nipping coats and jackets in at the waist to create an hourglass silhouette -- Burberry used colorful bows to achieve this look while McQ from Alexander McQueen chose leather military-style belts with gold buckles.

Sasha Wilkins, founder of the successful LibertyLondonGirl.com fashion blog, said the British capital now competed on equal footing with its rival fashion capitals.   Continued...

Models present creations at the McQ Alexander McQueen 2012 Autumn/Winter collection show during London Fashion Week February 20, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett