September 22, 2009 / 5:08 PM / in 8 years

London Fashion Week ends with eyes on UK talent

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - London concluded its 25th anniversary fashion week with characteristic eccentricity and fresh optimism about holding on to home-grown talent.

<p>A model presents a creation from Basso and Brook 2010 Spring/Summer collection during London Fashion Week, September 22, 2009. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth</p>

Bright colors and long dresses featured prominently on the catwalks at many of this year’s spring/summer shows, with Roksanda Ilincic dreaming up a mermaid-like shimmering green gown and a black suit with oversized conical shoulders.

London’s designers are considered among the world’s most avant garde, though not always the most commercially successful, and without the backing of big design houses many emerging talents such as John Galliano of Dior, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney decamped elsewhere to nurture their careers.

“I think the English are a little mad, and certainly very eccentric and fearless,” Vogue editor Anna Wintour told Reuters. “There’s less emphasis here on being commercial and selling.”

Designers including Matthew Williamson and Christopher Bailey of Burberry, who in past seasons have showed in Milan, Paris or New York, returned to London for the anniversary.

“It’s certainly not ruled out,” said Williamson, who has designed a line for mass retailer H&M. “Let’s just see how this collection is received. I would love to show here again.”

Vivienne Westwood, who rose to prominence 30 years ago during Britain’s punk era and who shows her Gold Label in Paris, said she too might possibly bring her top label back to England.

“London is special because it’s an incredible clash between anarchy and establishment,” said Hilary Alexander, fashion writer for the Telegraph newspaper.

“You get the heritage but you also get things that are completely unexpected, slightly bizarre,” she said. “You get young designers experimenting without any restraints.”

NO TIME CRUNCH

<p>A model presents a creation from Basso and Brook 2010 Spring/Summer collection during London Fashion Week, September 22, 2009. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth</p>

Even though it has produced some of fashion’s biggest names London has struggled to maintain its international profile on a par with Paris, Milan and New York.

In February, fashion week was cut short owing to a scheduling conflict with New York, prompting some models, editors and buyers to skip it.

But this time ‘round, 17-year-old Dutch model Queeny van der Zande said she felt organization had improved.

“This week, it’s really easy going,” she said as a makeup artist painted her face before the House of Holland show. “Comparing to like last February, that was hectic.”

<p>A model presents a creation from Basso and Brook 2010 Spring/Summer collection during London Fashion Week, September 22, 2009. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth</p>

Model Hanna Rundlof, also 17, agreed, but Lyndsey Scott, from New York said her schedule was still booked solid.

“The first day I was here, I had to go to 17 appointments and that’s a lot,” she said prior to the Jaeger show. “It seems like a lot of my options overlapped.”

GOLDMINE OF TALENT

Anna Wintour, who arrived at the shows punctually with her trademark dark glasses, said that in recent years London designers had incorporated a bit of business savvy with their creativity, which might help their survival in Britain.

“They have wonderful fashion schools here that really teach them to put creativity and talent and imagination first,” Wintour said. “I feel there’s more of a balance now than when designers like McQueen and Galliano were just starting out.”

Paul Smith, who opened his first London shop in 1979 and is now one of Britain’s best-established designers, said he too hoped Williamson and others were here to stay.

“It would be really nice to think that some of them actually came back again, not just for one season,” he said. “(But) we are a pretty amazing goldmine of talent.”

Additional reporting by Harriet Morris; Editing by Paul Casciato

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