LONDON (Reuters) - Fashion blogger Sasha Wilkins thinks that there has never been a better time for the eyes of her industry to turn their attention towards London.
Wilkins, who is the founder of the successful LibertyLondonGirl.com fashion blog and has covered London Fashion Week for more than 20 seasons, said she has never been more excited than she is for this Friday’s kickoff of the autumn/winter 2012 season.
“We seem to have got to the point where London can properly take its place on the world stage,” said Wilkins, who is also a former Wall Street Journal executive style editor. “We fully compete against Paris, New York and Milan now from every point of view.”
The British capital is best known for its daring and bold designers and for promoting fresh young talent like Mary Katrantzou and Jonathan Saunders alongside established designers such as Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood. But it has also suffered from a squeeze in the scheduling between the other fashion capitals.
London Fashion Week is big business for the industry and the UK economy, with an estimated 100 million pounds of orders placed during the event for each season, something designers who showcase their collections here understand well.
“Designers understand the business side of it, which is incredibly important and we have the most extraordinary creative talent,” Wilkins said.
Judd Crane, director of Womenswear at luxury department store Selfridges, said he expects to see less established designers such as Katrantzou and Peter Pilotto create pieces that are not only inspiring and directional but also commercially successful.
“2012 is set to be a seminal year for British fashion,” he said. “With the eyes of the world on London, it’s an incredibly important opportunity for our design talent to show what great things they are capable of.”
Crane said emerging designers to watch for in a cradle of creativity which has spawned Westwood, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and others are: J.W. Anderson, Erdem, Osman, Roksanda Ilincic and Sophie Hulme.
Wilkins, said she was really excited about young designers Fyodor Golan, who won the Fashion Fringe prize last year.
“They make the most beautiful, incredibly intricate and well thought out pieces. They are incredibly well realized.”
London Fashion Week will take over the baton from New York, where a sumptuous display of rich brocades, lace and velvet inspired by Hollywood period film “The Artist” and British TV drama “Downton Abbey” were on show.
The event runs from February 17 until February 22 with both British and international designers showing their autumn/winter 2012 womenswear to an expected audience of 5,000 buyers, celebrities, industry insiders and journalists.
This year is expected to be the most digitally innovative yet, incorporating social media and live streaming at 44 of 59 catwalk shows online.
British Fashion Council Chairman Harold Tillman also hopes to increase the focus on Chinese customers, who are among the top spenders at London Fashion Week by providing incentives to make the event more lucrative to foreign buyers who account for 74 million pounds of the estimated 100 million pounds worth of orders placed during London Fashion Week.
“We’re not giving them enough in this country,” Tillman told Britain’s Independent newspaper this week. “It’s only a matter of changing the (visa) system and getting the government to understand we’re losing billions.”
The direct value of the UK fashion industry to the British economy is 21 billion pounds.
The event will add new elements alongside womenswear, including a new fine jewelry initiative where 10 selected jewelers will display their autumn/winter 2012 collections. Five headwear designers will also showcase their designs as part of this season’s exhibition.
Friday’s shows kick off with Preen, PPQ and the Central St Martins MA show, where many of the top British designers like McQueen and McCartney showcased their first designs before becoming international fashion stars.
Monday will mark the first time McQueen’s diffusion line McQ will showcase in London, with Sarah Burton - the designer of the wedding dress worn by Kate Middleton for her marriage to Britain’s Prince William last April — at the helm. Buyers and journalists are also eyeing McCartney’s special presentation on Saturday with eager interest.
Other favorites include Mulberry, Westwood and Matthew Williamson who are expected, as always, to put on a good show with the usual panache and flair that defines London.
Editing by Paul Casciato