The return of two high-profile designer labels to the UK’s fashion capital in September was applauded by the industry this week.
For more than a decade London Fashion Week (LFW) has suffered the departures of the most commercial and exciting brands (think Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney) who leave London in search of international fame and orders overseas as soon as they reach a certain size. Sadly for London, they take some buyers and press with them, which has dented attendance at LFW.
Speaking exclusively to Drapers this week, Harold Tillman, chairman of the British Fashion Council, which organises LFW, was adamant he could recreate the LFW buzz which was last seen in the mid-1990s.
He said: “There are talks going on with other big names who we’re confident will come back. I want us to be the number-one destination for international press and buyers.”
LFW, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, will move to a new home in London’s Somerset House and Tillman promises several other new initiatives.
It is Tillman himself who has largely been credited with bringing back big names. Personal meetings with Burberry chief executive Angela Ahrendts are believed to have persuaded her to return. Independent designer fashion consultant David Jones said: “In Harold Tillman, London has a passionate individual whose charisma will persuade people back.”
A spokeswoman for Matthew Williamson, who has hinted he may stay at LFW beyond September, agreed: “I think that the way the British Fashion Council is reworking LFW will see lots of people coming back.”
She added: “London has been pigeonholed as being about new, young designers and people don’t attend because they wait to see how these designers will develop. The return of some established brands will change that perception.”
Tillman said: “We’re hoping and assuming these arrangements are ongoing. It’s hard for designers to duck in and out of different countries. I think if they’ve made the commitment to come to London this year it’s because they see the benefits of exhibiting here now.”
Pamela Shiffer, owner of the womenswear indie of the same name in London, agreed: “Bringing London fashion back to its roots can only help speed an end to recession.”
International attendance should also be boosted. Bridget Cosgrove, fashion and buying director of London mini-chain Matches, said: “When you have these sorts of
heavyweights on the schedule the likes of Anna Wintour [editor of US Vogue] will have to show up.”
Marigay McKee, fashion and beauty director at Harrods, added: “The return of established names will strengthen the international profile of the event.”
- Provisional dates for LFW are September 18-22. See www.londonfashionweek.co.uk.