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Government hints at LFW cash support

Minister praises fashion industry as London catwalks serve up most commercial trends yet.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey has given his clearest signal yet that the coalition Government will dig deep to fund London Fashion Week, claiming he will “try to find money down the back of the sofa” to sustain the biannual event despite widespread cuts to public spending.

His pledge, revealed exclusively to Drapers, came as the British Fashion Council (BFC) showcased spring 11’s LFW - the last with public funding in place, and an event hailed by buyers as the most commercial for many seasons. It also followed the publication of a major report by the BFC that set a value of £20.9bn on the UK fashion industry.

Vaizey and business secretary Vince Cable opened the parliamentary launch of the BFC’s Value of the UK Fashion Industry report last week by praising the industry for its low reliance on public money - a clear warning to the BFC and other trade bodies not to rely on the Government for cash.

However, Vaizey nodded vigorously when BFC chief executive Caroline Rush warned of “devastating consequences” for the fashion industry if LFW did not secure fresh public investment and later told Drapers: “We’re facing a very tough financial climate but we can always try to find money down the back of the sofa. The fashion industry gets small amounts of assistance for specific projects, but the great thing about the BFC is it [can make] a small sum of money have a major impact.”

The BFC report was generally welcomed by the industry. Burberry chief creative officer Christopher Bailey said: “It legitimises the fashion industry, which some people see as just fluffy.”

Mulberry chairman and chief executive Godfrey Davis added: “The Government needs to think about how to encourage manufacturing in the UK.”

BFC chairman Harold Tillman said: “Brand Britain revolves around fashion and LFW. The Government recognises this now.” Samantha Cameron, the Prime Minister’s wife, agreed this week to work with the BFC, which Tillman said would help it to build an even closer relationship with the Government.

The BFC won £4.2m of funding from the London Development Agency three years ago, of which £1.2m was invested in LFW. This week’s LFW was the last to fall under the previous agreement and there is speculation the LDA will now be dissolved.

Meanwhile, buyers at LFW welcomed the shift to softer silhouettes and paler colours for spring 11, with many picking out Erdem’s highly commercial offer as the standout collection.

Brix Smith-Start, co-owner of premium London indie Start, said: “Erdem was painfully beautiful. I also thought it was a little more wearable than [his previous] collections, and would appeal to a younger customer and a wider range of body types.”

Harrods fashion and buying director Marigay McKee predicted lace, white and neon would be the best-selling trends. “Matthew Williamson and Julien Macdonald both had a new age energy and celebrated the underneath with underwear-inspired outfits, she said.

Alexandra Stylianidis, head of womenswear and accessories buying at department store Liberty, welcomed the softer silhouettes at Richard Nicoll and Michael van der Ham and paler prints at Peter Pilotto.

However, a number of designers expressed disappointment at LFW Exhibition attendance. Designer Eugene Lin said: “Footfall was incredibly poor, both for buyers and press. Zero new stockists, zero orders.”


By Laura Weir and Marie Davies

Sheer and Layering

Seen at Betty Jackson, Hannah Marshall, John Rocha, Jonathan Saunders

Commercial appeal At its most directional, sheer overlays had a bewitching quality but there were plenty of commercial interpretations. Overlays came via straight-cut organza at John Rocha while Jonathan Saunders printed on sheer fabric layered dresses.

Sporty Minimalism

Seen at Daks, Nicole Farhi, Osman

Commercial appeal The spring 11 trend for contemporary minimalism will keep the consumer in tune with autumn 10’s move towards easy dressing and classic pieces. This was all about clever cutting with clean and tailored silhouettes in a muted palette. Could be hard to pull off convincingly for the high street.


Seen at Giles, Topshop Unique

Commercial appeal The decade fashion forgot was reworked for spring 11 with billowing sleeves on blouses and tank tops, flared ankle-length trousers, silk jumpsuits and burnt orange suedes. There are plenty of ways to buy into this trend - particularly with high-waisted wide-legged trousers - just don’t take it too literally.


Seen at Everywhere from Erdem to Nicole Farhi

Commercial appeal White and ivory will suit most complexions but shoppers may be put off by the need for extra laundering, so proceed with caution.

Sweeping Trains

Seen at Antonio Berardi, Julien Macdonald, Matthew Williamson

Commercial appeal Could influence the occasionwear market or be used as an update to last spring’s maxi dress. Trains were decorated with ruffles while mini dresses featured a short front hemline with a train falling behind.

Ones to Watch

Michael van der Ham

Michael van der Ham’s debut solo show echoed his signature style in a patchwork of satin, velvet and jersey lamé. The palette fused bright yellow, pink and blue with more autumnal maroon and grey. This collection was quirky yet wearable.

Mary Katrantzou

Surreal prints adorned dresses that had structured shoulders which elegantly curved down the arm. Crinoline dresses had fringe and beading detail and colours were rich and vivid, ranging from midnight blue to rose pink on a white canvas.

Holly Fulton

Art deco-inspired prints in bold colours looked like they could have come out of 1960s Palm Springs as palazzo pants, skater skirts, round-neck maxis and sheath dresses made for a glamorous and grown-up affair. Sunflower yellow and sky blue dominated the palette while fringed hems were on trend.


LFW threw up some vital sub-trends for spring 11. Julien Macdonald offset his billowing silk dresses with parachute-style strapping, while at Matthew Williamson, feminine maxi dresses were held up with plaited strapping. At Todd Lynn, zips added sporty accents to pockets, while they also fastened gilets and cropped jackets at Peter Pilotto. Cut-outs featured on dresses at Meadham Kirchhoff and PPQ. At Jaeger London, faggoting was employed to create sheer knits. The mesh used on necklines at Jonathan Saunders achieved a similar although more sports-tech effect. At Christopher Kane, leather was cut into so intricately it looked like lace. Julien Macdonald and John Rocha injected a touch of boudoir via underwear as outerwear. Christopher Kane, Mark Fast and House of Holland all used pleats and fringing.



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