London Fashion Week Exhibition reported its best-ever attendance this week, as dresses and heavy knits were the style hits of the show.
Hilary Riva, chief executive of show organiser the British Fashion Council, said high visitor numbers were testament to the talent in London, with 49 designers on the catwalk and 200 in the exhibition. "The exhibition at LFW is stronger than ever," she said. "Estethica, the ethical area, is growing in size and reputation, while New Generation continues to showcase emerging designers. I'm delighted to see 11 former New Generation designers growing their businesses as part of the exhibition."
Guy Hudson, owner of Lynx in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, was impressed by the Laura Lees Label and Nude stands. "There are new faces and more overseas brands than before. It's now a nice, compact show and the balance between clothing and accessories is better," he said.
Although exhibitors said visitor numbers were low on the opening days of the show, export business had been good for some. Alex Lewis, designer at Marilyn Moore, said the brand had opened accounts in the US on the first day, while Pink Soda Boutique sales manager Lela Nair signed five new accounts on the opening day.
Sara Berman, who launched Sara Black to focus on winning pieces from previous collections offered only in black, said the show was "brilliant". She opened new accounts in Italy and Spain as well as in the UK. "We're very pleased. But I would be very concerned if we didn't do well at LFW - people know we are here and expect to see us, we are on our home ground and we have a new collection. I think it can be a very different picture for new brands at this show."
Agent Obi Ejiofor of Self Service, which represents brands including Ghulam Sakina and Boudoir by Disaya, was disappointed with the number of buyers "walking the show". He said it was a problem for the exhibition that more of the catwalk designers did not sell their collections in London.
Commenting on the LFW catwalk line-up, Gail Sackloff, head of AMC - the UK buying division of US store group Saks - said: "We are always looking for exciting merchandise and London is where we look. This week is proving that this is the place for something very special. It's packed with exciting designers and we are watching to see how people like Marios Schwab and Gareth Pugh are developing. Christopher Kane is fantastic - he's a genius."
With 200 brands, the exhibition was 30% bigger than last season, and a campaign by the British Fashion Council had targeted overseas buyers and press. A spokeswoman said more overseas store groups and boutique buyers had attended the show, which was held at the Natural History Museum.
- See next week's issue for a full report from London Fashion Week.