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Buyers hail ‘sophisticated’ London Fashion Week

Buyers have praised this season’s “commercial” London Fashion Week with designers producing fresh collections that will encourage shoppers to invest in new pieces.

Peter Pilotto, Erdem and Meadham Kirchhoff were among the favourites for Laura Larbalestier, buying director at premium London indie Browns, who identified print as still a key trend. “[Print] works really well as people can identify which brand it is from and it gives the label an identity,” making it stronger commercially.

She added: “Everything was quite sophisticated, which is great when you’re trying to sell high priced premium product.”

Coggles creative director Adam Jagger picked out Moschino Cheap & Chic, Jonathan Saunders, Henry Holland and Vivienne Westwood as highlights.

“It was one of the best weeks we have seen,” he said. “The Westwood show was a great representation of the British designer, while Henry Holland felt young and fresh, and didn’t take itself too seriously.”

Matches co-founder Ruth Chapman highlighted Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Mary Katrantzou, and Roksanda Ilincic as her top designers, saying they “had all done something that was new – and that always gives the customer a reason to buy”.

Futuristic cuts and the use of plastic were key trends she identified, though acknowledged there were some “who had tried to push forward but it didn’t work”.

John Lewis head of buying for womenswear Jo Hooper also selected Christopher Kane as being commercially strong, alongside Erdem, both of which showcased “patisserie-sweet colours”.

She added: “The consumer wants to spend wisely and invest in pieces that can be worn two or three seasons in a row, so developing and updating successful trends, like print on print and laser cut leather for example,  is commercially key for designers and retailers alike. I think Vivienne Westwood put it perfectly when she said ‘buy less, choose well, make it last’.”

Henry Graham, co-founder of designer London indie Wolf & Badger praised the selection of “understated yet glamorous” gowns, dresses and tops being shown across a vast array of designers.

He added: “The continuing dismal economy has not stopped Britain’s best new luxury brands from empowering woman. Case in point are the two very different collections of Bora Aksu and Fyodor Golan both of whom have stressed the importance of luxurious fabrics and exquisite finish.”

Stephen Ayres, head of fashion buying at London retailer Liberty, offered a mixed view, backing the presence of embellishment while warning that the trend towards volume was “difficult” commercially. He highlighted Roksanda Ilincic, Christopher Kane and Erdem as three of his favourite shows.

“There were many very beautiful collections this season that I know we will sell very well, but I was holding out for a real ‘moment’ that unfortunately didn’t happen for me this season,” he added.

But buyers agreed that LFW had become a must-attend global event, generating more buzz than ever.

“LFW has really come into its own,” said Hooper. “The world is really paying attention to London and even after last season it managed to up its game again,” said Larbalestier.

Chapman added: “Creativity in this country is now so strong and it was showcased very well. I felt proud to see American buyers sitting in the front row – wind back five years and that didn’t happen.”

Judd Crane, Selfridges director of womenswear, added: “London designers have developed unique voices in recent years and many seem to follow their own personal trajectory of development rather than follow global fashion trends.

“This may be perceived by some as ‘playing it safe’, however for many designers who have a cultish fanbase, this season displayed fresh ideas within the fine details of design. Being subtly radical for a designer is a really interesting approach to me.”

Incoming BFC chair Natalie Massenet used the closing event of the week to tell the industry of her “very clear and specific three-year-plan”, which will begin in January 2013. “I will be using the remaining part of this year to do my homework, understand your needs and concerns, your triumphs and challenges,” she said. She also revealed her email address – natalie.massenet@britishfashioncouncil.com– and urged people to get in touch.    

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