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Commercial LFW lives up to the hype

London Fashion Week stamped its mark on the international buying calendar this week, impressing buyers with some of the most commercial collections seen in years.

With big British names such as Burberry Prorsum, Matthew Williamson and Pringle returning to London from rival international catwalks, the pressure was on organiser the British Fashion Council (BFC) to live up to its promise that its 25th anniversary event would restore the buzz the capital had lacked since the
late 1990s.

Early reports suggested the BFC largely succeeded, with a 15% rise on last season’s visitor figures and a host of international buyers and press.

BFC chairman Harold Tillman said: “We had great feedback from international and UK attendees. There are always things we can improve and work on but that is what drives us forward.”

Buyers were impressed by new talent as well as the much-hyped big-name returns.

Liberty buying director Ed Burstell said: “London Fashion Week certainly lived up to the hype with the return of Burberry and Matthew Williamson. Both put on outstanding shows. Other favourites were Luella, for her flirty and very saleable dresses, and Mark Fast and Mary Kartanzou as new talent to watch.”

He added that the relocation of the event to Somerset House had been long overdue.

That sentiment was echoed by Harvey Nichols’ fashion buying director Averyl Oates, who said Somerset House and 180 The Strand “proved that in London we don’t always need a faceless warehouse space for ambience”.

However, other buyers found the venue confusing. Pamela Shiffer, owner of the eponymous two-store London indie, said: “It was hard to get an overview with all the different rooms in Somerset House.”

Some exhibitors said the new exhibition space at 180 The Strand was quiet, but Tillman argued that brands that marketed themselves well made good sales. He said: “The exhibitors that made appointments and created a focus on their area wrote business.”

Visitors were confident that LFW would now become an essential fixture on the buying calendar. Selfridges’ director of womenswear Anita Barr said: “If the BFC can persuade labels such as Burberry to show here again it will cement London’s importance.”

Tillman added: “We know we have our work cut out but we are confident that we can continue to raise the bar.”

Big names return

The designers returning to London Fashion Week were the shining lights of the schedule.

Burberry Prorsum lived up to the hype surrounding the label with a collection that plugged into the trend for commercial yet feminine and playful product. It plumped for sugary tones of mint and baby-pink chiffon injecting fresh takes on its signature trench coats and girlish dresses.

Matthew Williamson firmly shook off his boho mantle to team ethnic undertones with futuristic shiny fabrics and metallic detailing.

The best of the rest went to Christopher Kane (pictured), whose signature sinister, yet innocent, theme came through via checked prairie dresses and sherbet silks with cutaway panels. 

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