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Creative LFW lifts the industry

London Fashion Week designers this week gave the fashion industry a lift and proved the sector has much to celebrate despite the recession, by showing a raft of creative but commercial collections.

The UK’s talented roster of designers delved into their archives for inspiration, but offered new twists on classic pieces which embraced their design values at the event, which celebrated its 25th birthday.

Drapers has launched an initiative called Great British Fashion to celebrate the sector’s talent and to coincide with the multitude of UK fashion businesses celebrating special anniversaries this year - retailer Marks & Spencer and womenswear and menswear retailer Jaeger are both 125, department store Selfridges celebrates its centenary while premium brand Ted Baker turns 21 (see box).

Drapers will publish a Great British Fashion supplement later this year as part of a programme of initiatives.

While international attendance at LFW may have appeared to be down, the UK fashion industry came out in support of Great British Fashion this week, citing the talent at LFW as a reason for the industry to come together and celebrate to help motivate staff and put fashion at the forefront of shoppers’ minds.

Harold Tillman, chairman of the British Fashion Council, which organises LFW, and the owner of Jaeger, said: “Great British Fashion is a great opportunity to celebrate our industry, and recognise the economic importance of fashion to UK companies.”

Phil Wrigley, chairman of young fashion chain New Look, which celebrates its 40th birthday this year, said: “It is a good excuse to celebrate and be nostalgic when times are dull, and reflecting on your past helps you make sense of your future.”

As well as serving up collections creative enough to tempt the top end of the market, LFW designers provided plenty of design inspiration for the high street for autumn 09. This was reflected in a leaning towards tailoring and structure, and a more sombre colour palette.

Designer Christopher Kane best exemplified this season’s personality-cum-commerciality approach. His love affair with sheer fabrics and piping first seen in his spring 09 collection was reworked this season in organza layers trimmed with black velvet, while the sparkle of autumn 08’s oversized sequins was swapped for shiny foil-like fabrics in ruby, gold and amethyst.

Dresses were simple in shape, sheath-like or shift, and embellishment was kept to a wearable minimum.

Vivienne Westwood’s Red Label was one of London’s biggest champions of the tailored mood, as Westwood focused on updating her trademark tartan into more commercial styles such as cowl-neck dresses, sharply cut waistcoats and one-button waistcoats. The usually offbeat designer’s St Trinian’s-inspired jackets will provide easy points of reference for the high street in the autumn.

Other trends which look likely to translate well include panelling and contrast fabric stripes, which were used at PPQ, Nathan Jenden and Luella. The 1990s was a key reference point, as punk and grunge came through at Bora Aksu and Peter Pilotto, sexy bandage off-the-shoulder dresses were seen at Josh Goot and biker jackets rocked the runway at Twenty8Twelve.

Marigay McKee, fashion and beauty director at department store Harrods, said: “London never fails to showcase a diverse mix of exciting collections, and British designers continue to push boundaries. This season’s LFW had a diverse range of innovative yet commercial ranges.”

Nadia Jones, creative director of womenswear retailer Oasis, said: “London has delivered exciting fashion which is what women are looking for.”

Matches fashion and buying director Bridget Cosgrave said:  “LFW was very inspiring this season, with plenty of fresh, new and exciting new gen designers such as Mary Katrantzou on the circuit. Now is an important time for British fashion to make our mark internationally. As a nation we can celebrate being creative and doing something different, designers such as Peter Pilotto and Mary Katrantzou aren’t afraid to break the mould.”

Browns buying director Erin Mullaney said: “I believe what John Galliano said, ‘it’s a credit crunch, not a creative crunch,’ and London Fashion Week really exemplified this. It’s a fantastic time for British fashion designers to step up to the mark. This year LFW has really come of age, every designer rose to the challenge. British designers don’t follow trends, and they’re not afraid to take risks.”


Throwing a party

A selection of this year¹s fashion birthdays:

Jaeger 125th
Marks & Spencer 125th
Dorothy Perkins 100th
Selfridges 100th
Frank Bird, menswear 70th
Rigby & Peller 70th
New Look 40th
Richmond Classics, 21st
young fashion indie
Ted Baker 21st
Boden 18th

If your business celebrates a milestone this year, email

Industry figures back Great British Fashion

“It is a good excuse to celebrate and be nostalgic when times are dull, and reflecting on your past helps you make sense of your future. Fashion is hugely relevant and all the recession does is challenge affordability. It doesn’t change the principle of fashion and retail, nor the desire behind the industry.”
Phil Wrigley, chairman, New Look

“London doesn’t do doom and gloom. People have been fairly upbeat and in times of adversity you have to challenge it and come up trumps.”
Mary Homer, managing director, Topshop

“Great British Fashion is a great opportunity to celebrate our industry, from designer to retail level, and recognise the economic importance of fashion to UK companies.”
Harold Tillman, chairman, British Fashion Council

“If people are going to buy fashion they’ll buy British. First, it’s the best in the world, and second, it’s cheap, as the pound is so low.”
Mark Bage, owner, Sarah Coggles in York

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