London Fashion Week has cemented its position as a serious commercial event on the international buying calendar, with designers such as Christopher Kane, Erdem and Jonathan Saunders crossing the rising-star threshold to become must-order labels for autumn 10.
Until now, Kane, Erdem and Saunders had been hailed as “ones to watch”, but it became clear at this week’s event that all now commanded real attention from UK and overseas buyers, with most saying they were as key to their buying as the so-called Italian and French super-brands.
Erin Mullaney, buying director of leading London indie Browns, told Drapers: “London Fashion Week is so important and ranks just below Paris for me. David Koma, Erdem and Christopher Kane were some of my favourites, and Christopher Kane is such an international name now. He’s very accomplished.”
Matthew Williamson also moved into new territory, showing a well-rounded wardrobe of tailored jackets and tapered trousers rather than just focusing on the floaty dresses with which he made his name. Williamson’s commercial range, which included fur coats and leather skirts, showed that the designer’s label has broad appeal for a generally under-served 35-plus womenswear market.
Nearly all designers showed highly commercial collections at the event, something that has let LFW down in the past and resulted in a dip in its reputation as a serious fashion business centre in the noughties.
Luisa de Paula, buying and merchandising director at premium etailer My-Wardrobe, said. “The LFW collections have been commercial with a fashion edge, and quite varied. At Antonio Berardi it was all about tailoring and sharp lines; at Aquascutum it was about long lengths. I really loved Vivienne Westwood and thought Burberry was wearable, chic and polished. LFW is important because it’s inspirational and doesn’t conform - it’s not a poor sister to the other fashion weeks.”
Harold Tillman, chairman of LFW organiser the British Fashion Council, told Drapers that this season’s LFW had been the most commercially successful ever. He said: “It has been a phenomenal success. The September 25th-anniversary event was amazing, but this season has been even better. Business is being done and orders have been written.”
Only Meadham Kirchhoff, another of LFW’s must-sees, received a mixed reaction from buyers for its innovative but slightly unusual collection, which focused on layering and took in long floral skirts, embroidered cardigans and Arabian Princess veils. As separate pieces, though, the collection should work on the shopfloor.
Some buyers at LFW told Drapers that they were carving their budgets to embrace smaller labels rather than focusing purely on the likes of Prada and Gucci. As the recession hit, designer indies initially flocked to “safe bets”, but most said that as consumer spending slowed in the luxury market they had been left vulnerable and with significant overstocks. Stringent payment terms and minimum order requirements from larger brands are thought to have compounded their difficulties.
Speaking to Drapers after the Burberry Prorsum show on Tuesday, Giulio Cinque, owner of designer men’s and women’s indie Giulio in Cambridge, said he was rethinking his offer to bring in lesser-known British and Japanese labels, and brands with lower price points. He said: “Indies can’t replicate a brand like it has been shown here [at Burberry] in store - we don’t have space. We have to buy key items. Sometimes that has been possible with big brands, but sometimes it isn’t.”
For a full report on the collections at LFW and an interview with Erdem, see next week’s issue.