At the end of another London Fashion Week, a record number of international buyers have created a step change for the event, says British Fashion Council chief executive Hilary Riva.
As organiser of LFW, Riva says the high number of overseas buyers making the trip is "testament to the talent in London". But do designers believe enough is being done to really put LFW on the global fashion calendar?
"I think there is always room for improvement in terms of LFW, but Riva's efforts have been extraordinary," says Amanda Wakeley. "She has brought a clear commercial edge to the show. The BFC has pulled its socks up over the past few seasons and has begun working on it earlier. It will always be different to the other fashion weeks because each city has its own personality - which is how it should be."
Wakeley says she noticed the stronger international profile at the show this year, which she attributes to the complement of new and established designers. "There is a lot of talk about London now being home to emerging talent, but there are established names that still show here, like myself and Paul Smith, so you have the yin and the yang."
LFW has long been acknowledged as the show to spot young talent. And with tickets for Giles, Christopher Kane and Gareth Pugh being among the hottest of the week, February 2007 has been no exception.
"It proves the UK is a hotbed of fresh talent," says Henry Holland, designer and owner of House of Holland, which showcased its range of T-shirt dresses at Fashion East last week. Holland says a number of international buyers expressed interest in his collection, including Collette in Paris, and Neiman Marcus and Barneys in the US.
Paul Costelloe and Todd Lynn also say they noticed a swell in international buyers. However, Lynn adds that LFW is still not a place to write orders. "That's all done in Paris, even for UK buyers," he adds. "The feedback I've been getting, especially from Americans, is that LFW is too close to New York Fashion Week so they can't get here until Tuesday. They've suggested that it could start towards the end of the week and be closer to the Milan show to attract more international buyers."
The BFC met with organisers of other fashion weeks last month to discuss shifting European dates forward. However, the BFC is yet to make a decision on this.
Nonetheless, Lynn says LFW works for him and he will show next season. "I think we all need to stick together to continue to make this a great show. Designers need to make collections that are worth seeing - it's our responsibility to make the trip worthwhile," he says.
However, Lynn questions the relevance of headline acts. "Remember that we saw Emporio Armani last season and Marc by Marc Jacobs this season, not Giorgio Armani and Marc Jacobs. I don't think buyers are here to see these one-season shows. If these designers were showing their mainlines, it could be a different story. But they're here only to create hype - and great after-parties."
Costelloe also has concerns. While he acknowledges that Giorgio Armani and Marc Jacobs attract more international attention to LFW, he believes it may be to the detriment of UK designers. "By showing only for one season, they steal the limelight from the local boys and the show becomes less about the UK. It's all about self-promotion for Giorgio Armani and Marc Jacobs. I think if they committed to the event and showed season after season, then they would complement the rest of us and we could learn from them. As it is, some British designers lack confidence because they feel second best."
Riva went to new lengths to attract a global audience this season, including targeting key international press and buyers, as well as a targeted campaign in the US. However, designers still think more should be done. "The international profile of the show has definitely risen," says Wakeley. "But I would love to see a really strategic marketing and PR campaign for LFW. That's an area that needs improvement and working on."
Costelloe also points out that celebrities should not be relied upon to raise the profile of the event. "It's also about the venue and about servicing the buyers and visitors. Although the ad budget is probably tight, the BFC could help by advertising the show better, perhaps with a good ad in Vogue. But really it's up to all of us to continue to innovate."