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LFW to maintain momentum as top buyers and brands return

The British Fashion Council (BFC) expects the strong momentum of September’s London Fashion Week to continue when it opens today, as a host of top-name buyers confirmed their attendance.

As Drapers went to press, influential US Vogue editor Anna Wintour confirmed she would be back for a second season. Wintour was set to be joined by buyers from international stores including iconic French indies Colette and Maria Luisa, Italian department store La Rinascente and US stores Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys.

Simon Ward, joint chief executive of the BFC, which organises London Fashion Week, said: “Following the trend of the past two seasons we are expecting strong attendance from both UK and international press and buyers. Budgets have been tighter over the past few seasons but people come to London for exciting and individual designs.”

LFW has relocated its second exhibition from 180 the Strand to Somerset House, also on the Strand, alongside the rest of LFW. The exhibition opens today and runs until February 23. Catwalk shows also kicked off yesterday. The event closes with a day of menswear shows on Wednesday.

LFW has gained a reputation as an edgy event - launching exciting emerging designers - but until last season, the schedule lacked the big-hitting commercial names found at Paris, Milan and New York. However, last season’s return of labels such as Burberry Prorsum and Matthew Williamson, on the 25th anniversary of the event, gave it a renewed credibility last seen in the late 1990s. Both are set to show in London for a second time this week, which has boosted London’s commercial position on the fashion week calendar.

BFC chairman Harold Tillman said: “People thought it was a one-off for the 25th anniversary but [big-name designers] have stayed. If you are out of one of our design colleges why would you not want to be seen in your birthplace?”

Colleen Sherin, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, said: “Fashion weeks move in cycles and London is on an upward swing again.”

April Glassborow, Harvey Nichols buying manager for womenswear, accessories and shoes, said: “The return of big names is a huge fillip to LFW.”

Marigay McKee, fashion and beauty director at Harrods, added: “The increased attendance of press and buyers from around the world will also bring attention to emerging designers, which is crucial for the future of London-based designers.”

Most buyers said they would be interested in what younger British labels will show this season, citing the likes of Erdem, Sykes and Peter Pilotto as the ones to watch.

Ed Burstell, buying director at Liberty, said: “I want to see what young labels like Meadham Kirchhoff, Richard Nicoll and Peter Pilotto will do.”

Bridget Cosgrave, fashion and buying director of designer indie Matches, added: “I am looking forward to the Boudicca digital presentation immensely. Other shows I am excited about include Erdem, Mary Katrantzou and Hakaan.”

LFW has not lost its reputation for innovation and has embraced the zeitgeist this season with the launch of a digital schedule. Catwalks that take place at the main Somerset House venue will be streamed live via its website at www.londonfashionweek.co.uk/digitalschedule.

There will also be a dedicated space at Somerset House where designers including Danielle Scutt and Twenty8Twelve will show films detailing their collections.

It will be complemented by an independent initiative by Burberry, which will stream its catwalk in 3D to key locations internationally.

Tillman said the digital schedule could expand in future seasons and added that he also intended to expand the menswear offer.

New developments

LFW has dropped its second exhibition space at 180 The Strand to bring the event under one roof.

The Lingerie Boudoir, new last season, has grown to incorporate loungewear as well as bigger brands including Donna Karan and Stella McCartney.

A new Made by Scandinavians zone will host Swedish designers including dress specialist Patouf and organic T-shirt label Little Green Story.

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