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Olympic glow could prove a guiding light for high streets

As much of the UK sunk into a post-lympic depression this week, we in the fashion sector were excitedly preparing for the afterparty to end all afterparties – London Fashion Week.

Could there ever have been a better time to celebrate all things British than the week after the end of undoubtedly one of the best summers this country has ever seen?

Not only did we put on a great show but for once we managed to pull it off while suspending our cynical Britishness and throwing ourselves into the celebration – who would have envisaged just three months ago that we would have been applauding our monarch as she skydived out of a helicopter, or unselfconsciously ‘doing the Mobot’?

The UK’s newly won prominence and credibility on the world stage means this LFW is crucial for British fashion in cementing us firmly into the top designers’ schedules as the most directional, and just downright coolest, of the globe’s show opportunities – indeed, news this week that Alexander McQueen is joining Tom Ford in showing exclusively at next season’s London Collections: Men and Preen is coming back to London from New York demonstrates exactly that.

What London may lack in experience, being a relative fashion week newcomer, the British Fashion Council, under the leadership of Harold Tillman, has managed to turn into a strength, with London now associated with youth and exciting new names, where older fixtures such as New York now appear dull and over-commercial.

We are expecting more overseas interest in London this season than ever before, and it’s not only designer names benefitting from this exposure. We hear from Westfield Stratford that the spotlight on that part of London has already led to a glut of international retailers seeking space in the centre.

But we mustn’t forget the rest of the country, and on a more serious note, this week the British Council of Shopping Centres wrote an open letter to the Government asking for more serious consideration to be given to the regeneration of town and city centres. There has been widespread criticism of the failure of David Cameron’s Government to introduce clear measures to combat some of the issues in Mary Portas’s high street report.

Most retailers feel the Portas Pilots and the small pots of money allocated to them will not even scratch the surface and are calling for immediate government action to cut red tape, review planning laws, and take more decisive action to encourage retail in this tough market.

The ‘legacy’ that Sebastian Coe so eloquently imprinted on the minds of the UK public can surely also apply to helping the country get back on track post-recession in terms of the economy. Let’s hope David Cameron provides the framework to make it happen.

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