Feb 10, 2008
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London Fashion Week opens, Westwood the big draw

Feb 10, 2008

LONDON, Feb 9, 2008 (AFP) - London Fashion Week's display of autumn-winter collections for 2008 kicked off Sunday February 10th with a typically eclectic mix of influences and inspirations.

Photo : Carl de Souza/AFP

Vivienne Westwood's return to the catwalks after a nine-year absence Thursday evening is being billed as the highlight of the event.

But Irish designer Paul Costelloe opened the biannual event with a show big on touch, cut, texture and history, with a nod to the world of opera and what he called the "bold, voluminous style" of the 1940s and 60s.

He described it as "a modern take on ladylike dressing."

Jean-Pierre Braganza meanwhile played on straight lines with origami-shaped garments casting highly-structured futuristic silhouettes, overlapping fabrics and shades, imposing shoulder pads and rounded cuts.

The first shows suggested autumn's colours will have hints of rust, chocolate and petrol blue set off with fuchsia and scarlet.

The influence of Biba, with its silk petal-covered dresses, Gustav Klimt canvasses and the fantasy designs of Camille Rose Garcia for jewellery were in evidence.

Nearly 60 designers are taking part in the official programme of shows compared with only about 15 in 1994.

They include world-renowned designers like Julien McDonald, Paul Smith, Luella and Jasper Conran but also emerging talents like Gareth Pugh, Giles or Bora Aksu.

But the most sought-after invitation this week is for Vivienne Westwood's Red Label, a pret-a-porter women's line created in 1994.

"We are back by popular demand," the flame-haired Westwood, at 66 now the grande dame of British fashion, said in a statement.

"The sales of all of our lines are increasing and we decided that the Red Label, which is successful worldwide and so popular in the United Kingdom, should have its own show."

Another attraction could be the return of Kate Moss to the London catwalk to model for Westwood, the self-styled "queen of punk" famous for her garish prints and platform shoes that famously made Naomi Campbell take a tumble.

The flamboyant designer began her career in the 1970s, dressing the poster-boys of the punk movement, the Sex Pistols, who were managed at the time by her boyfriend, Malcolm McLaren.

Another keenly-anticipated show is that of Graeme Black on Friday morning.

The Edinburgh University graduate designed for John Galliano and Zandra Rhodes before leaving for Italy in 1993 to work for Armani and more recently Ferragamo.

Black, who set up his own fashion house in Milan in 2005, says he draws his inspiration from "the fresh, clear air of my youth in Scotland."

But it remains to be seen whether London can manage to carve out a niche among the world's best-known fashion shows in Paris, Milan and New York.

Organisers fear their decision to carry out health checks on young models could put off designers, amid continued concern over the health of superskinny models.

A September 2007 report commissioned by the British Fashion Council (BFC) made a series of recommendations, including an immediate ban on girls under 16 taking part.

Models will be required to present a medical certificate of good health from September next year.

The head of the BFC, Hilary Riva, has expressed her fears about the impact of the measures, warning that model industry representatives have said it could mean models will simply turn down work in London.

More than 70 percent of models working at London come from overseas, some with only several hours of catwalk experience.

by Elodie Mazein

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