The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Romantic start to London Fashion Week

London, Sept. 13 (Reuters): London Fashion Week kicked off yesterday with a series of dreamy and romantic summer shows from designers out to prove the city remains a fashion capital despite the exodus of some of Britain’s brightest stars.

Organisers of the twice-yearly event, which struggles to compete with New York, Paris and Milan, hope to capitalise on London’s reputation for producing the superstars of tomorrow.

“Other fashion centres have more commercial muscle but London is very good at fostering new designers,” Nicholas Coleridge, chairman of the British Fashion Council, said.

“There is a buccaneering danger to London designers — they are risk-takers. People love to come and see that,” he said.

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the inspiration for Elspeth Gibson’s Spring/Summer 2003 collection of floaty, fairy-like dresses which drew gasps of appreciation from the audience.

Gibson, who counts actresses Uma Thurman, Cate Blanchett and singer Madonna among her clients, covered gossamer silks and chiffons with showers of beads and crystals to produce a series of fragile evening gowns with shredded hemlines and swirling skirts.

Earlier, Ronit Zilkha used her love of tapestry and romance to produce a collection of vintage-inspired dresses and skirts in palettes of vanilla, coral and summery florals.

Zilkha used lace, flamenco-inspired ruffles and beading to maximum effect in subtly sexy and wearable evening wear.

Many of Zilkha’s pieces were accessorised with oversize clutch purses.

Irish designer Paul Costelloe’s “Fantasy Island” show surprised fans of his usual understated creations with a display of sexy, body-conscious pieces in tropical prints and florals.

Jackets were in various lengths and shapes — skimming the hip or worn long to the knee. Trousers were key for the season ranging from cigarette-slim to soft and slouchy.

Flirty mini-skirts and dresses in bright floral linens were teamed with over-the-knee boots in the same fabric and giant handbags embroidered with flowers.

“This season we went for a strong, dramatic, more showy look, and it has worked,” said Costelloe, 56.

The first day’s shows, which also included collections from the House of Jazz and Jean Muir, were packed with buyers, press and ordinary fashion fans.

Their presence, plus the queues waiting to get inside were good news for organisers as London jostles to keep its place alongside Paris, Milan and New York.

Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Matthew Williamson are among the top British names who shot to fame in London but have been lured abroad by better commercial opportunities.

But those attending London’s shows can still look forward to high-octane collections from celebrity favourites Julien MacDonald, Roland Mouret and Ben de Lisi as well as a raft of new designers.

Young labels including Warren Noronha, Emma Cook and Pauric Sweeney are among those tipped as “ones to watch” while established names like Burberry London and Jasper Conran are also showing.

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