Forget Milan, Rome, Paris or New York. For fashion designers, London is now the place to be.

The Times February 15, 2006

Former duckling grows into swan of global fashion
By Carolyn Asome and Alan Hamilton

London Fashion Week is the place where designer hopefuls attract attention

FORGET Milan and New York, and don’t even think about Paris. For the world’s up-and-coming fashion designers, London is suddenly the fashionable place to be.

Once dominated by home-grown talent and widely derided for its lack of commercial success, London Fashion Week, which opened yesterday, is now attracting hopefuls from around the globe in the hope that they’ll be noticed.

International buyers and fashion journalists used to largely ignore it, but this year they will be taking notice of what has become a sparkling, multinational event. This week’s multicultural mix of designers seeking fame and fortune includes Manish Arora from India, Roksanda Ilincic from Serbia and Aganovitch and Yung, the Danish-Yugoslavian-Chinese duo based in Hong Kong.

It’s a far cry from the old days, when most exhibitors at London events were graduates of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design or the Royal College of Art. Talented though they may have been, they gave the event a decidedly parochial air.

The London schedule is looking healthier than ever, largely thanks to the efforts of the British Fashion Council, which trawls the world for new talent.

Andrew Tucker, a talent scout for the council, said yesterday: “London is the most successful launch pad for new designers. To make it as an international brand you really need to show at one of the four fashion capitals, but Milan and New York are too commercial, and you can forget the Paris schedule which is already overcrowded.” London, according to Mr Tucker, is an excellent starting point.

But, rather than just bringing in a group of relatively unknown names, most of these designers already have clout in their own countries, said Michael Blow, who organises London’s off-schedule.

“Take Manish Arora, who currently dresses most of Bollywood’s stars and is the largest-selling designer in India. For maximum visibility, Arora chose to come to London rather than New York.”

While the Italian fashion industry is the country’s second-most productive trade, the British clothing industry is ninth in our economy, worth £4 billion a year. That result, say industry experts, is because Britain is not so economically reliant on the fashion industry as Italy; the British are less cautious and far more receptive to challenging new ideas.

There are also financial incentives to showing in London. For a designer making his debut here, the Fashion Council can help to find models for as little as £100 per girl per show.

Topshop’s sponsored designers, who show as part of the New Gen group, received a £10,000 grant to stage their own catwalk show. The recipients of this award, the c.neeon duo from Berlin, say that they would never receive such financial assistance back home.

The rest of the world is taking notice. Anna Wintour, Editor of US Vogue, will be in town and she has undoubtedly encouraged others. Julie Gilhart, the influential buyer for Barneys, the chic New York department store, is also here, as is Michael Fink, fashion director for Sak’s Fifth Avenue.

Breath is now bated at every catwalk across town: will Ms Wintour come to our show? And should we delay the start in case she turns up late?



Tonight. Earls Court

3,900 guests including James Blunt, Paul Weller, Coldplay, Gorillaz and Arctic Monkeys. Hosted by Chris Evans and Kate Thornton, with an “end of the pier” theme. Tickets are selling for £700, the budget runs into millions


Sunday. Odeon, Leicester Sq

Stephen Fry hosts the British Academy Film and Television Awards. Guests include Jake Gyllenhaal, Thandie Newton, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz and Charlize Theron. Party at the Grosvenor House Hotel