It's official, flats the new heels. If you happen to be negotiating the cobble stones in the courtyard of Somerset House, the new home of London Fashion Week, this is a good thing. Thankfully, brogues and slouchy ankle boots are back in vogue. Those women unfortunate enough to have stayed loyal to vertiginous heels - particularly fashion students - are making the former dwelling of British Admiralty officers look like Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks.
And this season more than any other, London Fashion Week, which opened on Friday, demands to be taken seriously. It is celebrating its 25th anniversary and pulling out all the stops for a week of shows, parties, presentations and pop-up shops. Several prodigal sons have chosen this season to return to the fold as a sort of thank you to the city that acted as a launch pad for so many home-grown talents.
Over the next few days Burberry, Matthew Williamson, Jonathan Saunders and Antonio Berardi will join rising stars such as Erdem Moralioglu, Bruno Basso, Chris Brooke, William Tempest, Kinder Aggugini and Hannah Marshall in what promises to be a truly international event. The most influential magazine editors on the planet - Anna Wintour, Glenda Bailey, Carine Roitfeld and Franca Sozzani - have reserved tickets for shows in the capital today. Perhaps it's a good thing they missed the "official" opening ceremony by London's popular but permanently dishevelled mayor, Boris Johnson, recently named one of the worst-dressed people in the UK.
Flanked by the statuesque British model Erin O'Connor on a podium in the fashion HQ, Johnson rubbed his thatch of blonde hair in a manner that echoed Stan Laurel before apologising to the British fashion industry for getting the only fashion decision he had ever made in his life wrong: wearing his jacket open to receive the Olympic flag in Beijing ("which led to a major diplomatic incident and public outrage").
Of course, the fashionistas forgave his faux pas. Last week Johnson travelled to New York on their behalf as part of an initiative to bring all-important American buyers to London. The buzz surrounding London has also attracted designers from far afield. The Los Angeles-based maverick Jeremy Scott will show his collection on Tuesday. He arrived in town a few days early to do model castings ("the only girl confirmed so far is Daisy Lowe") and put the finishing touches to a temporary "flash boutique" in collaboration with the sport giant Adidas.
Following his successful debut range earlier this year (which sold out globally), Adidas chose London for the global launch of the Jeremy Scott ObyO autumn/winter 2009 range. Aggugini, who showed on Saturday, also opened a flash boutique in Mayfair housing the sort of exquisite one-off pieces normally put aside for the designer's legion of fans, including Nicole Kidman, Arianne Phillips, Madonna, Uma Thurman and Kate Hudson.
And what of catwalk shows and trends? Day One began with Headonism, a quirky presentation curated by the milliner Stephen Jones and featuring a new wave of milliners including Noel Stewart, Justin Smith, Piers Atkinson and Shilpa Chavan. Many catwalks were awash with colour, notably at Paul Costelloe, who went down the sculpted architectural route, and Ashley Isham, who added cocktail dresses to his floor-length digi-print evening gowns.
As with last week's New York Fashion Week, all-white collections emerged as a strong trend. Caroline Charles's layered ensembles were mostly pretty and pale, with models wearing distinctly feminine blouses, dresses and ropes of pearls and carrying white parasols. Eun Jeong's white collection included transparent lace tops and elaborately embellished dresses with intricate embroidery. Emilio de la Morena also showed nude and pale cream slip dresses sliced in layers of semi-transparent chiffon and opaque satin.
The last time fashion had a "white moment" was in 1990, mid-recession and also in London, when Rifat Ozbek, known for his dazzling colour, reset the trend compass with a collection that came in a palette-cleansing stark bright white. The highlight of the day was the official launch of Estethica, now an established part of London Fashion Week, which showcases the work of 37 designers whose work is environmentally sustainable.
According to Beverly Malik, a former buyer for the London boutique Browns and now a leading consultant, green fashion is not a fad; it's the future. "Within 20 if not 10 years, clothing brands who don't use a proportionate mixture of fair trade, organic, ethically produced, recycled or sustainable clothing will be the odd men out." "Everyone is talking about sustainable fashion in LA," says Gary Kingsnorth, the former fashion director of the men's fashion magazine FHM, who now works for the first online green fashion and beauty magazine, cocoecomag.com.
Susanne Tide-Frater, the former creative director at the London department stores Harrods and Selfridges, is now in charge of developing fashion for Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment. She believes it's only a matter of time before the first sustainable superbrand emerges. In London perhaps?