x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Trailblazers hold sway as London Fashion Week opens

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, opened the spring/summer 2012 series of catwalk shows in which the UK capital plays to its strengths as a hothouse for emerging talent.

London Fashion Week kicked off in a buoyant mood. Sandwiched between the big-money capitals of New York and Milan, this particular fashion city is well aware that its strengths lie in showcasing young, emerging talent and trailblazing cutting-edge trends.

Both were evident on Friday. Shows and presentations by Corrie Nielsen, Bora Aksu, Basso & Brooke and the newcomer Teatum Jones produced some trends that mirrored those we saw coming out of New York last week (sportswear, tangerine, black and white), and many more that could only ever have come from London (print, punk, origami pattern-cutting, washable suede bikinis and asymmetric hems).

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, officially opened the event, commenting on the exciting year it has been for British fashion, notably Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen creating the wedding dress for the Duchess of Cambridge and the opening of a shopping mall adjoining the new Olympic Park, which has received almost £2 billion (Dh11.6bn) in investment from the private sector.

Flicking back his unruly hair, the mayor congratulated himself on rescuing significant funding from the "jaws of the treasury" and securing it for the good of the home designer industry.

Following a summer of riots and gloomy retail sales, this was good news. He also announced a collaboration of fashion and sporting projects to coincide with the 2012 Olympics.

"By reducing youth employment we can solve crime and unlock the niche of talent I believe this country has," he said.

He revealed one instance where a young woman had approached him ("post-riot") asking him to find her a job in fashion.

"Who knows, she could be the next Stella McCartney," said Johnson, adding: "Have I got that right?"

London fashion historically remains very youth-centred, both in its art-school graduate designers and clothes on the catwalks here.

While many defect to New York or Paris, some are happy to remain. Some do a bit of both, such as Justin Thornton and Thea Bragazzi of the label Preen, who staged a catwalk show in Manhattan last week and a static presentation in London.

"We still feel very much part of the scene here," London-based Bragazzi told me, talking me through the spring/summer 2012 range featuring textured crepe and metallic silk slim skirts and sequinned dresses, with frilled trims on hems and sleeve cuffs, in pastel shades.

The little tangerine dress is coming through as a firm favourite, featuring in the collections of Felder Felder and Jean-Pierre Braganza.

A major trend to emerge is print, which is traditionally something of a London "thing". Although it's been a case of the rest of the fashion community coming around to their way of thinking, the print specialist Basso & Brooke, who pioneered digital printing techniques, proved who does it best.

Showing their seventh collection in one of three venues at London, an old post office sorting office near the British museum in Bloomsbury, Chris Brooke and Bruno Basso sent out simple, fluid day dresses in geometric patterns and muted shades of greys, cream and blue infused with bolts of bright colour.

The inspiration for the collection was a 35-day drive from London to Beijing undertaken by Basso. "Some of the landscape was so bleak I started to fantasise about colour."

The finesse of this was complemented by Brooke's ingenious origami-like pattern cutting which, although complex, looked effortless and flattering to the female form.

Key trends so far include long, svelte tube dresses and loose tunics slashed to the thigh; tribal-like neon Day-Glo neckpieces and asymmetric hems, including the so-called "double dip", which is longer at the back than the front.

Models appearing on the London catwalks are often paid in clothes, a fact that keeps some high earners away. However, the UK capital remains a good place for emerging talent. On the Felder Felder catwalk was Amber Le Bon, 21, the daughter of the 1980s pop star Simon Le Bon and the model Yasmin Le Bon.

She has the elegant poise of her mother but is equally sought after for the attribute (pixie boots and head band-aside) that helped make her father a star: hair. Le Bon's reaches past her waist, and modestly covered her back in one revealing evening gown.