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February 24, 2012

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Designers find inspiration in UK

LONDON Fashion Week wrapped up yesterday with plenty of the world's top designers flaunting their creativity once again. Of course, the show had a heavy UK feel. Highlights include Burberry Prorsum's Christopher Bailey, who kept his fall and winter 2012 collection very British to the delight of the crowd. Stella McCartney stirred things up by avoiding a runway show and hosting a dinner for 100 of her closest friends. During the meal, the models emerged unannounced. Vivienne Westwood dazzled, this time with some mysterious body painting on the skin of the models. Sarah Burton's collection for McQ was somewhat disappointing, missing the spark expected of the Alexander McQueen house.

Burberry Prorsum

They say weather is a national obsession in Britain - but perhaps more for Burberry Prorsum's Christopher Bailey than for most.

With a clap of thunder and a torrent of realistic rain running down the sides of a glass tent, the luxury brand's creative chief sent his umbrella-toting models down the catwalk in a finale that brought a smile to everyone's face.

Burberry, which stages its twice yearly runway shows in its own temporary Hyde Park tent, is the biggest and glitziest production during London Fashion Week. On Monday, the autumn and winter 2012 display drew a huge crowd of buyers and spectators, including a host of international stars such as Hollywood actress Kate Bosworth and South Korean pop group Girls' Generation.

"I quite like celebrating rain," said Bailey.

"I like the romance. I quite like the melancholy," he said of the rain.

It wasn't just the rain that was British - much of the detailing on the clothes was, too. There was velvet quilting, corduroy, herringbone wool and tweed caps, riding jackets and skirts, and of course various incarnations of the brand's most famous garment, the trench coat.

Bailey said the collection was a study in merging city style and country living. Bridle leather straps, shearling parkas and the use of quilting were evocative of the horse-riding country lifestyle of the English upper class. The appearance of cute owl drawings and appliques on some of the collection's T-shirts and sweaters, as well as gold metal fox belt buckles, were a fun and quirky take on the "country" theme.

A huge range of coats and jackets made up much of the collection. Some were cinched in with candy-colored belts with bows, while others had masculine tailored shoulders and large pouches. Cropped, down-filled puffer jackets were paired with tweed ruffled pencil skirts, giving the ladylike look a sporty twist.

The most striking coat was the one Bailey chose for his finale - a quilted, belted creation in deep royal purple, cinched in at the waist but flaring out in a full skirt.

Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney shook up the fashion world on February 18 by using a flash mob approach for a presentation of her evening wear.

Instead of a traditional catwalk show, McCartney invited 100 or so of her closest friends for dinner - she was flanked by Vogue editor Anna Wintour and singer Rihanna, with model Kate Moss close by - and sat at her table applauding when the models emerged unannounced from the dinner crowd dressed in gorgeous evening wear.

They danced on tables, were passed around on chairs held high - almost as if it was a traditional Jewish wedding - and gyrated to raucous music for a brief six or seven minutes, then went up on stage to be joined by the designer.

It was an impressive break with tradition, with the models following a magic show that saw TV personality Alexa Chung apparently suspended in mid-air. The festivities followed a hoity-toity sitdown dinner that featured a live band in tuxedos playing traditional jazz tunes.

McCartney's unorthodox contribution to London Fashion Week seemed to strike a chord, even if it was hard to gauge the sexy, lacy and tight evening wear her models were wearing for their brief spotlight stint. The dresses looked beautifully made and colorful, but it was difficult to judge each one as they swirled by.

It was a rare London appearance for McCartney, who usually shows her designs in Paris. She was joined at the head table by Rihanna, wearing a dramatic dark green full-length gown with a deeply plunging neckline, and Wintour, who wore a more demure dark dress.

After the show, McCartney declined to give any details about her designs for Britain's Olympic team uniforms, which have not yet been revealed.

McQ by Alexander McQueen

Sarah Burton, creative director of the Alexander McQueen fashion house, tried on Monday to create an enchanted forest in the center of London for the debut offering of the McQ line, aimed at younger, less affluent buyers.

The catwalk was covered with fallen leaves, and a realistic forest was created at one end of the hall at the Old Sorting Office in central London.

Leaves fell near the conclusion of the show, as if by magic, buffeting a model dressed in a long white gown, one that bore a slight resemblance to Burton's most famous creation, the wedding gown worn last year by Kate Middleton when she married Prince William.

The setting was dramatic, but the collection did little to break new ground. There were several striking dresses, and some impressive outfits set off by thigh-high lace-up boots, but there was not enough of the imaginative spark or striking workmanship that has made the McQueen label famous.

Most of the models had saucer-like hairstyles, giving them a space-age, inhuman feel, and many wore military-style coat dresses embellished with beading and embroidery. Long double-breasted trench coats added to the look.

A Scottish influence ran through the show, with some of the male models dressed in kilts. The show's designers seemed determined, however, to make the men look as unnatural as possible, giving each a heavily pomaded, slicked down, layered hairstyle.

The McQ look seemed to please the crowd, which greeted Burton's brief appearance with thunderous applause. She has been riding a crest since gaining the royal wedding assignment - by far the most coveted of the last year - and was named Britain's designer of the year for her efforts.

She has brought the McQueen house continued glory since taking over after his death two years ago.

Vivienne Westwood

Quirky orange-haired designer Vivienne Westwood returned to the catwalk on February 19, taking her customary turn on center stage at London Fashion Week.

A hardy veteran of the punk scene who has seen dozens of trends come and go in her storied career, Westwood drew on classic British tailoring and traditions for the show of her Red Label collection, which traditionally looks to her own archives for inspiration and ideas.

It was a playful and picturesque show. Westwood called it a British collection, citing Savile Row tailors and the shirtmakers of Jermyn Street, but - being Westwood - the show also drew some of its buzz from the body paint and temporary tattoos put on the models in the frantic few hours before the show.

Most had something written, or some symbols, on their necks, chest or arms, adding flair and some mystery.

The designer called it African body painting but did not explain why it was mixed in with outfits that featured traditional long Edwardian jackets trimmed with velvet and shapely coats made of checked wool.


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