London Fashion Week aims to build on Olympic buzz

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A model wears a design from the Antoni and Alison Spring/Summer 2013 collection during London Fashion Week, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

A model wears a design from the Antoni and Alison Spring/Summer 2013 collection during London Fashion Week, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

LONDON (AP) — After an exhilarating Olympic summer, the party in London is just beginning for the fashion crowd.

Designers, buyers and fashion journalists began a whirlwind series of catwalk shows and cocktail soirees Friday on the first day of London Fashion Week. Organizers hope this season's extravaganza, which features more than 60 runway previews for spring 2013, can build on the buzz generated by the Olympics.

"This summer has shown London in its best light, highlighting the city's creativity and unique DNA," said Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council. "September is set to be an extremely exciting season in what has been an amazing year for the U.K."

Theatrical hats, crazy heels and bright red lipsticks were out in full force at the first previews, which included shows by veteran designer Caroline Charles and Australian label sass and bide.

British fashion was a talking point even before the Olympics, after Stella McCartney designed the Olympic uniforms for Team GB (Great Britain) - a minimalistic reimagining of the Union Jack. Other British designers including Alexander McQueen and Victoria Beckham received a tribute at the closing ceremony for the London Olympics.

London Fashion Week is a more eclectic affair than its cousins in New York, Milan and Paris, featuring celebrity-studded shows by seasoned big names like Burberry and Vivienne Westwood as well as a crop of exciting younger designers, including Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Mary Katrantzou and Roksanda Illincic.

"London is a melting pot of design talent and 2012 feels like a very exciting time to be showing in the city," said Ruth Chapman, co-founder of Matches, a high-end British fashion retailer.

One of this season's most keenly watched catwalks will be a comeback show by Philip Treacy, the celebrity milliner. Treacy, who has made fanciful hats for Sarah Jessica Parker, Madonna, Lady Gaga and Britain's royals, is returning for the first time in almost a decade.

Also returning to London is Preen, a popular British label that has shown successfully in New York for the past six years.  

Chapman offered tips on what styles to look out for in the British capital.

"The trouser suit for day and evening, a move away from the platform heel, and a continuation of the trend for sport luxe," she said.

The biannual fashion week features five days of women's wear catwalk shows, some menswear previews and dozens of exhibitions from emerging clothes and accessory designers. It attracts buyers from around the world and is expected to generate some 100 million pounds ($160 million) in orders.

It also boosts London's hectic restaurant and nightlife scene — when the shows end, models, journalists and designers spill out to the capital's most stylist venues for cocktails, dinner parties and exclusive late-night soirees.

London Fashion Week will be followed by shows in Milan and Paris.