London takes over fashion spotlight from New York

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By GREGORY KATZ, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — London Fashion Week kicked off with a splash of color, a touch of fall and a dose of fun on Friday as the first of dozens of catwalk shows got under way.

Turkish-born Bora Aksu dressed his models with leaf-inspired headpieces and sober, wintry dresses set off by fanciful patterned tights and lace-up, high-heeled boots. There were bold and colorful pieces from London duo Antoni & Alison as well as more adventurous creations from the talented students of Central Saint Martins — London's premier arts and fashion school.

The shows — which drew hordes of buyers, journalists, and scouts to London's Somerset House — follow Thursday's conclusion of New York fashion week and precede expositions in Milan and France as fashion season crests.

The centerpiece Friday was a show by the up-and-coming designers from Central Saint Martins. With alumni like Stella McCartney, Christopher Kane and the late Alexander McQueen, it's no surprise that the crowds outside the show were the largest of the day.

Long one of the most famous arts and fashion schools in London, the show is always packed with buyers, journalists and talent scouts looking for the next big thing.

There were no disappointments Friday night as the show featured bold and brash dresses and ensembles, offering more spontaneity than many of the more polished shows that preceded it on the opening day lineup.

There were some signs of nerves and a few amateurish touches — including a dress that draped far too low, causing the model to trip — but this was more than made up for by the willingness to shake convention and try something new.

There were radical shapes, three dimensional dresses with protruding blocks, hats that obscured the face, fluffy outfits for men that made them look like cuddly teddy bears, and sexy dresses with cutouts and cellophane skirts. There were yellow space age outfits with oversize cutouts that looked straight out of Star Trek, or Woody Allen's "Sleeper," and some dresses that resembled elaborate lamp shades.

A few models wore black, kimono style dresses with wooden neck braces that made them look a bit like whiplash victims, others wore shimmering metallic evening dresses layered with odd, sculptural shapes.

Overall, it was a cacophony of styles presented by a variety of designers, most of them about to graduate and descend on the hotly competitive fashion field. Some seem destined for greatness; others are likely to be forgotten before next season.

The Central Saint Martins show capped a festive opening day that included shows by Bora Aksu, Felder Felder, PPQ and others, with Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Burberry and others to follow in the coming days.

At his standing-room-only show, Bora Aksu used waistcoats, jackets and capes to spice up his fall and winter collection.

The models wore leaf-inspired headpieces to keep their hair in place, with many dresses featuring a white, gray and pink motif.

There were a few forays into sherbety orange and fuchsia, but most of the collection had a sober, wintry feel set off by fanciful patterned tights and lace-up, high-heeled boots. The dresses featured beautiful, ornate detailing.

The Turkish-born Aksu, a London favorite for 15 years and also a graduate of Central Saint Martins, drew a standing room-only crowd.

His show started a few hours after fashion week opened with a promise from Topshop boss Philip Green to do more to help young Britons develop their clothes design and manufacturing skills, with an emphasis on actually producing more goods in Britain rather than overseas.

"We are ourselves manufacturing more goods in the U.K. these days, and if we can help get more capacity here, I believe those retailers will tell you there is now the opportunity to be competitive and produce in the United Kingdom," he said.

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Online:

London Fashion Week: http://www.londonfashionweek.co.uk/

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