Catwalks and parties: London Fashion Week marks 40 years

By Thomson Reuters Feb 14, 2024 | 6:50 AM

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

LONDON (Reuters) – London Fashion Week kicks off on Friday with designers new and established presenting their autumn/winter lines and fashionistas joining in celebrations as the showcase event marks its 40th birthday this year.

Representatives from the British Fashion Council (BFC) will open the London Stock Exchange on Thursday and London landmarks like Covent Garden and the London Eye will be lit up green to mark the anniversary and celebrate the creative industry’s contribution to the British economy.

UK womenswear and menswear sales were valued an estimated total 47.5 billion pounds ($59.6 billion) last year, according to the BFC citing research firm Mintel.

The council was founded in 1983 and its first London Fashion Week was held a year later.

It is one of the four big catwalk fixtures alongside New York, Milan and Paris and is best known for its emerging talent and avant-garde trends, and where designers like the late Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney kicked off their careers.

“London’s always been famous for its extraordinary creativity and I would say that’s what sets it apart,” Lydia Slater, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar UK, told Reuters.

“If you look at so many of the enormous, really successful fashion houses, they’re often headed up by British creatives who started here and who made their mark at London Fashion Week.”

Over the years, London has provided some key fashion highlights: from robots spray painting model Shalom Harlow’s white dress at McQueen’s Spring/Summer 1999 show to models transforming furniture into clothes at Hussein Chalayan’s autumn/winter 2000 presentation.

“If you’re trying to start out in Paris say, these brands are so big and so shiny and so polished that it’s very difficult to kind of make your mark in that way,” Slater said.

“Whereas with London, you can be a small designer and have a show that makes an incredible hit by doing something really quirky and different. And so I think that’s why over the years we’ve seen so many exciting things take place at London that you can’t really imagine taking place at other fashion weeks.”

London can also claim a surprise visitor to its front rows when the late Queen Elizabeth attended designer Richard Quinn’s show in 2018.

This season, there will be more than 150 events at London Fashion Week, which runs Feb. 16-20.

“The NEWGEN designers will definitely be front and centre,” BFC Chief Executive Caroline Rush told Reuters, referencing a programme providing financial support and mentoring for new designers.

“But equally, we are also very excited to see (designers) Simone Rocha, Roksanda, Emilia Wickstead, 16Arlington, and (the) Burberry show on Monday will definitely be one to watch.”

($1 = 0.7964 pounds)

(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Toby Chopra)