Better here, now

London Fashion Week starts today. Can it be more successful than the Weeks before? What will happen next?

If London Fashion Week were a pop group, the next six days would be the long-awaited second album, and Kate Moss would be on the cover waving a Union Jack. It now feels like the right time for the brilliant first album to be followed up in a big way. The second album is always the one critics are eager to look at and dissect. Will it sell, will people like it, will it be too rough, too smooth? Can it possibly be better? These questions will be in the back of every designers' mind after the lights, camera's and models have packed up and gone home. Not to mention John Hoerner, Chief Executive of Burton Group PLC, and the new head of the British Fashion Council, in effect the producer, who is looking forward to seeing his "baby" unfold before him in the next six days.

This season Fashion Week has more of everything: catwalk shows (54), static exhibitors (over140), parties, (last count three a night) and probably exciting celebrities like Janet Jackson too, who is rumoured to be going to McQueen.

The question of whether it will `perform' as an event, is not in question by Gail Sackloff, marketing director of Saks Fifth Avenue. "There's more going on here than anywhere else. Britain is finally established. I feel we're more established than Milan and New York." Sackloff says this with confidence.

Her store has just upped their budget to spend during fashion week, and has employed a buyer who is exclusive to London. Sackloff is also still excited by the newer designers; she is looking forward to Tristan Webber's show later today, and can't wait to see Christa Davis and Elspeth Gibson.

It's the same story at Koh Samui, the Covent Garden boutique which exclusively stocks British fashion designers. Owner/buyer Talita Zoe is aware that the hype is overdone a bit, but she feels the most exciting things are being done by British design talent. "We're just more interesting and different than anywhere else."

The main slew of shows will take place in purpose built marquees at the Natural History Museum and Imperial College. This won't stop our more innovative designers seeking out obscure venues. Tristan Webber shows in the Cafe de Paris; Owen Gaster has hired a seedy snooker hall in King's Cross; Antonio Berardi is showing at the Brixton Academy, one of London's best music venues, and flying in DJ's from New York. Bella Freud has hired "two fried eggs and a kebab" artist Sarah Lucas as a model and cleverly booked The Fridge, a huge nightclub, also in Brixton. Freud and Berardi show on the same evening, and SW2 will take on a new look as stiletto shod fashion editors look for a place to eat between the shows, surely much to the amazement of the locals. McQueen is showing at a warehouse in Victoria.

Vivienne Westwood, however, has topped the lot. On Monday she is showing her Red Label in an ante-room at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on the south bank.

Patrick Cox is one of the new designers to this season's line-up. He is having his first catwalk show on Friday, because, he says, "people in England don't know I've been doing clothes for three years." Cox is not having a shoe show, that's for sure. Instead he admits "It's purely a press exercise, we want people to know about the clothes."

In Asia and New York his clothes sell far better than in England, because there he's known for shoes and clothes, "in England its just the shoes" he says with a sigh. The Canadian born designer has been in London fourteen years and still thinks it's the coolest place on earth.

"We're not sure there's enough money or commerce to warrant doing a second show here though , we'll see," he says. But he'll admit, "the younger designers know what they are doing, in the eighties we danced in clubs, in the nineties they're at buisness meetings. I don't thing we can go wrong." Touch wood.

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