London Fashion Week gets under way

British designers were stepping out to prove their worth at the start of London Fashion Week on Friday, after a report put the value of the UK fashion industry at 37 billion pounds.

Fashion icons Vivienne Westwood, Burberry Prorsum, Pringle of Scotland and Matthew Williamson will feature at this year's event, alongside London's emerging talent, hot on the heels of New York Fashion Week.

While the London show may not reap the riches of its rivals in New York, Milan and Paris, the "Value of the UK Fashion Industry" report released Thursday showed that fashion in Britain remains big business.

The UK fashion industry has a direct value to the country's economy of nearly 21 billion pounds and its influence on other industries, ranging from IT to tourism, is worth more than 16 billion pounds, according to research commissioned by the British Fashion Council (BFC).

That makes it the equivalent of 44 billion euros or 58 billion dollars.

BFC chairman Harold Tillman described fashion as "a great British success story" but said a "national action plan" was needed to support its development.

Top designers driving the sector's growth will be staging shows at the grandiose neo-classical Somerset House in central London from Thursday to Wednesday and taking orders for their spring/summer 2011 collections.

The event usually generates orders in the region of 100 million pounds, as well as directly contributing 20 million pounds to the London economy, according to BFC.

Kicking off the programme on Friday is menswear designer Paul Costelloe, who says his spring/summer collection is inspired by French fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet and styles of the 1920s and 1930s, "reinterpreted with a rock'n'roll attitude".

Also on the opening day, the BFC is to host its first "sustainable fashion show", aiming to prove that fashion need not cost the earth.

The display will showcase the work of designers committed to eco-friendly creations, including Stella McCartney, People Tree and Vivienne Westwood.

British supermodel Erin O'Connor, set to feature in the show, said: "Merging style and conscience has never been so important and valued at London Fashion Week."

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