Blond bombshell launches Fashion Week (with help from a few models)

It wasn't just the champagne cocktails, celebrity-filled front rows or, indeed, the clothes on the catwalks that kept the demanding audience of London Fashion Week entertained yesterday.

Rather, this season's fashion must-have was a bumbling blond politician. Boris Johnson declared the six-day, 25th anniversary event open with a mix of humour, confidence and questions about his choice of underwear.

There was plenty of delicious schadenfreude to be had from watching someone unaccustomed to the fashion world catapulted into it; the Mayor of London acknowledged this when he referred to, "incontestably the most intimidating audience I have ever seen in my life". He continued with a joke at the expense of President Sarkozy's stature, saying that if he was the French President he would refuse to be pictured with so many tall, beautiful people.

The opening breakfast at which the Mayor spoke, along with British Fashion Council chairman Harold Tillman, was combined with "Headonism", a new showcase for British millinery conceived by renowned hat-maker Stephen Jones. Models in creations by five new London milliners, including Noel Stewart, struck retro, couture-style poses on a revolving pile of giant hatboxes created by John Galliano's set designer Michael Howells. Designs included giant cherries, coiled white-fur earmuffs, and slightly fetishistic glittery harnesses.

New events such as this – and the new dedicated menswear day on Wednesday – help keep London Fashion Week fresh. Also on the agenda this year are up-and-coming names such as Christopher Kane, who has just released a range for Topshop, Marios Schwab, who recently became the creative director of Halston, as well as the old guard, Betty Jackson, Nicole Farhi and Jasper Conran.

The most glamorous event of the week will be the Burberry show on Tuesday, followed by a party at their Westminster headquarters at which model Agyness Deyn and TV presenter Alexa Chung will be DJing. The British label usually show their collection at Milan Fashion Week, but their return for the anniversary lends a commercial lustre to the event.

At its heart, for all the tales over the years of London shows put together on a shoestring, the British fashion industry is a business. London Fashion Week is worth £20m to the capital's economy in terms of "direct spend", and Mr Johnson said the funding given by the London Development Agency to encourage buyers and journalists to come to London, "pays handsome dividends".

Ever the humorist, the Mayor concluded by reassuring the ardent heel-wearers present that despite the TUC threats, while he is Mayor, "there will be no ban on high heels".

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