Fashion Week - is it over?

London poised to cut event to four days as New York and Milan outshine catwalk rival

For years it has bravely struggled – in finance if not creativity – as the poor relation to New York, Milan and Paris.

But now, after nurturing and showcasing the talents of British designers such as John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, the end as we know it is in sight for London Fashion Week.

On Wednesday, industry insiders say, London will lose its battle with New York and is likely to be forced to cut back its duration to just four days.

The move will be disastrous for the credibility of London, which has long fought to establish itself as a fashion capital to be reckoned with, and ultimately the UK fashion industry overall. LFW already struggles to attract major buyers, editors and the best models to participate. Now they may not bother with a four-day event at all, but go straight to Milan, which holds its show the week after London.

The writing has been on the wall since the Council of Fashion Designers of America, of which the designer Diane von Fürstenberg is the head, said it planned to push the date of New York Fashion Week back by a week from February 2009, which would mean it would clash with the British collections.

The effect of this would be in effect to bully London into truncating London Fashion Week to just four days, or for it to coincide with New York, because persuading Milan to move their own timetable back is unrealistic.

Designers at New York Fashion Week want their shows moved back because they say they need more time to prepare due to the Labour Day holiday and the closure of the factories that sew their clothes over the summer. Fürstenberg said: "I have hundreds of letters from designers and editors who say the dates for New York are impossibly early." She added that it was the Italians who were the most firmly opposed to adjusting their timetable, and described them as "dictatorial". However many members of the British fashion industry remember that the powers-that-be in New York have already moved their shows from the end of the season, because they weren't happy with accusations that they had plagiarised other collections.

Emergency talks on the subject are scheduled this week between the British Fashion Council and other international figures in the fashion industry. However the opinion inside the industry is that if the other three major capitals are intransigent, London will be unable to challenge any decision, and that this is the last time that London Fashion Week can reasonably describe itself as a week.

While the average shopper might not be immediately affected by changes to the London Fashion Week timetable, the event generates publicity and revenue of over £100m a year, and also promotes London's image around the world, and potentially the already pressurised retail sector of the UK economy. It boosts not only new and established designers, but also high-street labels such as Jaeger and Topshop Unique, whose fashion credentials are bolstered by taking part in the event. In turn, Topshop sponsors up-and-coming names.

London Fashion Week is known for its mix of high-street names, established designers, and, of course, fresh young talent. This season, all eyes will be on the new stars Christopher Kane, whose body con dresses attracted the attention of Anna Wintour, and the designer Marios Schwab, while the newcomers include Natascha Stolle, Meadham Kirchhoff and Peter Pilotto.

Alongside the fresh talents, more established British designers such as Betty Jackson, Jasper Conran and Nicole Farhi will show their collections, while the British designers Luella and Vivienne Westwood return from showing abroad for the third and second seasons, respectively.

Yesterday's Topshop Unique show revisited the Eighties, a decade of prosperity if not creative excellence. The collection was pure late-Eighties pop culture, from the heart prints, to the snow-washed denim, with models looking like extras from a video by Bananarama, complete with rag style hairbands. Jumpsuits were a key shape, coming in stonewashed denim, and a heart print jersey fabric, while jackets in the same materials were over-sized and over-long. Shoulders were emphasised throughout, and detailing included rivets, zips, and rolled hems and cuffs. Aviator sunglasses and ruched pixie boots with sharp heels provided the accessories, and the most sophisticated designs came at the end, via black cocktail dresses with cowl backs.

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