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Front-row eyes for a high-street bargain

Topshop and Whistles show London Fashion Week reaching out to bigger audiences

Forget hefty price tags and designer clobber – the High Street took over London Fashion Week today, with Topshop’s Unique show and Whistles staging its first salon presentation.

Partnering this season with Google and YouTube to livestream the show to ever greater audiences, Topshop’s Unique line is not just about clothes but also about reach.

There was a youthful but chic feel in mid-length PVC circle skirts in bright hues of tomato and tan, as well fuzzy cropped jumpers – even a digital chintz on skirts and knits that was inspired by a pub carpet. Riffing on a current 90s nostalgia, donkey jackets and fun fur, candyfloss colours and maribou, recalled the sass of the Brit Pop era, a time Topshop’s many clamouring fans may not remember but will all want to emulate.

Whistles meanwhile took a quieter approach, less conservative than the blouse from the brand made famous by the Duchess of Cambridge and more fashionably purist.

“It seems to me that LFW should be able to combine both the newest and most innovative designers, as well as some of Britain’s great contemporary fashion brands, and thus celebrate all that is successful about British fashion,” said Whistles CEO Jane Shepherdson – also the guru that made Topshop the commercial giant it is today.

Since she took her current job in 2008, the brand’s profits have soared – more than 20 per cent in the past year. “When we started, the contemporary middle market was in a fledgling state, now it is arguably the fastest growing sector in fashion, so it is really important for us to stay relevant and innovative,” she added.

Ahead of her show, Dame Vivienne Westwood had some advice for the Duchess of Cambridge: stop buying so many different outfits and make more of an effort to be green. “I don’t have any advice for her, except I think it would be great if she wore the same clothes over and again, because that’s very good for the environment and it would send out a very nice message,” she said.

The Whistles show, which compromised wearable and on-trend leather separates, camouflage jacquard pieces and a geometric marble print in emerald green (one of the emerging shades of the autumn season), was also part of an international push for the brand. Already stocked in the French department store Printemps, it will also move into Russia and Germany this year, and the US and China in the near future.

Couple that with a recently opened flagship store in Mayfair and a new multi-lingual website and you have a brand that appears to have defied the economic doom and gloom.

At the upper end of the market, Mulberry is yet another British label doing well. Its front row revealed why: singer Lana del Rey and “It girl” Alexa Chung, both of whom have had best-selling styles by the brand named after them, were joined by Bafta’s rising star winner Juno Temple.

The shows continue tomorrow with two of the capital’s biggest names, megabrand Burberry and wunderkind Christopher Kane, fresh from the announcement that luxury goods conglomerate PPR has taken a 51 per cent stake in his acclaimed label.