Cartwheels, catwalks and canapes: Fashion week is back

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SHAWLS WOVEN and embroidered by hand in Bangladesh, promoting an awareness of the work done by Unesco, kick off next week's London Fashion Week, which promises a tighter, brighter schedule.

The opening event is hosted by the Bangladeshi designer Bibi Russell and features the work of the weavers of Bangladesh. Russell's scarves and shawls generate work for hundreds of women in the designer's home country.

Princess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg will be guest of honour, with the director-general of Unesco, Federico Mayor.

The show promises to be a glitzy affair, launching six days of British fashion. The British Fashion Council has been at pains to pare down the show schedule this season to make London Fashion Week more compact, easier for overseas press and buyers to get around, and more professional.

The two British names allowed to join the new tightly controlled official timetable are Mulligan, the label designed by Tracey Mulligan, and Andrew Groves, the designer who has previously shown outside the official schedule and who is determined to shock.

Groves' previous shows have included swarms of flies and lots of surgical Latex.

The wacky American veteran designer Betsey Johnson, who opened a shop in London earlier in the year, has moved her show here from New York. Johnson has been a permanent fixture on the New York fashion scene since the Sixties where she is heralded as the Mary Quant of America.

Although now in her 50s, the designer is still youthful and has a habit of cartwheeling down the catwalk after shows.

After the recent hype surrounding British fashion, the young guns who have put the city's fashion back on the map will now have to deliver in terms of serious, sellable clothes. Signs are that buyers are now paying more attention to London's designers.

For the first time, there will be stores from Russia, alongside the newly launched Russian Vogue and Elle.

The fashion council has been on promotional trips to Germany, Italy and Russia and 140 shops are expected from Italy as well as 60 from Germany. The emphasis has moved away from the Far East.

"Overseas press and buyers are very interested in ideas that come out of London," says Anna Orsini, the council's overseas contact. "That's our big selling point.

"Also, they know they can come here and see a good variety of fashion."

Wear Any Colour, So Long as It's Grey

What the fash pack will be wearing:

Grey, grey and more grey. It is THE colour of the season. Fashion editors will be coaxed out of their old black habit and into wearing all sorts of shades, from "slate", to "greige".

Trend setters - or anyone else who is just not up to speed with the season's colour trends - will take a leaf out of Donna Karan's book. The American designer showed her collection in New York last week and declared that for spring and summer 99, colour is back.

Long skirts are also de rigueur. They have to be really long though - to the floor.

British labels to be seen in:

Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen, Sonja Nuttall, Clements Ribeiro, Antonio Berardi.

What not to wear:

Anything sensible. Make sure your clothes are inappropriate for the weather. If it is cold, never, ever wear a coat. Unless it's a Ribeiros, with appliqued flowers.

The hottest party:

The United Aliens party on Friday night. The venue, Soho's K-Bar, is being renovated and renamed Satellite K Bar for the night. United Aliens is a fake advertising concept that was set up last year by Roberto Henrichsen in conjunction with models Veruschka and Jodie Kidd. The "ads" have appeared in the style press featuring fake cosmetics including "anti-fear spray".

The hottest ticket: Designers fight for the last slot each day. Invariably, they are the hardest to get into. The week's coveted late spots have gone to Antonio Berardi, Julien Macdonald, Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan and Andrew Groves. Julien Macdonald's show is scheduled so late on Saturday night that it will inevitably turn into a party.