It's fashionable to be on the fringe

Melanie Rickey celebrates the alternative London Fashion Week
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The Independent Online
"WE WANT to create a buzz, it's London underground," says a man running around with hair straightening irons in the very hot underground basement venue of Anthony Symonds show in central London.

Anthony's friends call him Fred, and he admits to being totally freaked out. "I've never done this before, I don't even know what it's supposed to be like back here." Fred showed his first collection off-schedule on Friday afternoon.

He is not part of London Fashion Week, (LFW) which began yesterday morning with Elspeth Gibson's debut show of staid tailoring, sparkling beaded dresses and easy knits at the Metropolitan Hotel. It continues with 46 shows until Thursday.

Symonds is, however, part of the Fashion Fringe, a group of designers who have haphazardly created their own agenda over the next few days. The Fashion Fringe involves designers who have not been endorsed by the British Fashion Council (BFC), but who make their own rules and stage their fashion shows regardless.

Friday saw three alternative shows on the Fashion Fringe in London, today sees two. By the end of the week there will have been 11. Five years ago LFW would have welcomed these designers onto its tired schedule - today it is overcrowded. This entrepreneurial spirit shows how new designers are willing to put themselves on the London map without endorsement because they know there is a market for their goods; especially in the wake of "Cool Britannia" hype. It is also further evidence that London is still the leading place to discover fresh and exciting new talent.

The turnout at Friday's shows was proof of the excitement generated by the Fashion Fringe. First was Scott Henshall, whose show was put together so professionally it was hard to believe he is only 22.

He was followed by Symonds and Japanese St Martins graduate Taishi Nobukuni. Symonds created a little fashion moment with clothes everyone could see themselves wearing now, let alone in six months. They had a tongue in cheek Eighties feel with suiting in black/red, grey/black and black/white combinations. Butterfly motif dresses, multi-coloured sequin butterfly tops, and one shoulder shirtwaister dress - very chic, in an Abigail's Party 1998 kind of way.