It's London Men's Fashion Week ... so where are Paul Smith, Burro and Boateng, then?

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The Independent Online
LONDON MEN'S Fashion Week (LMFW) kicked off quietly yesterday morning with a five-hour gap after two designers pulled out from their catwalk shows at the last minute.

Designers Ken Odimah and Jeffrey Green had suffered familiar fashion fates: Odimah's financial backer pulled out, and Jeffrey Green's collection was allegedly stolen.

Unlike London Fashion Week, the glamorous women's event that has been in existence since 1983 and which now competes internationally with Paris, Milan and New York, LMFW is only nine months old, this being the second event.

And it has a long way to go if it wants to compete internationally, as the weakness of the schedule, not to mention two designers pulling out, proved.

The only well-known names holding catwalk presentations were John Rocha who showed last night, and Paul Costelloe who shows this morning. Ironically, neither of these designers is British. Costelloe is Irish, and Hong Kong- born Rocha is based in Dublin.

Instead, all the top British-born-and-bred menswear designers show in Paris and Milan.

Paul Smith, Ozwald Boateng and Burro (who showed at the first LMFW last July) showed their latest collections in Paris during the past week. Two weeks earlier, Vivienne Westwood and John Richmond had shown in Milan.

Olaf Parker, the designer for Burro, decided to stay away in favour of Paris simply because of finance. "We would like to support the British thing, but London just doesn't attract the right people. In Paris we are guaranteed that the photographers, buyers and press are going to be there. In London they seem more concerned with parties."

The event organiser, John Rowley, is philosophical. "It takes time for these kind of events to grow. We have been sponsored by Honda who are being phenomenally helpful, and they continue their support for another year. I am looking to next year as the acid test of our growth."

Mr Rowley has decided to focus on helping young menswear labels to gain a foothold in the market. "We're giving them a chance to get their businesses going. This is about promoting British menswear design."

The British menswear industry has grown by more than 30 per cent this decade. Retail expenditure on menswear was pounds 7.7bn in 1997, of which about pounds 1bn went on designer brands.