Sassoon steps in to save London Fashion Week: Alison Veness reports on the deal that rescued design event by a hair's breadth

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The Independent Online
SHAMPOO, set and match, was the cry yesterday following the disclosure that Vidal Sassoon is to sponsor London Fashion Week.

With only five weeks to go before the ready-to-wear collections are scheduled to take place, and still lacking any financial support, the event has been saved by a hair's breadth.

Vidal Sassoon approached the British Fashion Council, which has been seeking a backer since the Department of Trade and Industry withdrew its minimal support last year.

The result is that a tent will once again be erected in the grounds of the Natural History Museum where it is hoped that the majority of British designers will participate.

John Rocha, the designer of the year, Helen Storey and Caroline Charles have already signed up.

The event will take on a more commercial quality. Vidal Sassoon is planning a series of shows open to the public, with the possibility of a roadshow spin-off going to cities with Vidal Sassoon salons - Glasgow, Birmingham, Newcastle and Cardiff.

Nicholas Holtham, marketing manager for Vidal Sassoon, said: 'We want to re-establish the British link with the brand and we're keen to associate with a major event like this. However, we want to make it more than just a trade show - we also want to present the face of fashion to the public.'

Although he would not disclose any figures, the support apparently far exceeds any previous sums.

But is it all just a one-season marketing wonder? Mr Holtham said: 'Of course it's a trial but the chances are that it will become a long-term relationship.'

The chairman of the British Fashion Council, Clinton Silver, was delighted. 'I would like to thank them for their great generosity and I welcome the exposure to the general public.'

In a world which functions very much on exclusivity, it remains to be seen just how much Joe Public will be treated to.

It seems highly unlikely that it will see next season's autumn/winter clothes; instead it will have to make do with this season's offerings.

There was more celebration within the industry last night as Perrier revealed that it is to provide pounds 300,000 for the New Generation of Designers, who will be showing again at Harvey Nichols.

Joseph Wan, managing director of the store, said: 'We are delighted to have this opportunity to promote new designer talent emerging from Britain with another day of shows during London fashion Week.'