Linda Evangelista raises the glamour bar at fashion week

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The Independent Online

This year, the industry's über-model has been drafted in to inject the ultimate glamour rush. Linda Evangelista, who once said that she "wouldn't get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day", set the glitz bar at its highest notch when she officially launched fashion week on the steps of the Natural History Museum.

The Canadian supermodel wore a strapless gold jacquard dress by Giles Deacon, the hotly tipped young designer whose show she starred in last night for, one assumes, a fraction of her normal daily fee.

She then slipped away to host an Aids charity party for the cosmetics firm MAC, where she shared the spotlight with the London Mayor, Ken Livingstone. It is incongruous couplings such as this that make London Fashion Week unique.

Meanwhile, Julien Macdonald, who also showed his spring/summer 2006 collection yesterday, has long bemoaned the lack of glamour at the event.

The former Givenchy designer usually attempts to make up the shortfall by sending microscopically small and glittery dresses down his catwalk, watched by a weird selection of celebrities in his front row.

This season was to be no different. The surreal assembly of two England cricketers - Simon Jones and Kevin Pietersen - beside Tracey Emin and Miss Piggy, the latter wearing a bespoke Macdonald frock, threatened to overshadow his clothes, as did a group of Peta fur protesters who, despite the lack of any fur in this collection, leapt on to his catwalk with signs that read "Fur is dead", before being bundled away by security guards.

This was a shame because Macdonald's offering, which is aimed squarely at a core customer base of soap opera starlets and footballers' wives, was an improvement on past seasons.

While his backless jersey dresses, printed with a turquoise and fuschia swirling print, may have been uncomfortably reminiscent of Versace, his vivacious Spanish-style ruched dresses in jade green and gold, scallop-edged white knit dresses, and an elegant ankle-length stretchy knit dress, served to remind the audience of why Macdonald became famous - he was hired by Karl Lagerfeld to design knitwear for Chanel while he was still a student at the Royal College of Art - in the first place.

An unusually high count of glamorous fashion week parties thrown by brands including Dior, Versace and Burberry are also combating the customary pessimism among press and buyers, whose numbers this week exceed 800.

Even the first official fashion week show staged by a high street retailer, Topshop's Unique show, due to be held tonight, is for the most part being welcomed by fashion insiders.

Topshop, through its longtime sponsorship of young designers, is perceived to have earnt its chance to show on a catwalk, although there is antipathy towards the prospect of a slew of high street brands following suit.

During a speech opening the event, Stuart Rose, the Marks & Spencer chief who is also chairman of the British Fashion Council, praised the move by Topshop, which is owned by Rose's arch-rival, Philip Green, to show beside designers.

"It's turning the traditional design hierarchy on its head. Our high street is the most fashion forward in the world," he said.

Asked if he planned to stage a Marks & Spencer catwalk show next season, Rose replied: "I wouldn't rule it out ... I think our high street retailers are one of the best things about British fashion."