The real Paris Hilton checks in to Macdonald show

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The Independent Online

It takes considerable chutzpah to persuade Paris Hilton, draped with £2m of diamonds, to strut down a catwalk at London Fashion Week. Julien Macdonald, whose autumn/winter show opened the five-day event last night, has got a knack for publicity stunts, and this was one of his most impressive. After all, London Fashion Week is the place to spot up-and-coming young designers, but rarely celebrities.

Coincidentally, last week at the New York collections a Paris Hilton impersonator managed to slip into a glitzy Versace store opening party on Fifth Avenue. It is a coincidence because while Macdonald may have had the genuine article modelling on his catwalk at the Freemasons Hall in Covent Garden, his collection - one-shouldered silk jersey gowns with jungle prints and rich-bitch chinchilla fur coats studded with crystals - was a poorly executed imitation of Versace in its heyday.

It is the younger designers with less familiar names who are likely to provide most of the thrills this season at London Fashion Week.

The event has a stronger-than-usual line-up of upcoming names on its schedule, with Gareth Pugh and Roksanda Ilincic being among the most hotly tipped. On Saturday, serious talent scouts will attend the graduate show of fashion college Central Saint Martins, alma mater to Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan and many other star designers.

Nevertheless, the organisers of London Fashion Week are determined that the event should improve its status as a runner-up to Paris, Milan and New York. In December the British Fashion Council appointed a new chief executive, Hilary Riva, who has a track record of turning around fashion retailers in her former role as managing director of Rubicon, which owns Principles and Warehouse.

It also shifted forward its position in the international collections schedule, to encourage non-European press and buyers to fly into London before going directly to Milan fashion week, which begins on Sunday.

"I was very much in favour of the date changes, because it enables press and buyers, who might otherwise be limited by finances, to come," said Alexandra Shulman, editor of Vogue magazine.

According to the organisers, the event can still pull in more than 5,000 visitors, with the US Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, being this season's most-wanted guest. The British-born Wintour, roundly acknowledged as the most powerful figure in fashion, this week returns to London's front rows after a lengthy absence.

Although Wintour is unlikely to attend more than a handful of shows, on Friday she is due to co-host a party with Shulman, said to be in order to shore up support for the Metropolitan Museum's "Anglomania" exhibition of British fashion, which opens in New York in May and is partly sponsored by Condé Nast, the publisher of Vogue.

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