Leading article: Success, after a style

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The Independent Online

The twice-yearly event, once seen only as a nursery for young designers who would move on somewhere glitzier once they had made it, is reinventing itself. Last night saw the first appearance by a high-street chain on the catwalk. But there was nothing down-dumbing about the event. Topshop is part of what makes the British high street the most "fashion-forward" in the world - the store is the first place many international style junkies head for when they deplane at Heathrow. (After all, Bond Street offers only the same old names they can find in Paris, Milan or New York.)

But Topshop, through its longtime sponsorship of young designers, is helping nurture a culture which enables young unknowns to go on to become the next Stella McCartney, John Galliano or Alexander McQueen - all of whose careers were launched through the New Generation initiative the chain funds.

Today some 25 young designers are supported, in varying degrees, by the scheme. It is, as one New York fashionista was overheard observing this week, still the best breeding ground anywhere for new designers, unleashing and developing young creativity in a way which is not open to their counterparts in the great couture capitals. Nineteen new names will appear on the catwalks this week.

There is something else too. London Fashion Week is developing a multi-layered emphasis on solid business which expands the event beyond the boundaries of a mere designer kindergarten. Burberry has reinvented itself as a major international brand to rival Gucci and Prada.

Amid it all, to up the glam quotient still further, McQueen will be back to launch a new line of Puma trainers. And Donatella Versace, while not giving a show, will be in town to host one of an increased number of glamorous parties. It is not only the British weather which is cool as autumn turns.

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