Androgyny and minimalism to stalk London Fashion Week

LONDON Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:29pm EST

A model presents a creation from the Vivienne Westwood Man Autumn/Winter 2013 collection during ''London Collections: Men'' in London January 8, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

A model presents a creation from the Vivienne Westwood Man Autumn/Winter 2013 collection during ''London Collections: Men'' in London January 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

LONDON (Reuters) - Leading British designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Christopher Kane, Alice Temperley and Burberry's Christopher Bailey, will showcase their latest creations alongside emerging young talent when London Fashion Week kicks off on Friday.

Fashionistas say the ever-youthful and innovative London will herald a return to sleek minimalism and lady-like finishes with a touch of androgyny, stylized tailoring, modern art-inspired pieces and origami-style detailing.

This season will see a return to elegance, minimalism and androgyny, said Carmen Borgonovo, fashion director at online luxury boutique my-wardrobe.com.

"Designers have been focusing a little bit more on couture shapes and structure and more of this return to elegance ... and I think that will continue, as well as the whole androgynous style."

London takes over the spotlight from New York, which has seen a mixture of opulent glamour and grunge-inspired designs, with floral prints and geometric patterns, as thousands of buyers, fashion editors and celebrities hit the British capital in search of the fresh young talent and groundbreaking trends that London is renowned for among fashion insiders.

"London Fashion Week is becoming stronger and stronger and can hold its own against New York, Paris and Milan despite not necessarily having a bulk of advertisers shows," said Susie Lau, founder of fashion blog Style Bubble.

"It's becoming a must-see city for a lot of editors and buyers, who are excited to see new break-out designers pop of out London," Lau added.

It is estimated that orders of more than 100 million pounds ($156.61 million) are placed during London Fashion Week each season, according to the British Fashion Council.

That's just a small slice of a $36 billion global luxury women's apparel market and a tiny fraction of the sagging $2.5 trillion UK economy.

Sportswear influences and high tech fabrics are also expected to make an appearance throughout London's shows, as well as monochrome colors and references to British heritage.

Paula Reed, fashion director at luxury department store Harvey Nichols, told Reuters she would be looking out for how designers develop their color palette after seeing strong references in menswear collections.

"I am looking out for the influences of British heritage and androgynous tailoring that I feel are bubbling under right now," said Reed.

American designers Tom Ford and L'Wren Scott will also join the line-up of designers as well as Britain's Julien MacDonald and singer Rihanna, who will launch her first collaboration with high-street retailer River Island.

More than 80 designers are expected to present their latest collections at London Fashion Week, 38 of which will stream their shows live on the internet as well as at the British Fashion Council's headquarters at Somerset House.

This year also sees the start of the British Fashion Council's new chairman, Natalie Massenet, the executive chairman and founder of online luxury clothing retailer Net-a-Porter, who is widely anticipated to shake things up in her new role.

"Natalie brings a very fresh energy," said Reed. "She is such a lateral thinker with an abundance of ideas. It's great to see a young entrepreneurial woman with such a varied background in this job. I'd expect her mind to be wide open to possibilities."

($1 = 0.6385 British pounds)

($1 = 0.7427 euros)

(Reporting by Li-mei Hoang, editing by Paul Casciato)