London Fashion Week fuses military style with ladylike elegance

Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:44pm EST

* Conran urges Britain to resurrect manufacturing

* Buyers from 39 countries attending five-day event

* Singer Rihanna to launch range with UK chain store

By Dasha Afanasieva and Alice Baghdjian

LONDON, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Up-and-coming design talent brought military influences while established brands exhibited ladylike elegance on the second day of London Fashion Week, one of the big four catwalk fixtures alongside Paris, New York and Milan.

On a pillar box-red stage, boxy Sixties silhouettes in canary yellow and shocks of fluorescent orange burst into the packed show of British designer Jasper Conran.

Earthy olives muffled loud neons, while cloche hats in matching shades added a feminine finish to the collection, which was viewed from the front row by actor Richard E. Grant.

"There is a hell of a lot of bright colour, which is balanced off with dark aubergines and blues and chocolate browns ... really in your face," Conran told Reuters before the show.

With buyers from 39 different countries attending, the British Fashion Council estimates orders of more than 100 million pounds are placed during London Fashion Week each season.

The direct value of the British fashion industry to Britain's $2.5 trillion economy is 21 billion pounds ($32.60 billion), the council said.

Conran, who also has a high street range at British department store Debenhams, said Britain should see garment manufacturing as a business opportunity.

"China is going to be a huge emerging market for this country, and they want things that are made in Britain. We don't have a manufacturing industry but that doesn't mean we can't create one," he said.

SEA FORTS

Coral pink mohair bags and oversized green coats pinned at the waist with matching belts featured in John Rocha's collection.

Rocha, a household name in Britain who also has a range at Debenhams, said he took his inspiration from the countryside surrounding Dublin, where he has lived for more than 20 years.

"It's based a lot on the Irish winter countryside, so almost like tree barks, or roses, it's all about trying to mimic the colour I see outside," Rocha told Reuters after the show.

"I'm just trying to bring all these things together and make something that's beautiful."

The five-day London Fashion Week blends up-and-coming names with veteran designers such as Vivienne Westwood and is best known for its cutting-edge talent and avant garde trends.

Christopher Raeburn, who graduated from London's Royal College of Art four years ago, said he drew inspiration from World War Two sea forts off the coast of England for his quilted, metallic jackets.

"There were these lovely metal structures, they're rusted and they're beautiful and they have such character, so I was really keen to bring some of that into the collection," he said.

Silky, fitted dresses and accessories with military mesh materials featured at his presentation, attended by fashion editors Suzy Menkes from the International Herald Tribune and Vogue's Sarah Harris.

Later on Saturday, singer Rihanna will add a touch of A-list glamour with the launch of her first clothing line with British high street retailer River Island, one of the 56 catwalk shows taking place.

Looking ahead to Monday, eyes are on Christopher Kane's show, whose label was bought into by French luxury group PPR in January, and American designer Tom Ford who will be showcasing his womenswear on the catwalk for the first time in London.