Tom Ford to unveil womenswear line in London catwalk debut

LONDON Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:39pm EST

LONDON Feb 18 (Reuters) - American designer Tom Ford will unveil his womenswear line to the world on Monday in a London debut that will help seal the city's credentials as a major international fashion hub.

Industry bloggers and buyers have flocked to London this season drawn by the big names on show, including Burberry, Erdem, Vivienne Westwood and Ford.

The direct value of the British fashion industry to the UK's $2.5 trillion economy is 21 billion pounds ($32.6 billion), according to estimates from the British Fashion Council (BFC).

Even though it has produced some of fashion's biggest names, such as Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, London in the past has struggled to maintain its international profile on a par with Paris, Milan and New York.

But with stars like singer Rihanna and fashion darling Ford heading this year's catwalk line-up along with well established names like Westwood, London is rising to the challenge.

"Never before has the international consumer been more educated and had more desire to own the collections that come from our London runways," said Natalie Massenet, Chairman of the BFC and founder of online luxury clothing retailer Net-a-Porter at the start of London Fashion Week.

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

Canadian-born designer Erdem Moralioglu, whose highly sought-after designs please celebrities on both sides of the Atlantic, presented his signature florals on Monday in moody black and blue grey tones with bursts of yellow and lilac.

Lace adorned a dramatic black evening gown, while layers of organza added dimensions to evening pieces presented at the modern White Cube Gallery in London's Bermondsey district and attended by American Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

Dutch designer Michael van der Ham, one of the winners of the prestigious Fashion Forward Award from the BFC, echoed the mood with a collection of dark embroidered silks with subtle cutout details that revealed intricate prints. (Additional reporting by Dasha Afanasieva and Li-mei Hoang, editing by Paul Casciato)