British fashion makes a splash with raincoats, high-heeled wellies

LONDON Sat Feb 15, 2014 4:02pm EST

1 of 3. A model presents a creation from the Hunter Autumn/Winter 2014 collection during London Fashion Week February 15, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's fashion designers kicked off the second day of London Fashion Week with quirky weather-themed collections featuring Wellingtons boots and printed raincoats as the rest of the nation struggled with the wettest winter on record.

Boot-maker Hunter, a favorite of the Duchess of Cambridge, the former Kate Middleton, showcased its latest autumn/winter collection on Saturday, with live entertainment from magician Dynamo.

Models splashed their way down the runway, which was decorated with real trees, in thick knitted jumpers, neoprene bomber jackets and rubber duffle coats in bold primary colors.

Woollen long johns, high-heeled Wellington boots and PVC jackets also featured in the collection, which was watched by U.S. Vogue Editor Anna Wintour and fashion designer Stella McCartney, whose husband Alasdhair Willis is creative director of the brand.

Hunter's show on the London Fashion Week calendar marks a first for the 150-year British brand, which received substantial investment to expand internationally after U.S. private equity firm Searchlight bought a majority stake in 2011.

The British fashion industry has grown 20 percent over past four years and is worth around 26 billion pounds ($43.50 billion), according to the British Fashion Council.

"We're seeing investment from lots of different areas," said British Fashion Council CEO Caroline Rush. "I believe that investment from the Kering Group and LVMH has really solidified that there is an opportunity here."

Designer Orla Kiely also based her collection on Britain's famously wet weather, with a "cats and dogs" rain theme featuring printed raincoats, elegantly tailored shift dresses and thick knitted jumpers in olive green, pale pink, ochre and charcoal grey.

Earlier in the day, long-established designers Jasper Conran and John Rocha showcased a different mixture of luxurious materials throughout their collections including cashmere, calf leather and appliquéd embellishments.

Inspired by his travels in Iceland, John Rocha featured voluminous silhouettes and giant ruffles, in rich shades of midnight green, smoky grey and poppy red.

Using a mixture of textures such as velvet, tweed, felt and leather, Rocha said he applied a lot of craftwork to his creations, with traditional Irish hand crochet and appliquéd floral detailing decorating his loosely structured dresses and coats.

"People do buy my beautiful dresses because they know it's something you can treasure. You can't get it anywhere else," he told Reuters.

Conran presented a sleek collection of tailored dresses, fitted pencil skirts and boxy jackets on Saturday in celebration of the female form.

Models sashayed down the catwalk in fitted cashmere jumpers, wool jersey dresses and calfskin leather jackets in black, grey, orange and pale pink.

"It's the idea that she is empowered but she's hourglass-shaped. It's quite luxurious, quite comfortable," Conran told Reuters backstage. ($1 = 0.5977 British pounds)

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