* Industry hopes to boost growth and create more jobs
* Photobooth, guest appearances, flags to woo consumers
* Some in industry sceptical of public involvement
By Li-mei Hoang
LONDON, Sept 15 The crowds at London Fashion
Week are usually packed with magazine editors, department store
buyers and celebrities but this season there is a new addition
to the pack: the consumer.
Ordinary shoppers have been welcomed into parts of London's
most exclusive fashion event to try to boost the value of the
industry and raise Britain's profile as a fashion destination.
The move is part of the British Fashion Council's plans to
change the way the fashion industry, often seen as mysterious
and elitist, is viewed - with the hope of stimulating growth and
add to the estimated 816,000 jobs in the industry.
"This season we have taken fashion week to the streets of
London and rallied support from the whole capital by making
London Fashion Week much more inclusive," Council Chairman
Natalie Massenet said in an opening speech on Friday.
"Anyone, all of us are free to come down and join."
Among the ideas to generate a buzz about London Fashion Week
are lining the city's main commercial artery, Oxford Street,
with flags celebrating the designers; musical events and guest
appearances; and a photobooth linked up to Facebook.
Fashion-hungry shoppers can also snap up items from designer
collections, watch live streams of catwalk shows, and buy
tickets for London Fashion Weekend, held for consumers by the
British Fashion Council after the main shows.
"It's exciting to see all sorts of events celebrating
fashion week and I do think London is just generally cooler than
other cities. It's got the young, hip vibe," 19-year-old student
Julia Glove said outside Topshop clothes store on Oxford Street.
However, not all consumers are convinced by the efforts to
welcome the public into the fold.
"I don't know how they expect people to relate to an
industry that is snobby and judgmental," 32-year-old Kate
Hutchins, who works in marketing, said standing under London
Fashion Week bunting.
NOT A PLAYGROUND
Despite a still struggling global economy, British fashion
brands are hoping to cash in on evidence of a rebound in the
luxury sector as solid demand in Japan and the United States
combined with recovery in Europe offset China's slowdown.
Massenet hopes that the excitement generated on social media
networks will help build on the fashion's industry's 21 billion
pound ($33 billion) contribution to British economy.
But not everyone in the fashion industry is happy to share
the catwalk and champagne world with consumers, as demonstrated
by the International Herald Tribune's fashion editor Suzy
Menkes' opinion piece highlighting the disdain for the public
"peacocking" in their finery outside fashion shows.
"There is a certain portion of the press that would prefer
it to be kind of secretive but the consumer has shown that they
are really interested," said former fashion editor Navaz
Batliwalla, who runs the fashion blog Disneyrollergirl.
"It's going to be interesting going forward how much more
they do because obviously you have the old school press that
want to keep it just to a trade show and don't really like the
fact that it is open to the public."
Ken Downing, fashion director at U.S. luxury department
store Neiman Marcus, said it was important to remember that
fashion was an industry and a business.
"It's not a playground. This is what we do for work and
whilst it's fun that people want to be peacocks and be
photographed but it should not be the overwhelming reason of
fashion week," Downing told Reuters.
"Hollywood does not let the mass public into a set when
they're filming a movie or making a television show. We need to
make sure that the people who are experiencing fashion shows and
fashion week are those in the industry, first and foremost,
before we start letting in the world."
($1 = 0.6303 British pounds)
(Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by