* Buyers from major US department stores in London
* U.S. luxury spending on the rise
* Designer-hungry Asia remains important growth market
By Li-mei Hoang and Marie-Louise Gumuchian
LONDON, Sept 15 British designers are drawing
increasing interest from buyers in the United States and Asia,
experts say, as fashion followers turn to edgy London to keep
their wardrobes fresh.
Having produced names like Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano,
Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, the British capital
traditionally champions designers prepared to take risks.
Buyers from big department stores around the world travel to
the four fashion hubs each season - New York, Paris, Milan and
London - and, while smaller than its rivals, the latter still
enjoys a reputation for breaking new ground.
The Sept. 13-17 London Fashion Week for spring/summer 2014
has drawn a strong U.S. presence, including from luxury
department stores Saks, Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, said
Caroline Rush, British Fashion Council (BFC) chief executive.
"There is a very strong attendance from the U.S.," she said.
"(Young) designers are seeing growth in American markets,
various different Asian territories; they're seeing growth in
mainland Europe but (mainly) a lot of opportunity through
America and Asia."
Well-known British luxury goods brands such as Burberry and
Mulberry are staples in many stores around the world, but newer
names such as Christopher Kane, Mary Katrantzou and Peter
Pilotto are also proving popular across the pond.
"I am a huge fan of London Fashion Week because we have so
many great designers that we sell at Neiman Marcus," said Ken
Downing, fashion director at the U.S. store.
"The excitement over pattern and print has really happened
here in London ... (Customers) love our designers from London."
Luxury spending in the United States collapsed after the
2008 financial crisis but returned to pre-crisis levels by 2012.
Increased confidence among affluent spenders have boosted sales
and encouraged luxury brands to step up investments there.
More foreign shoppers are also visiting stores as the U.S.
government eases visa restrictions to attract more tourists.
Showing a collection of bright printed dresses and skirts in
shades of tangerine, watermelon and pale blue, Scottish designer
Holly Fulton said she was keen to expand her brand in America
after receiving positive press reviews there.
"We're quite interested in doing more in the States at the
moment ... We're keen to expand on that in the coming year," she
told Reuters, adding that Asia was also an important market.
"Asia has been by far the strongest for us. Hong Kong is
getting really strong growth for the label over there."
With economic uncertainty still hanging over Europe, the BFC
is seeking to promote British fashion in Asia.
BFC chairman Natalie Massenet said Princess Beatrice, Queen
Elizabeth's granddaughter, hosted a special event for Asian
buyers and press, who were seen in large numbers at shows
including DAKS, Mulberry and Paul Smith.
"Going forward for 2014, there is strong push in terms of
the Great campaign (promoting Britain abroad) with Hong Kong and
Shanghai. And so it is very likely that we are going to probably
have an Asia-dominated showroom plan for next year," Rush said.
"Tokyo is of interest to us. We were talking to some of the
Japanese and Toyko-based businesses ... about how we can build
partnerships and what the opportunities might be there."
Designer Paul Smith, who showed off loose shirts tucked into
wide-legged trousers and 1970s-inspired loose dresses, said he
planned to open some 20 stores in China in the next five years.
"(Chinese buying) is not going down," said Amy Yu, editor of
luxury Great Britain Magazine aimed at Chinese residents and
tourists in London. "Lots of people are still buying."
And the Chinese are not just buying at home, having pushed
out Americans as the top spenders at luxury London department
(Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; editing by Mike