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Last Updated: Monday, 11 February 2008, 12:55 GMT
Why does it matter where fashion designers show?

The Magazine answers...

London Fashion week has kicked off and as always there is talk of who is showing and who isn't. But why does it matter where designers reveal their collections?

Dame Vivienne Westwood is back after nearly a decade, but Jonathan Saunders is off and so is the design house Preen.

When it comes to twice-annual London Fashion Week, it's hard to keep up with who is showing their collection in the capital and who has decided to take theirs to New York, Milan or Paris.

London - Get noticed
New York - Get financial backer
Milan - Get a manufacturer
Paris - Relax, you've made it

This year there's excitement about Westwood returning to the UK from Paris, where she showed in October. Meanwhile, some of the capital's rising stars have gone elsewhere. But what governs this merry-go-round?

Each city is a known centre for some part of the fashion industry, be it the creative capital or the financial one. Designers move from one city to another when they want to build different parts of your business.


There is a specific route - London, New York, Milan and finally Paris. Each plays a defined role in the creation of a fashion label, says Andrew Groves, head of fashion at Westminster University.

  • 1. London is where designers create a noise and get noticed by the media, usually by designing something weird and wonderful.

    How two UK designers change for fashion weeks in different cities

  • 2. New York is about showing designs to get financial backing and big accounts with influential stores such a Barneys. By this time the clothes have usually evolved into something more slick and wearable.

  • 3. Milan is somewhere to sort out production, once designers have financial backing. It's generally acknowledged as the city where the best manufacturers are and where the best quality clothes are made, says Mr Groves.

  • 4. Finally, Paris is where they finish once they have a successful design label and business established. Show in the French capital and you have usually made it.


"Each city plays a distinct role," says Mr Groves. "London is about being creative, New York and Milan are much slicker, more predictable and about business. Paris is more about elegance, as you've usually made it when you show there.

Alexander McQueen design
London is the creative fashion capital
"London is often 'people's' fashion week because you never know what to expect. The young designers who show there often have nothing but their vision. They don't have the money to put on a lavish show so the only thing they can do to get noticed is shock people. That's exciting because it means anything could happen."

However, there's some flexibility in this model and Vivienne Westwood's return to the UK catwalk is seen by some in the industry as a bid to return to her creative roots. The publicity generated by such a "return" can't do any harm either.

While the money and the means of manufacture might not be in London, it is essential as a launch pad. Some of the world's leading designers would never have been successful if it hadn't been for showing collections in the capital.

"Designers like Alexander McQueen would never have happened without London," says Mr Groves. "None of the other fashion capitals would have allowed such creativity. They just wouldn't show anything so avant-garde and so unwearable."

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