London swaps the running track for the catwalk

LONDON (AP) — London turned its attention from the Olympics to the catwalk Friday as fashion designers, buyers and journalists flooded into the British capital for the spring 2013 previews.

Organizers hoped the London Fashion Week extravaganza, which features more than 60 runway shows, can build on the buzz generated by the Olympics.

"This summer has shown London in its best light, highlighting the city's creativity and unique DNA," said Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council. "September is set to be an extremely exciting season in what has been an amazing year for the U.K."

Theatrical hats, crazy heels and bright red lipsticks were out in full force at the first previews, which included shows by veteran designer Caroline Charles, Bora Aksu and Australian label sass and bide.

London Fashion Week is a more eclectic affair than its cousins in New York, Milan and Paris, featuring celebrity-studded shows by seasoned big names like Burberry and Vivienne Westwood as well as a crop of younger designers, including Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Mary Katrantzou and Roksanda Illincic.

"London is a melting pot of design talent and 2012 feels like a very exciting time to be showing in the city," said Ruth Chapman, co-founder of Matches, a high-end British fashion retailer.

British fashion was a talking point even before the Olympics, when Stella McCartney designed the Olympic uniforms for Team GB (Great Britain) — a minimalistic reimagining of the Union Jack. Other British designers including Alexander McQueen and Victoria Beckham received a tribute at the closing ceremony for the London Games.

One of this season's most keenly watched catwalks will be a comeback show by Philip Treacy, the celebrity milliner. Treacy, who has made fanciful hats for Sarah Jessica Parker, Madonna, Lady Gaga and Britain's royals, is returning for the first time in almost a decade.

Also returning to London is Preen, a popular British label that has shown successfully in New York for the past six years.  

The biannual fashion week features five days of women's wear catwalk shows, some menswear previews and dozens of exhibitions from emerging clothes and accessory designers. It is expected to generate some 100 million pounds ($160 million) in orders.

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CAROLINE CHARLES

Awash with jungle prints, skimpy swimwear and vibrant colors, Caroline Charles' catwalk channeled a tropical heat that defied London's cool autumn weather.

Charles, a veteran British designer who is celebrating 50 years in fashion, described her latest collection as a "riot of color and print." She opened with a series of plain black swimwear paired with silk shirts, shorts and wide-leg pants in tropical ocean, floral and birds of paradise prints.

Colors were bold and summery, with lots of limes, mangos and magenta.

Later on the collection switched to ladylike, sophisticated looks featuring tweed, delicate lace and full, structured skirts. There were warm-weather jackets galore, some classically fitted with rounded collars, and others in flowing, longer styles.

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BORA ASKU

Turkish designer Bora Aksu looked back to an early 20th century queen for inspiration for his spring-summer 2013 show.

The result: A collection of ethereal, romantic gowns and dresses in dreamy shades of dove grey, cornflower, lavender and violet, adorned with childlike paper crowns.

Aksu, who is based in London, said Friday he was inspired by the grace and charisma of Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Marie, who became the queen of Romania in 1922.

Silhouettes were soft and free flowing, with the exception of some cropped evening jackets and brocade pencil skirts. Most pieces seemed to be composed of layers of the sheerest organza, adorned with abstracted, Art Deco-style botanical prints.

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