London Fashion Week, which kicked off Friday, is hoping to change that perception. Organizers of the twice-a-year extravaganza — a trade event aimed at a few thousand buyers, editors, celebrities and fashion elite — say it needs to reach out and stoke more general public interest.
British Fashion Council CEO Caroline Rush said the goal is to raise British fashion's profile by making the event more accessible to consumers. One way is to get more people talking on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram.
"Social media lets you share messages, get it out to broad audiences. It's a great way to get an instant response, to find out what's trending," Rush said.
To that end, London Fashion Week organizers are working more closely with bloggers. Fashion news will be beamed to digital screens in London's subway stations and more shows — almost 30 — will be live streamed to fans this year, allowing them to view the latest catwalk previews from home or on their phones at the same time as any front row editor.
The five-day showcase of spring styles opened on a bright note with Turkish designer Bora Aksu, who sent models down the catwalk in sweet silhouettes, ethnic details and a cheerful palette of bright lemon yellow, fuchsia and pretty soft blue. It was a burst of sunshine much needed in the London drizzle.
Natalie Massenet, the new chairman at the fashion council best known for founding the luxury shopping website Net-A-Porter, has even rallied Londoners to dress up for the occasion.
"We would like you to join us in putting on the show ... fashion is for the consumer, so dress up, London!" she wrote in a letter in the Evening Standard.
It's all part of a bid to help make London Fashion Week — the youngest sibling among its more polished sisters in New York, Milan and Paris — weightier in the global fashion industry.
That is already happening. Although London was known for years to nurture some of the world's most creative young talent, most did not achieve the same level of commercial success and international recognition as the mega brands based in the other fashion capitals — until recently.
A crop of emerging names and the success of designers from Christopher Kane to Erdem has meant that London Fashion Week is now widely seen as the place to spot the industry's next big thing. For many buyers, it is this allure — even more than established fashion houses like Burberry, Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith — that makes London an increasingly exciting fashion destination.
Other designers showing in coming days include Tom Ford, Stella McCartney, Julien MacDonald and Jonathan Saunders. London Fashion Week is also showcasing accessories from Anya Hindmarch and shoe designers Manolo Blahnik and Sophia Webster.