It's arguably the world's most creative and fashionable city, and on Friday 16th September, the world's fashion elite will descend upon our capital for one of the biggest events in the global fashion calendar.
London Fashion Week is where established and emerging designers get to display their latest collections to superstars, magazine editors and top retail buyers and we're delighted to have Sarah Walter, MD and founder of Style-Passport and Fashion Week regular to tell us a bit about what goes on, how we can look the part, and where we should go and be seen to pass for a real life London fashionista.
Before launching style-passport.com earlier this year, Sarah enjoyed a long and varied career in the fashion industry. She started at Vogue on the same day as legendary editor, Anna Wintour and has spent her career within the industry working in as many different areas as possible. From Fashion Director of Marie Claire, to Communications Head at New Look and Board Director at River Island, Sarah has embraced both the creative and commercial sides of fashion. And most importantly (to us!) Sarah is a passionate traveller, having visited 54 countries worldwide so far, and counting. She's even had an extended spell in Africa running a safari business. Here's her insider's take on LFW...
I started going to London Fashion Week whilst studying at St Martins many years ago. I say "going", but it was more like "desperately trying to go". Invitations were like gold dust. You had to be famous, an editor, an important buyer with a significant budget, or look exactly like a supermodel in order to get past the clipboard Rottweilers.
But that was the point. Back then, in the Eighties and early Nineties, fashion was still a very small world, and although London was the most influential fashion hub in the world, it was extremely exclusive; you were either in or you were out. And most probably you were out.
Hub of the style world
Fashion is different these days. Indeed, London is different these days, although it is still very much the creative hub of the style world. There is probably more going on in London nowadays then there has ever been, the only difference being it is far less exclusive. The high street buzzes with excitement, Savile Row has been rejuvenated and there are pockets of creativity all over the capital, from Shoreditch to Notting Hill, from Marylebone High Street to Borough Market.
More importantly, in 2011 London is no longer the "creative hub that can’t deliver actual product", but a bona fide player in the global marketplace. We are awash with money, and even though a lot of it comes from abroad - from Russia, from China, and from all points in between, many of which are situated in the Middle East – this is where it ends up.
On top of this, we have a restaurant culture like no other. Twenty-five years ago there were ten good restaurants, and these days there are over 200. Londoners define themselves by what they eat as much as they do by what they wear, or where they decide to go on holiday, and they expect good food and good service at reasonable prices. Twenty-five years ago you may have defined yourself by what nightclub you went to; these days it’s just as likely to be a restaurant, a cocktail bar or a café.
This season’s London Fashion Week is many things to many people. For some it's a huge trade fair, for others it's an opportunity to display their fine new threads, and for others it's an opportunity to shop. The whole shebang is kick-started on September 8th with Fashion’s Big Night Out, an event which was initiated to try and get people back into shops, but which has already become a staple of the fashion calendar. It's a wonderful night out, and the sort of multi-tiered, portmanteau soiree that kills two birds with one stone. It is a perfect example of what it means to be fashionable in London at the moment. Exclusive, inclusive, and a hell of a lot of fun.
What to wear to London Fashion Week
All items chosen are British designed – a mix of 'in the know cool' as well as new British names.
Ash "Jess Bis" Cuban Zip Booties
There's nothing better than finding a pair of boots that immediately become the most treasured item in your wardrobe. We bet these are the ones.
In luxurious burnished black calf leather, they have a cute blocky cuban heel and hit the ankle at just the right point to look great with dresses as well as trousers.
Marian Newman "The Ink" nail polish in Pewter
Marian Newman is the queen of catwalk nail colour, but that's not the only reason we love her. The Inks are the perfect manicure on the go solution. Their revolutionary water based formula gives them a 60 second drying time all in a great innovative pen design. Keep one in your bag at all times to update your nails wherever you are.
Kate Hillier Sterling Silver Owl Necklace
Britain's most talented accessories designer, Katie Hillier, has finally created her own label of typically witty and utterly desirable necklaces.
This owl is suspended on a long silver chain which will sit just below your clavicle, very cute and very sexy.
Paul Yacomine Parfum de coiffeur
Parfum de Coiffeur are a trio of three separate fragrances which are misted over hair to diffuse their beautiful essences of Frangipani, Bergamot and Amber as your hair moves.
Sophie Hulme Leather Zip Top Shopper
Leather shoppers are the ultimate in practical yet stylish accessorising.
It's large enough to fit all of your essentials and what's more, it has two top zips for extra security.
Top spots to mingle with the fashionable
Savoy- stone’s throw from event, rejuvenated London landmark.
Wyld Bar - W Hotel, Leicester Square. Rub shoulders with the A list
Dean St Townhouse, Soho - the perfect place to people watch.
The Princess of Shoreditch - Look East for best new gastropub.
Folly, 41 Gracechurch St - Hidden treat in the “City”
Bistrotheque- still going strong, will definitely house fashion week parties.
Dinner at Hyde Park Hotel - Heston Blumenthal's huge London success, book very, very early.
Pescheria Mattiucci – Notting Hill’s fish monger by day, fish eatery by night. Let’s get fishy.
Thanks to Flickr photographer Swamibu for the header shot.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.