By Li-mei Hoang
LONDON (Reuters) - London fashion designers take up the baton for Britain on Friday, strutting the global stage in a capital city that has already captivated millions around the world with the Olympics, Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee and last year's royal wedding.
Just a few short weeks after a closing Olympic ceremony which put fashion at the heart of a glittering show celebrating the best of Britain in front of the world, buyers, journalists celebrities and models have begun to descend on London fresh from New York and on the way to collections in Milan and Paris.
"London is like the epicenter of the world for everything and I think it really showed in the closing ceremony of the Olympics how influential and important British fashion is," stylist and TV presenter Brix Smith-Start told Reuters.
Leading UK designers Christopher Kane, Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith and Burberry's Christopher Bailey will present their spring/summer 2013 collections to fashion buyers from home and abroad in a year of continued austerity across Europe.
"I always love the diverse representation of collections showcased in London. It is great to see leading favorites such as Christopher Kane, Erdem and Burberry Prorsum alongside emerging designers and I am looking forward to seeing Rag & Bone in the lineup this season," said Harrods Head of Womenswear Helen David.
An estimated £100m ($158.9m) of orders are expected to be placed during London Fashion Week, according to the British Fashion Council.
More than 80 designers are expected to show their latest collections in London, with cutting edge labels PPQ, Meadham Kirchoff, Louise Gray and Erdem touted as the hottest tickets.
"Meadham Kirchoff are just completely creative, you never know what they are going to do next, they stage some of the most theatrical, mesmerizing and moving shows. They're completely original, one-off, beyond. They're fabulous," Smith-Start said.
The stylist, who runs luxury boutique Start London in East London, also names Richard Nicoll and Fashion East among her favorite shows to watch.
SILKS, LACE AND GREAT GATSBY
The twice-a-year event runs from September 14 to September 18, for an expected audience of 5,000 buyers, journalists and celebrities.
David expects to see a more pared down aesthetic with clean lines and subtle details for Spring/Summer 2013.
"Summer is always great for mood lifting colors, so it will be interesting to see which brights stand out," David said.
"I think we'll see more attention placed on beautiful woven materials, silks and lace. With the new (Great) Gatsby movie, now set to be released next summer, designers are sure to take inspiration from the delicate feminine theme," she added.
New designers Vita Gottlieb, Teija Eilola and Haizhen Wang have been preparing their debut collections for their first showcase at London Fashion Week.
"I think they expect new ideas. A kind of vibrant creativity which London is so famous for and especially in the fashion industry, we do churn out the most fantastic designers in the world, I think," said Gottlieb.
With the stakes so high, designers could be forgiven for playing it safe in order to survive the tough economic times. But London's burgeoning fashion scene is not one to shy away from a challenge.
"London is really where groundbreaking stuff happens and people take risks. You're constantly surprised," said blogger Emily Johnston, who runs the successful fashion news blog, Fashion Foie Gras.
"There's a real buzz as you leaving the building because everybody is talking about what they've just seen."
(Reporting by Li-mei Hoang, editing by Paul Casciato)
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