London Fashion Week kicked off with a splash of color Friday shown by British designers Antoni & Alison, the first of dozens of catwalk shows jammed into the next six days.
The London duo, known for their knitwear, showed bold, colorful prints as designers, models, buyers and journalists filled Somerset House on the Thames river, site of the main shows.
London Fashion Week raises its profile this year with some of the industry's biggest stars. Stella McCartney will hold her first stand-alone show in London since she graduated. There will also be a debut show by McQ, the second line from the Alexander McQueen fashion house led by Sarah Burton.
"There is fantastic talent as always, and the international audience is looking very strong," said Caroline Rush, the elegant CEO of the British Fashion Council. "There is great excitement about (McQ) because of Sarah Burton's success dressing Katherine Middleton for the royal wedding last year."
Rush said British heritage brands like Belstaff _ also showing in London for the first time _ and the return of regulars like Burberry, Christopher Kane, Erdem and Paul Smith should guarantee big crowds and motivated buyers.
The shows follow Thursday's conclusion of New York fashion week and precedes expositions in Milan and France.
McCartney, who has shown her smart, minimalist collections at Paris Fashion Week for a decade, is moving her catwalk to London for a special presentation. This comes after McCartney, who has collaborated with Adidas on a popular women's sportswear line since 2004, was named the creative director of the UK Olympic team's competitive clothing for this summer's London Games.
Her presentation Saturday highlights a busy year for the designer, who is boosting her presence in London with the launch of her new perfume and the opening of a second store in spring. She has also been winning kudos for her lingerie line, which edged other luxury designers in a recent magazine competition.
The show for McQ, the late McQueen's more affordable range, is its first runway presentation and comes ahead of McQ's first flagship store in London, opening in a few months.
But interest goes far beyond these two trendy houses. London is known as a cutting-edge city that nurtures and develops young designers, and buyers are scouting for new talent.
"London tends to be edgier than New York, which shows more classic cuts," said Jo Hooper, chief buyer at John Lewis' womenswear department. "We will be keeping a close eye on British designers Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders and Mary Katrantzou, whose designs are proving increasingly popular."
Hooper also looked forward to seeing shows from Meadham Kirchoff and Osman.
Spinoff fashion shows in the next week will give central London a party vibe and a welcome mini-boom for restaurants and clubs.
"Fashion week lifts the mood," said Francois O'Neill, owner of the Brompton Bar and Grill in Knightsbridge. "Anything of that size will promote business and bring people out of their homes and into the street, just like the Olympics will do."