26 October 2009

Don Your Shades - Sequins Are Hot !

From the Los Angeles Times

They can look like a sparkly 1970s disco ball spinning out of control, or the remains of an '80s Jazzercise get-up. So why, with so many ways they can go wrong, are sequins so big this fall?

Fortunately, the sequins we're seeing this season aren't over the top and tacky. "They're more sophisticated than the splashy stuff we saw in the '80s," says Jaye Hersh, owner of Intuition boutique.

This season, sequins are being worn as a daytime wardrobe staple rather than just to add glitz to an evening ensemble. Hersh has been selling sequin-smattered T-shirts, tank tops and headbands for the last few months. "People are looking for something to brighten their day," she says. Her biggest sellers are monotone pieces, such as pink sequins on a pink tank top, and basic metallics in gold, silver and bronze.

Sequins can be an easy way to add some sparkle to simple pieces, but just remember that less is definitely more. Wear them as sparingly and subtly as possible, opting for one sequined item at a time and toning down the color palette.

For daytime, try casual items such as a T-shirt or cardigan with a light dusting of a neutral-colored or monochromatic embellishment. Coach has several sequined pieces that make sense for the office and for evening. A light-gray cardigan with silver and gold sequins down the front mixes well with a solid top and standard blue jeans. Some weathered brown boots will take down the shine and add a more relaxed element to the look. Sequined knee socks from Miu Miu add a quirky touch to a full or A-line skirt and sweater. Pull them on and pair with ankle-strap platform heels.

Since sequins tend to shout, "Look at me!," wear them in neutral or dark shades to take down the glitz. A black, sequined one-shoulder dress from Tory Burch is perfect for a cocktail party, but if you're feeling shy about the shine, a fitted blazer will make it look sharp and shield some of the sequin effect.

For an even more subtle approach, try a knitted tank top with an attached sequined scarf from Alice + Olivia. The slouchy drape of the scarf is cool and casual, especially when paired with cropped jeans and cage-style heels.

If all you need is a splash of something shimmery, there are plenty of sequined accessories that will still make a statement. The fuchsia frame bag from Marc Jacobs pops with color and texture, and black and silver ballet flats from Coach freshen up a simple black dress or skirt.

If you're jazzed about the sequin trend, remember to keep it balanced and wear the right pieces for your body type and age. With so much shimmer, every little sequin counts.

25 October 2009

Payless Seeks Charity Partners For Shoe Giveaway

from Ohio.com

Local nonprofits are being sought to help give away children's shoes.

Payless ShoeSource has launched its annual Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids program, aimed at delivering more than $1.2 million worth of free children's shoes to children of families in need this holiday season.

The company said it works through a network of hundreds of charity partners, which it is counting on to help pass out 77,000 gift coupons redeemable through Feb. 28, 2010, toward a new pair of kids shoes at any store.

''Footwear is a basic need that many of us take for granted, and yet a significant number of children need shoes. In a difficult economy, the underprivileged are hurt more than any other group and the charities that assist them are often underfunded,'' chief executive officer Matthew Rubel said.

Nonprofit groups with 501(c)(3) status can apply to help give the coupons away by completing an application at paylessgives.com.

24 October 2009

Clothing Recycling Initiative Launched By Goodwill, Levi's

From Ad Age

Levi Strauss & Co. and Goodwill are working together on a new initiative to save billions of pounds of unwanted clothes and put them to good use. In "A Care Tag for Our Planet," the product care tags on Levi's clothing in the U.S. will include messaging encouraging people to donate their unwanted clothing, with the project expanding to global markets in fall 2010.

According to Goodwill, about 23.8 billion pounds of clothing end up in U.S. landfills each year. Currently, 166 community-based Goodwill organizations in the U.S. and Canada divert more than 1.5 billion pounds of clothing and textiles a year from landfills and, in the process, create job-training opportunities for more than 1.5 million people annually.

The initiative was created by BBDO West, Goodwill of San Francisco's pro bono agency, which came up with the idea of using care tags to communicate this message. According to the companies, the partnership combines the values of each organization: Levi Strauss & Co.'s goal to reduce the environmental impact of its products and Goodwill's commitment to help communities recycle usable items while helping those in need.

"BBDO provided us with a perfect way to match our long-term commitment to sustainability with our ability to deliver a message to hundreds of millions of people around the globe," said Jill Nash, chief communications officer and VP-corporate affairs, Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi Strauss & Co., which has been working on environmental issues for more than two decades, studied every stage in the life cycle of a typical pair of 501 jeans. It found that one of the greatest opportunities for reducing climate change and water impact happens after consumers take their jeans home. As a result, the company is also encouraging consumers to wash less, wash in cold water and line dry when possible to reduce the climate impact of caring for the jeans.

"As a company built on values, we have long worked to promote sustainability in how we make our products and run our operations," said John Anderson, president-CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., in announcing the project this week. "This initiative uses our global voice to empower hundreds of millions of consumers around the world to join us by providing simple and actionable ways to help care for our planet."

20 October 2009

Musto To Launch Mail-Order Catalogue

Press Release

Musto are launching their first ever mail order catalogue, showcasing the brand’s Autumn/Winter collections for 2009.

The 50-page catalogue features a selection of the Lifestyles range for both men and women, which utilises Musto’s background and expertise in sailing clothing to produce sportswear that is as stylish as it is functional.

From the outdoor clothing range including fleeces, waterproof jackets and walking boots, to the more casual everyday items such as jeans and  jumpers, you’re sure to find the clothing you want at a price you can afford. The Lifestyles range also features a number of accessories, including hats, scarves, gloves, backpacks and luggage.

All of Musto’s clothing is made using the best technology that allows them to withstand whatever Mother Nature may throw at you. A number of jackets in the outdoor range are made from GORE-TEX and Windstopper material, making them water and wind-proof, as well as highly breathable. Fleece products are made using Polartec fabric, which keeps the body warm and dries quickly, while jackets with Primaloft use a patented microfiber structure to help the body retain warmth and conserve energy.

Musto are the world’s leading sailing clothing brand, and the official partners of the British Olympic sailing team Skandia Team GBR, so you can be assured that both Musto’s clothing and service is of the highest quality.

Orders can be placed by post, online, or over the phone, or alternatively you can visit one of the many Musto stores right across the country, including their brand new concession at Austin Reed on Regent Street in London.

17 October 2009

The Elder Statesmen Of Modern Fashion Photography

From the L.A. Times

Irving Penn's death marks the end of an era. He and Richard Avedon hold generally unchallenged status as innovators of the genre, but Helmut Newton also gets credit as a core influences.

There will always be beauty, style and grace on the pages of fashion magazines and books, but the death of Irving Penn this month marks the end of an era of seminal photography. Penn, along with Richard Avedon, who died in 2004, practically invented modern fashion photography -- a place where art meets commerce -- in the mid-20th century. The influence of both artists -- along with a small group of mavericks who came after them -- figures prominently in fashion editorial and advertising campaigns to this day.

Their striking images shaped how the world saw fashion and have long been ingrained in our psyches.

Penn was by all accounts extremely meticulous in his approach to taking pictures, putting his subjects through grueling sittings. He captured a crisp quietness in his work -- whether he was photographing his wife, model Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, or a few old cigarette butts plucked from the ashtray or gutter. His most iconic images include surprising portraits of Truman Capote and Pablo Picasso, a study of the ballooning sleeves of a Balenciaga coat and a graceful nude of Kate Moss perched on a table, her back to the camera.

Less glamorous, but no less intriguing, are shots of ordinary tradesmen Penn began taking in the early 1950s. These photographs of workers and their tools are on display at the Getty Center through Jan. 10.

Avedon "was very outgoing, very charismatic," according to photographer Sebastian Kim, who worked as his first assistant in the late 1990s. He was more about movement -- waist-length hair and yards of chiffon in full swing. There is a classic photo of model Dovima posing in a Dior gown and positioned between circus elephants; a fully made-up Marilyn Monroe in a sequined halter dress, looking lost; and Nastassja Kinski lying nude, face impassive, wrapped in the curves of a monstrous fork-tongued snake. Optimistic images he captured in Paris for Harper's Bazaar after World War II reestablished the city's status as the fashion capital of the world. A retrospective of Avedon's fashion photography, showcasing 181 of his works, opens today at the Detroit Institute of the Arts and runs through Jan. 17.

"Avedon was more of an influence on my work, but Penn influenced my soul," said Arthur Elgort, a New York-based photographer who often shoots for Vogue (Penn's longtime employer) and was friendly with Penn in his later years. "Penn was meticulous and controlled, and Dick [Avedon] just had an eye for everything -- he couldn't miss."

Penn and Avedon's status as innovators is roundly unchallenged, but when talking to modern fashion and portrait photographers about the genre's core influences, a third name always surfaces: Helmut Newton.

The late fashion photographer ushered in an era of blatant eroticism and dark humor in fashion imagery (see modern flash-heavy shooters Terry Richardson and Juergen Teller). Newton worked for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar in the 1960s but found his niche shooting nudes with sadomasochistic overtones in the 1980s. Earlier this year, publisher Benedikt Taschen reissued a somewhat smaller version of "SUMO," a compilation of 394 of Newton's photographs that was first published 10 years ago. The photos are on display through Jan. 31 at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin.

"That's the trifecta -- Penn, Avedon and Newton," said New York-based photographer Nick Ruechel, who was celebrity portraitist Annie Leibowitz's first assistant and worked under renowned fashion photographers including Peter Lindbergh before striking out on his own. "Contemporary fashion photography would not exist without them. So many people have copied their work verbatim."

British photographer David Bailey (whose party-hopping ways inspired the 1966 fashion film, "Blow-Up") also earned a place in the canon of pioneering midcentury fashion and portrait photographers.

His raw, energetic style captured the jubilance -- and major players -- of the swinging '60s. "I love the craziness of Bailey," said L.A.-based portrait photographer Frank Ockenfels III. "He did things without worry or care and it showed."

In the '80s and '90s, fashion photography went mainstream -- thanks to the rise of the supermodel -- and the industry embraced a new crop of top fashion photographers, most of whom are still actively shaping the genre today.

Among the new stars were Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, Mario Testino and, perhaps most notably, Steven Meisel.

The late Ritts, a celebrity and fashion photographer, was known for his sensual black-and-white images. His defining shot may be of nude supermodels Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour, Tatiana Patiz and Christy Turlington, their coltish limbs folded into one another.

Weber, who continues to loom large in fashion photography, is famous for his playful, decidedly American-feeling work for ad campaigns including Calvin Klein (he shot all those early controversial black-and-white images for the brand), Abercrombie & Fitch and Ralph Lauren.

"No one captures the essence of life like Weber does," noted L.A.-based fashion photographer Larry Bartholomew. "You fall in love with the people, you fall in love with the place."

Peruvian fashion and portrait photographer Mario Testino -- whose bold, exuberant images often boast a signature softness -- is a veritable giant in the industry, shooting the famous and fashionable for Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines and Burberry, among other top-drawer clients.

But perhaps no other modern fashion photographer has been as celebrated as reclusive New Yorker Steven Meisel, whose moody, sexy photographs define the look of fashion industry bible Italian Vogue (he's shot nearly every cover for the magazine over the last decade), and have been splashed across billboards for the last two decades, courtesy of ad campaigns for Versace, Valentino and Dolce & Gabbana, among others.

But as with the work of every current fashion chronicler, shades of either Penn or Avedon are palpable -- and many of Meisel's early images echo Avedon's aesthetic.

Kim, who worked as Meisel's first assistant from 2000 to 2007 after leaving Avedon's studio, said, "Steven's earlier approach to things was very Avedon-inspired. Then there was a certain point where he broke away from that. What's interesting about him is his sense of fashion. The girl, the fashion -- those were most important to Steven. He is a fashion photographer, but he was also a stylist and a makeup artist all rolled into one. His whole energy is about creating the next trend, discovering the next girl. So when you look at his work, you can't pin him down. It's always changing."

But the more things change, the more they stay the same, say some photographers. "All we're doing now is copying Avedon and Penn," said Bartholomew with a chuckle. "We call it 'inspiration.' "

14 October 2009

Stella McCartney Launches Kids Clothing Line

Story from CBS

Stella McCartney, fashion designer to the stars, is taking on a whole new clientele - and they're under five feet tall! In collaboration with Gap Kids and Baby Gap, McCartney is unveiling a one-time-only line of children’s clothes. Launching in the UK, France, Japan, the U.S. and Canada, the line includes everything from ultra-soft cashmere blankets for newborns to brushed cotton blazers with silk lapels, wool military jackets, and sturdy kids shoes.

Stella, 38, mother of three children under the age of five - two boys, Miller, 4, and Beckett, 1 1/2, and a girl, Bailey, 3 1/2 - sat down with W magazine to promote her new children's line, and discuss why she finally gave in to designing for the little people of the world.

On why she is designing kids clothes: ‘When are you going to do kids? When are you going to do kids? It was just a question that was wearing me out.”

On not being able to find good kids clothes: “I find there’s nothing between the two worlds—it’s kind of cheap or expensive, and they look like that,” she explains. “Some expensive labels are too conservative and twee, and the cheaper stuff is a little less classy and tasteful.”

On dressing kids over the age of 4: “I’m quite aware that after the age of four and a half, kids actually don’t want to wear what their parents want to put on them anymore,” she says, raising a knowing eyebrow. So she commissioned her 4-year-old son Miller and her colleagues’ daughters to help with some of the designs. “My son is obsessed with superheroes, so I’m like, Okay, I’m going to create my own superhero,” says McCartney. “I’d take it home and I’d be like, ‘Do you approve of our superhero?’ And he loved it. So I thought, I’ve kind of had a sign-off on that.”

On choosing regular kids for the ad campaign: “Perfect little kids are not really very me. I wanted to have a bit of realness. When you’re talking about this kind of accessibility and children, it’s really important that you feel comfortable throwing the lot of it in the washing machine and not being too precious with it.”

On her collection: “Nothing is really matching, which is very much what I do. And a lot of the designs just get better with age. To me, the fabric is so important, especially on a child, as they are so aware when things are scratchy.”

On shopping for her kids: "I personally prefer shopping for my kids’ clothes to shopping for my own. I just get more enjoyment out of it.”

13 October 2009

Sunglasses Coming To The Row

Story from L.A. Times

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have added sunglasses to their ever-growing collection of clothing and accessories. The line is being done in collaboration with luxury eyewear maker Linda Farrow (other collaborations include Dries Van Noten and Sofia Kokosalaki) and will be out for spring 2010.

The four styles launching next season aren’t like the gigantic accessories we’re used to seeing on the fashion plate sisters. Unlike the huge bags, giant clunky ankle boots and overwhelming fur vests the two sport, the shades are actually very classic and sleek.

There is a John Lennon-esque circular metal style and large rounded-square “black out” frames – perfect for leaving on during a fashion show.

The Row sunglasses range from $325 to $390 and will be available at Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman.

07 October 2009

Burberry Bringing The Stars Along


Burberry and its creative director Christopher Bailey made a triumphant return to London on Tuesday night, winning over a star-studded audience at the glitziest event of the capital's fashion week.

Bailey, who has helped transform the once staid brand into a fashion powerhouse, showed a series of short dresses, including many with a trench coat theme familiar to longtime fans of Burberry.

There was just enough of the traditional Burberry plaid to keep traditionalists happy, while younger fans were drawn to the soft, sexy lines of the dresses, most of them in beige (long associated with Burberry) and pale greens and yellows.

Victoria Beckham arrives for the show by designer
Burberry during Fashion Week, in London

"I thought it was beautiful, and very poetic," said Hilary Alexander, fashion director of The Daily Telegraph newspaper. "The heritage was there, but it was like a ballet, a dance."

The crowd, including Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham and "Harry Potter" star Emma Watson seemed impressed with the variety and vision of the show.

The front row also included American Vogue editor Anna Wintour, "Slumdog Millionaire" stars Dev Patel and Freida Pinto — and Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, a prominent member of the British government known for his snappy dress. He said the show brought Burberry from the past into the future.

Korean actress Lee Na Young arrives for the show by
designer Burberry during Fashion Week, in London

"It was a reinvention of the Burberry look," Mandelson said. "The fabrics were great. It's 21st century Burberry at its best."

Bailey used sequins and bright metallic silver fabric to set off some of his jackets and tops, adding glitter to the look, and also used padded shoulders for emphasis on several of the combination trench-dresses that were an important theme of the show.

Belts were used for shape, and the models looked extremely feminine, their long flowing hair and natural makeup bucking a trend toward androgyny seen in other shows this week.

The Burberry show was the largest and most eagerly anticipated of London Fashion week thus far, and the crowd arrived early to sip champagne or elderflower coolers on the steps of the Chelsea College of Art and Design near the River Thames. Harold Tillman, chairman of the British Fashion Council, said the week has been a tremendous success, with large crowds filling many shows. He said the trend toward prints had been noticeable.

"There have been so many good, good shows," he said. "There are great designers, showing freshness, fearlessness. It's so exciting, it really is."

Burberry chief executive office Angela Ahrendt said before the show began that it was an honor to be back on the catwalks in London, where the company has long been based.

"It's a phenomenal honor," she said, gesturing to the gathered crowd. "We are a British brand. For Christopher Bailey, who's British, he can finally come home and share his talent with the rest of the country."

The show marked the return of Burberry, long an iconic British brand, to the London Fashion Weeks catwalk. In the past, the heritage brand has preferred to launch Milan.

Other British designers have followed suit — including Jonathan Saunders, whose show earlier Tuesday featured dollops of vibrant color alongside some of his signature geometric prints.

Saunders trotted out vibrant pink, day-glow yellow, and neon green fabrics softened by translucent white dresses, while fellow fashionista Amanda Wakeley showed why she was queen of the soft fluid drape in an Indian-inspired collection.

Wakeley's collection drew on monochrome desert hues of saffron, copper, sand and cinnamon. The maxi dresses in viscose jersey, satin and chiffon reflected a light and airy touch, accented by oversize gold and silver coils around the neck or waist by designer Maria Francesca Pepe.

Some of the shortest dresses did not have enough length to complement the flowing fabric and too much sand can make any woman's outfit a bit dull, but the show was still a master class in timeless elegance.

03 October 2009

Buffett Lauds Chinese Suit Maker

Story from the Wall Street Journal

America's foremost capitalist may not have much in common with China's top Communist, but Warren Buffett and Hu Jintao do appear to share the same clothier.

Move over Brioni, the truly rich and powerful are wearing Trands.

The obscure menswear label is produced by Dayang Group, a clothing company founded by Li Guilian, 63 years old, a diminutive farmer-turned-fashion mogul, in northeast China.

Ms. Li's company got a major boost after Mr. Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., recently appeared in a Dayang promotional video, posted on the company's Web site. He heaped praise on Ms. Li, her company, and the nine Trands suits he proudly owns. Shares of Dayang's Shanghai-listed subsidiary, Dalian Dayang Trands Co., have soared by more than 70% since the video was posted on Sept. 10.

While not known as a fashion plate, Mr. Buffett says his Trands suits transformed his image. "They're comfortable and people tell me they look good," says Mr. Buffett, reached this week at his office. "I went 78 years before I got a compliment on my appearance."

Mr. Buffett, who says he has no ownership stake in Dayang, especially likes that his new suits are wrinkle-resistant. "If I am on a trip and wearing them day after day, they don't wrinkle," he says. He says he gave his old suits to charities.

The video was made at Ms. Li's request to commemorate her company's 30th anniversary this month. In it, Mr. Buffett tells viewers that he has recommended the brand to his business partner at Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger, and to his billionaire buddy and Microsoft Corp. founder, Bill Gates.

Dayang can't openly advertise its affiliation with what it says is another famous customer, China's President Hu Jintao. The company's press officer, Zhi Yong, says Mr. Hu started wearing Trands in late 2005 after coming across one of its stores in Beijing. A photo of Mr. Hu, donning a Trands suit, is featured in the company's official corporate history.

But unlike in the U.S., where leaders' clothing labels are major fashion news, details of the president's private life are off-limits to the Chinese media. Indeed, when a reporter tried to visit the Trands store inside Beijing's Jingxi Hotel, where the president was said to have first spotted the label, she was refused entry.

"This store is not open to the public. We mainly serve Chinese leaders," a person who answered the store's phone said.

China's central government information office declined to comment.

"It's a bit sensitive," says Trands' Mr. Zhi.

The friendship between Ms. Li and Mr. Buffett, unlikely as it seems, developed quite by chance, or, as Ms. Li puts it, thanks to "yuanfen," a Chinese concept of predestined chemistry between people. "It was heart-to-heart, this feeling between us," says Ms. Li, a compact woman with naturally wavy hair who tends to wear dark colors, amber-tinted eyeglasses and a string of pearls.

Two years ago, Mr. Buffett came to Dalian to attend the opening of a new factory for Iscar Metalworking Cos., one of Berkshire Hathaway's recent acquisitions. David Margalit, Dayang's global marketing director, had a friend who was an executive at Iscar. Spotting an opportunity, Mr. Margalit suggested that Mr. Buffett get fitted for a Trands suit while he was in town.

"Five minutes after I got into the hotel room these guys came bursting into the room and before I knew it, the two of them were sticking measuring tape around my thigh. It seemed a little personal to me," Mr. Buffett says. "But they sent them to me and I never had to have an eighth of an inch changed."

Mr. Buffett admits his knowledge of men's clothing isn't equal to his investing prowess. "I'm not enthused about buying clothes. They don't interest me," he says. "But this is a perfect solution. I feel good about these suits. And not just because they are free."

Ms. Li's rags-to-rag-trade tale of riches appeals to Mr. Buffett. Born to a peasant family, Ms. Li grew up in a brick shack with geese in the front yard in the small town of Yangshufang, an hour's drive from the coastal city of Dalian in Liaoning Province. She started tilling the fields at the age of 18 and quickly rose through the ranks of farmers, becoming the Communist Party secretary of her 2,000-member production brigade.

She started Dayang Group in 1979 as a collective township enterprise with a 30,000 yuan ($3,394) loan, setting up an assembly line with 85 employees and several dozen sewing machines contributed from the homes of her neighbors. The factory started out making the kinds of simple items used by rural folk like Ms. Li: tablecloths, aprons and sleeve protectors.

"Our skills were very low, but our goals were very high," says Ms. Li, punctuating the air with her hands, her fingernails decorated with pink rose decals. The company moved on to making simple workers' jackets, slowly introducing more complicated garments and signing up overseas customers along the way.

In 1995, Dayang launched its own flagship brand of Trands menswear. Dayang now employs 15,000 people and turns out 10 million garments a year.

Mr. Buffett quickly took to Ms. Li and her suits. In a letter to Ms. Li dated Nov. 27, 2007, he wrote: "Yesterday I received the two suits from David. They fit perfectly and look magnificent. I've never had any that I like better."

They met again in May this year, after Mr. Buffett invited Ms. Li to attend Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholders' meeting in Omaha, Neb.

Later, four Berkshire directors were fitted for Trands suits, Mr. Buffett says: Mr. Gates; Mr. Munger; Walter Scott Jr., chairman of Level 3 Communications; and Ronald Olson, of law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson. Ms. Li, who doesn't speak English and likes to squeeze the arms or hands of whomever she's standing next to, says she hadn't expected such warmth from Mr. Buffett. She describes him as a "new friend."

Even after 14 years, Trands isn't particularly well known in China, at least not before Mr. Buffett began promoting it. Its 20 stores are concentrated in second-tier north China cities such as Dalian, Shenyang and Taiyuan, where its suits are expensive by Chinese standards. The cheapest cost around 6,000 yuan ($880), and the most expensive, made from fine cashmere, are upwards of 20,000 yuan.

This week, the Trands promotional video of Mr. Buffett played in an endless loop on a giant screen at the entrance to the 20th annual China International Garment & Textile Fair.

"I now have nine suits all made in China. I threw away the rest of my suits," Mr. Buffett says, every three minutes or so.

A Look At London Fashion Week

Story from the Wall Street Journal

London fashion week went out with a bang Tuesday night, with a celebrity-packed Burberry Prorsum show and after-party at the brand's plaid-infused headquarters.

It was a homecoming for this most British of British brands, which has shown at Milan fashion week since 2001. It was also a coup for London fashion week, which was expanded and hyped up this year in celebration of its 25th anniversary. Other highlights included the presence of Vogue editor Anna Wintour, a Brit, in the front row after a two-year absence, as well as the return of designers Pringle of Scotland and Matthew Williamson from the New York and Milan runways to showcase their latest wares.

Still, it was hard to say whether the shows will fulfill organizers' hopes of putting London back on the fashion industry's map. In recent years, promising designers like Giles Deacon and Gareth Pugh have departed and buyer attendance has slumped, leaving the event a mere sideshow—complete with often outlandish designs—to the big fashion circuses of New York, Milan and Paris.

The main shows this week, however, served as a reminder of the reach of U.K. fashion. At Burberry, creative director Christopher Bailey took the label's classic trench coats, as well as a collection of dresses, skirts and tops, and pulled, knotted and looped the fabric into swirling layers that oozed luxury.

Pringle, like Burberry, has remained true to its British roots despite its Italian home away from home. And designer Clare Waight Keller's spring collection was no exception. She updated the luxury brand's iconic knitwear by shrinking it into delicate lace-like layers and enlarging it into chunky, 3-D cable knits. Skirts, with cascading tiers of fabric, replicated kilts.

Matthew Williamson, known for his brightly colored prints, showed a more structured collection that moved his aesthetic and brand forward. The designer drew on Glaswegian artist Jim Lambie's synthetic colors and graphic lines to create unique, eye-catching pieces that Mr. Williamson hopes will entice recession-wary shoppers to take out their pocketbooks. "I want customers to feel they've got something that's timeless," he said.

Smaller brands, the bread and butter—or, rather, the beans on toast—of London fashion, benefited from the hype brought by the return of the bigger labels, with Ms. Wintour showing up at the shows of emerging designers Meadham Kirchhoff and Marios Schwab. The British Fashion Council, which organizes the event, says far more buyers attended the shows than in years past, though data weren't available. But the question on most people's minds was whether the heavy hitters would remain past this jubilee season.

"Showing in London has been incredibly exciting," said Pringle Chief Executive Mary-Adair Macaire. "We will take a decision on our main runway show later this year, but have no immediate plans to move away from London." In coming weeks, Pringle will have showroom presentations in both Paris and Milan, where key buyers will get a chance to see the full collection.

Matthew Williamson said he hadn't made a decision yet and was waiting to see reaction from the show. "You take each season as it comes," said Joseph Velosa, the label's chief executive as well as a member of the British Fashion Council's board. He added that the label would also be doing presentations in Paris and Milan, because "that's still where most of the buyers are."

Burberry is also awaiting reactions. "We haven't made any firm decisions concerning next year's venue yet," Burberry said. But a person familiar with the matter said the company would likely move its show back to Milan next season. This fall, buyers will be able to look at the collection in the company's Milan showroom.

London fashion week, even after its expansion to five days this year, is shorter than sister shows in New York, Milan and Paris. It also lacks a strong buyer presence, leaving the city with some distance to go to build up the support network that would make it a viable alternative for big labels. Many decamped in the late 1990s and early 2000s in search of the higher profile that comes with showing alongside established brands like Prada and Louis Vuitton in other fashion capitals.

A three-year, $6.9 million funding package from the London Development Agency has helped fund the British Fashion Council's efforts to raise the city's profile, which include a showroom in Paris and programs to support emerging designers. But the package runs out next year, and while the agency plans to put forward another proposal, some doubt that the funding will be as generous. The country, like most, is in a recession, and the city is gearing up to host the 2012 Olympics.

Colin McDowell, who founded the talent-search program Fashion Fringe at Covent Garden, said he didn't think funding would be renewed at the previous level anytime soon—"not necessarily because they don't think the British Fashion Council is doing a good job," he said, "but because they don't have the money. We've got the Olympics. And that's a thing that can't be done badly."

Mr. Velosa, however, disagreed, saying that fashion has become increasingly important for the city and, more broadly, for the country. "I think fashion is being seen quite rightly by U.K. politicians as a way to promote the U.K.," he said.

He added that the reception for British designers hosted by Sarah Brown, the prime minister's wife, at No. 10 Downing Street last Friday was a "clear signal" of support. When asked how a possible shift in power to a Conservative-led government in the next year would affect that support, Mr. Velosa simply replied: "Samantha Cameron [wife of Conservative leader David Cameron] works in fashion." (She is the creative director of luxury stationer Smythson of Bond Street.)

Even as it seeks to compete on par with New York, Milan and Paris, London still holds a unique position in the world of fashion. The city, with its melting pot of nationalities and strong street culture, has always been seen as a place of possibility and ideas. Precisely because of the dearth of strong commercial interests at the shows, freedom of design has flourished, producing often outrageous looks that eventually trickle down in altered forms to mainstream fashion. This year saw American designer Jeremy Scott, in his London debut, present a collection inspired by "The Flintstones," with jagged hems, one-shoulder dresses and cartoonish cave prints. And Mr. Schwab turned out thoughtful and thought-provoking designs that mixed and matched pieces from different eras to produce an endless assortment of combinations.

London will have to find a balance between its commercial ambitions and its creative freedom—something the fashion industry has struggled with for years—if it is to move forward. But this week, the city was able to show off both strengths to an attentive fashion audience.

From The Runway To Your Laptop

Story from the Wall Street Journal

At the D&G runway show in Milan last week, the chief executives of Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman were relegated to second-row and third-row seats. In front of them, sitting primly in the first row, was Federico Marchetti, chief executive of online retailer Yoox.com .

The moment—coming as the super-sexy women's styles for next spring pranced down Milan's runways—marked a shake-up in an ultra-hierarchical world. The privileged treatment of a digital-media figure showed that luxury fashion is ready to introduce styles to the public in new ways—new, at least, to this old-fashioned industry.

Front rows are reserved for those most important to a brand's success—celebrities, important retailers and magazine editors. In past years, Mr. Marchetti sometimes borrowed tickets to shows from other guests. But in the past year, Yoox has expanded its business of creating online stores for luxury brands such as D&G, the casual ready-to-wear line from Dolce & Gabbana, and for Jil Sander—whose site launched just today. And this season, Mr. Marchetti has actually been invited to too many shows. "I don't have time anymore," he said at a party thrown by Versace in Milan.

The warm welcome extends to bloggers. While the New York shows have been inviting some bloggers for a few seasons now, many of Europe's luxury houses have been slower to allow bloggers into the shows. But two days after the D&G event, at a show for the high-end Dolce & Gabbana line, four surprised bloggers found themselves seated in coveted spots near the queen of fashion, Vogue editor Anna Wintour. One of them, Tommy Ton of JakandJil.com, could hardly believe he'd made it into one of Milan's hottest shows. "A season ago I had to wait patiently outside for arrivals and exits, and now I'm sitting here," he blogged from his seat, on a laptop provided by Dolce & Gabbana.

Luxury brands have long been leery of the pedestrian Internet, a place where consumers coldly compare prices while forgoing attentive service. This was OK for Lands' End, maybe, but not for Lanvin. After all, what woman would buy a $2,600 dress without first trying it on? But online luxury sites like Net-a-Porter.com proved that many women would do just that. Now, Yoox—which says it plans to take itself public on Italy's stock exchange in coming months—is running online stores for brands including Bally, Valentino, Pucci, and Marni.

This season, Twitter and Facebook are littered with fashion brands—including Louis Vuitton and Burberry—testing how social-media sites might benefit them. At the shows in Europe, audience members can be seen typing the digital messages known as tweets into their iPhones and BlackBerries as the models sashay down the runway. A number of brands—including Dolce & Gabbana and Burberry—have tried streaming their shows live on the Internet. Alexander McQueen will live-stream his show from Paris next week.

Of course, many brands remain leery. Etro, for instance, hasn't yet pursued blogging or social-media outlets, preferring to dress celebrities and sell its vividly colorful designs in bricks-and-mortar stores, according to a person familiar with the brand's strategy. But the person added, "Perhaps in the near future it will be inevitable." Other Etro staffers couldn't be reached for comment.

With 30 employees working on new media, Dolce & Gabbana is wholehearted. Stefano Gabbana—the tall, dark, 46-year-old half of the design duo—believes the Internet is the only way to reach people in their 20s. "It's the future. How many young customers don't read newspapers—they read blogs!" he says in his Milan office, whose walls are lined with leopard wallpaper. (The print matches the leopard print of his Vespa, which is parked on the sidewalk outside.)

Mr. Gabbana concedes that he and his partner, Domenico Dolce, are feeling their way along. "Domenico doesn't have a computer—just his mobile phone," he says. "But Domenico has—how you call them?" He wiggles his index fingers above his head like antennae, indicating Mr. Dolce's sensitivity to new ideas. It was Mr. Dolce who told his partner about Yoox.

What's more, Mr. Gabbana feels the Internet offers the possibility of talking directly to customers. "You are a filter," Mr. Gabbana tells me sternly. His experience with several recent scandals—such as an ad campaign banned in several countries—has increased his appreciation of this opportunity.

In December, he asked Kerry Olsen to edit a new online magazine for the company. The magazine, called "Swide"—a made-up word meaning, sort of, wider than wide—is mostly self-promotional now, but Mr. Gabbana has a short list of rival designers he wants to write about, including Peter Som, Graeme Black and Rodarte. Ms. Olsen says she is now receiving offers from other designers to create similar online magazines.

Dolce & Gabbana decided to go beyond live-streaming their runway last weekend and videotaped the entire scene from multiple angles. Cameras were everywhere—on the street, on the runway recording guests taking their seats, and backstage, showing Mr. Dolce inspecting each model head to toe in the line-up. In addition to the Web, all this activity was blasted onto 28 video screens in the theater where the show was held.

Backstage after the show, blogger Bryan Boy, who resides in Manila, savored his access. "Dolce & Gabbana is really pushing the limits," he said, noting that he's attending other shows this season, but rarely in the front row. "Marni gave me standing," he said, referring to an invitation that requires a guest to stand at the back of the room.

Some retailers downplay the significance of the seating arrangements. "In reality, the configuration of the space allows all to see well and in my opinion, other than people's egos, it is not a big deal," says Gerald Barnes, CEO of Neiman Marcus Direct.

But deciding whose ego to boost is a key signifier at the shows. If not, why give space to bloggers, who are, after all, just online filters?

Mr. Gabbana says he would "love" to start tweeting himself. But an adviser has said it's "too dangerous. He never knows what I might say."