Nurturing Talents, London Becomes Fashion Hot Spot

Design by LIDIJA&DEJAN, finalist at Fashion Fringe Covent Garden 2009ABC
Design by LIDIJA&DEJAN, finalist at Fashion Fringe Covent Garden 2009

London Fashion Week is all grown up. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the British fashion event of the year has reached international acclaim and reaped the reward of a quarter-century of nurturing young designers.

A decisive sign of success is the return of iconic British labels Burberry, Matthew Williamson, Pringle of Scotland and Jonathan Saunders to their homeland. After years of showing in New York, Paris or Milan to grab the attention of fashion editors and buyers, they will be presenting their spring-summer collections in London this year.

"London is my favorite city to show in," British designer Matthew Williamson told the London Daily Telegraph. After showing his collections in New York for seven years, he is bringing his label back on home turf. "Logistically, it's easier for us as we're based here [in New York] but, consistently, London is a hotbed of new talent and it's exciting to be part of that."

The British capital has built its strength on generating new talents and promoting young designers. Already dotted with some of the best fashion schools in the world -- Central Saint Martins and the London College of Fashion, to name but a couple -- the city and its fashion industry have systematically backed initiatives like NEWGEN, which this year allowed 25 designers to exhibit their creations in Somerset House, the main venue of London Fashion Week, and Fashion Forward, which gives a financial prize and business support to three selected designers.

With opportunities looming, young creative talents are flocking to London to get their big break, and a chance to showcase their work in front the cream of crop. Serbian designers Lidija Danilovic and Dejan Agatonovic, whose label Lidija & Dejan was one of four finalists at Fashion Fringe Covent Garden this year, were among them. "London is the best playground for new designers," Danilovic told ABC News. "I don't know of any other countries like that."

Milan, New York Make Way for London Fashion Week

A competition in which 1,300 labels competed for four spots, Fashion Fringe culminates in a catwalk standoff and the chance for the winner to receive about $164,000. The finalists benefit from a year-long mentoring by industry insiders such as Donatella Versace and Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-porter. "They spent time with us, and gave us a more mature optic on fashion," Danilovic told ABC News. "That's the privilege of a Fashion Fringe Covent Garden finalist. You can't get that anywhere else."

Former winners Basso & Brooke and Erdem are now fully emerged labels. Christopher Kane and Mario Schwab, previous Fashion Forward winners, were among the most sought-after shows this year. In brief, those fostered by the local fashion industry are generating the London buzz, prompting big British names established abroad to consider relocation.

So London was welcome into the big leagues this year. New York and Milan agreed to shift their fashion weeks to allow London six full days in the fashion schedule.

That is six days for London to pull out all the stops. Still, some quintessential British names have stayed away: Alexander McQueen, Giles Deacon, and John Galliano stayed in Paris. Even Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney are showing their main collections abroad. But that isn't stopping London from becoming the fourth fashion capital.

London Fashion week, which started this weekend, ends Wednesday evening.