LONDON, Feb. 22, 2010— -- Ten days after the passing of British designer Alexander McQueen, a stunned fashion world has gathered for the traditional autumn/winter collections in London. McQueen's suicide at age 40 shocked the fans of his clothing label, as well as the many friends he made over his career of more than 20 years.
"He was probably technically the most creative designer. The construct of his clothes was incredible. It wasn't just about fairy tales, it was about something a bit stronger and longer-lasting, and we'll see his influence for a long time."
That thought was echoed by Brix Smith-Start, a singer and owner of London's Start boutique. "The mood is good but there is a cloud of sadness," she told ABC News. "But life goes on, fashion goes on, he would have wanted it to."
McQueen had often drawn on the macabre to inspire his collections. "I've always been fascinated by the Victorian period of death where they used to take pictures of the dead," he said when he showed off his spring/summer 2010 collection.
"Everything has an end. The cycle of life is a positive thing because it gives room for new things to come." McQueen was devastated by the death of his mother earlier this month, and took his life the day before her funeral.
On the board dedicated to him, the fashion community posted condolence messages. Among the notes of sadness and shock, some winked at the designer's talent.
"How will I look good without you?" reads one.
"Skulls are such an important part of my life because of you," read another, alluding to McQueen's trademark print.
Some expressed their gratitude for his work and some hailed his legacy: "McQueen is Dead. Long live McQueen!"
But despite the undertone of sadness at this year's London Fashion Week, it was hard to escape the head-spinning creative buzz. On Sunday, hundreds of fashionistas rushed to see British designer Richard Nicoll -- who, at 32, is already a veteran of London Fashion Week -- deliver simple checked skirts and ample trousers.
The same crowd stopped short of a stampede at the doors of Matthew Williamson's show. Williamson, also a Briton, offered block-color wool coats and used a much darker palette of colors than usual, which won the approval of British Vogue's Sarah Harris. "I love Matthew's fur pieces and this rich sweet chili color on his gowns," she told us.
A Head-Spinning Marathon
With venues scattered around The Strand, conspicuously-dressed fashion insiders hurried their way through London traffic, flagging cabs to get from one show to the next. Although the fall season is more relaxed than the star-studded spring/summer season, a few celebrities joined fashion editors on the front row, and the appearance of Janet Jackson threatened to steal the show at Todd Lynn's show.
But the Canadian designer's hunting-style ensembles and leather jackets commanded everyone's attention. "His collection was very spare and muted," said Chamberlain, the Conde Nast editor. "It feels like a new look is emerging."
Lynn was exhausted but pleased. "It was good," he told ABC News. "You just end up working day and night for months and months. The show lasts six minutes, you take a couple of days' break and go back and do it all over again."
Savannah Miller and her actress sister Sienna Miller delivered wearable looks, great for any girl's night out, and followed the trend of presenting their collection off the catwalk. Their models instead walked about and chatted casually on platforms, posing for photographers and answering journalists' questions about the garments.
"It was just a more honest format," Savannah Miller told ABC News. "When we did the catwalk, we were measured against hot-shot designers, and that's not what we were after."
The final show of the day introduced a new wave of talent, with students at Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design presenting their graduation pieces. Students there, with fresh new looks to send down the runway, paused to pay homage to their school's late alumnus, Alexander McQueen.