Fashion world descends on London for McQueen homecoming

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The international fashion jamboree rolls into Britain on Friday for London Fashion Week, where iconic label Alexander McQueen will return to the catwalk for the first time in over a decade.

Among the 83 designers showcasing their Autumn/Winter 2016-2017 collections to media, buyers and front-row A-listers will be Burberry, Christopher Kane, Gareth Pugh, JW Anderson, Paul Smith, Topshop Unique and Vivienne Westwood.

British fashion and leather goods brand Mulberry, under the direction of new creative director Johnny Coca, will also make a return to the London catwalk for the first time since 2013.

Shows will be streamed live across Britain on 60 outdoor screens, including a giant one in London’s Piccadilly Circus, reaching a potential audience of 35 million, according to organisers.

Once the poor relation on the international fashion circuit, London has recently built a reputation for invention and creativity, buoyed by Britain’s growing fashion industry.

That rebellious spirit is set to be unleashed as designers mark the 40th anniversary of punk, which grew out of the London clothes shop run by Vivienne Westwood and her then boyfriend, Sex Pistols mastermind Malcolm McLaren. Punk’s grand dame is set to present her label’s latest collection on Sunday.

Designers were invited to reveal teasers of their collection on photo-sharing website Pinterest.

Westwood posted pictures of religious figures, knights and aristocratic paintings while others promised collections inspired by the British countryside, cubist paintings and birds in flight.

– Bowie tributes –

Israeli shoe brand Lux said it would pay tribute to late singer David Bowie, naming their collection after Bowie’s song “Moonage Daydream”.

Major British label Burberry already honoured the rock icon at last month’s men’s fashion week.

In a coup for the event, Alexander McQueen announced last year that it was relocating from Paris to London for its autumn/winter collection, and the show will take place on Sunday.

“We wanted to look at doing something different for the season,” said a spokesperson for the label.

Alexander McQueen himself, who committed suicide in 2010, was honoured last year with a retrospective at London’s V&A which went on to become the London design museum’s most visited exhibition of all time.

London Fashion Week’s seemingly unglamorous headquarters is a car park in the central Soho neighbourhood.

With the cars gone, the unusual venue will house hundreds of shoe, accessory and ready-to-wear designers displaying their new collections and a huge catwalk.

Other designers hire private spaces to put on their shows, with Burberry traditionally erecting a large tent within the grounds of Kensington Gardens.

The first London Fashion Week, held in 1971, was the brainchild of fashion PR guru Tony Porter, who thought it “ridiculous” that Paris and Milan hosted journalists and buyers twice a year, but that London didn’t.

The event’s rise has tracked Britain’s growing fashion industry, which now supports almost 800,000 jobs.

Sales of womenswear in Britain hit £27 billion ($38.5 billion, 34.5 billion euros) in 2015, a figure predicted to grow 23 percent by 2020.

The event follows on the heels of the New York version, with the fashion world shifting to Milan and then Paris next month.

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