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THE FROCK & ROLLY YEARS; London Fashion Week celebrates quarter of a century of cutting-edge style, stars and controversy.

Byline: By Annie Brown

IT'S the showcase for Britain's top designers and has launched the careers of some of the biggest names in fashion. London Fashion Week, the brainchild of Lynne Franks, above, is now an institution

STYLES change but, at London Fashion Week, shock tactics are always on trend.

This week, LFW marks its 25th birthday, no doubt celebrated by the many designers it helped to launch, including Alexander McQueen, Matthew Williamson and John Galliano.

Before LFW, British talent had few places to showcase wares.

Luckily, the likes of Jasper Conran and Katharine Hamnett knew Lynne Franks.

The formidable PR is known these days for her stint on I'm A Celebrity ... but, in the Eighties, she was highly connected - and was even the inspiration for Absolutely Fabulous's Edina.

Lynne practically created LFW when she organised a fashion tent at the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington in 1984.

Before she got involved, there wasn't even catwalk space.

So she organised sponsorship, created the British Fashion Council and the British Fashion Awards.

Lynne said: "The designers were all clients or friends of mine and it was clear there was a need for it, so I said I would sort it out.

"London was always a lot more creative than the other shows - not as commercial maybe, but a lot edgier. I have been out of the business for 20 years, but I'm still proud of what it did for the careers of some of our best designers."

In New York, shows are about commercialism, while in Paris and Milan, it's sex appeal and snobbery.

But London always had its own, usually controversial, style.

Now, LFW is bi-annual and generates more than pounds 100million each season in global business and editorials worth more than pounds 50million.

For 10 years from 1989, Red Or Dead were one of its star turns.

From humble beginnings at Camden Market in London, Wayne and Geraldine Hemingway worked up to 16 stalls and a label so cool it had to be shown in LFW - and eventually sold for millions.

Wayne said: "It was a whole new experience for us. We had never heard of London Fashion Week. The whole concept of doing a cat walk show was bizarre.

"We didn't use models, but friends or people we met in clubs. We wouldn't have been able to afford to use models.

"We even did the music ourselves. It was putting on a show like amateur dramatics and it was great fun."

In the early days, all the designers recruited hairdressers and make-up artists in return for a credit in the show, while encouraging the fashion media along proved difficult.

Wayne recalled: "Fashion was seen as a real Cinderella industry by the media.

"They thought we were a bunch of funny people just putting on a show. It wasn't seen as having economic importance."

Then, in the Nineties, there Eighties, with the era of the supermodel, fat cheques and then the uber-skinny girls such as Kate Moss.

But this age of celebrity models made showcasing a struggle for many designers.

Wayne said: "It became less about clothes and more about the models. You were expected to spend more and more."

Red Or Dead had their own headline-grabbing methods.

Instead of supermodel Naomi Campbell, they hired her mum.

Instead of a top fashion model, they used glamour model Sam Fox.

And rather than using a waif, they put Tiny from indie band Ultrasound on the catwalk with "unique" written in lipstick across his huge belly.

Wayne said: "It was always about getting the killer picture that got you into the media and got your name out there-and we were as guilty as anyone."

And they weren't alone.

Vivienne Westwood caused a stormby choosing 13-year-old girls to model her provocative creations in 1997.

McQueen's shows were often downright offensive.

His first, Highland Rape, showed Battered-looking models in ripped dresses staggering down the catwalk.

Wayne said: "This celebrity culture has dumbed things down.

"Today, it's less about doing it on your wits and more about who your contacts are."

Now, not even fashion is escaping the credit crunch, with ostentation looking tacky for even the top houses.

Maria Grachvogel - the British designer whose fans include Victoria Beckham and Angelina Jolie - is among those who think less is more.

Instead of LFW, she will host her collection at a private members club.

However, Wayne believes recession can be ablessing for creativity.

He said: "It gets rid of those who are bloated on excess.

"Those with wit and edge will survive.

"The new status symbol will be how thrifty can you be and still look good - and that's the way that it should be."

'Suddenly, designers were courted at No10 and by Princess Diana'

CAPTION(S):

2009 ADRIANA SKLENARIKOVA; 2003 NAOMI CAMPBELL; 1997 KATE MOSS; 1997 SOPHIE DAHL; 1995 KYLIE MINOGUE; 2001 JODIE KIDD; AND FOR SOME WILD STYLE.. 1987 FASHION ICONS: Jean-Paul Gaultier, Katharine Hamnett and Jasper Conran were early successes at London Fashion week. The event also showcases designers' strangest creations and, as well as top models and stars, left, has a history of using unusual clothes horses, below
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 18, 2009
Words:856
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