London Fashion Week opens with memorial to Louise Wilson

London Fashion Week opened Friday on a sombre note, as Kanye West and Victoria Beckham joined some of the leading lights of the British industry at a memorial to inspirational tutor Louise Wilson.

In honour of Wilson's passion for riding, a model wearing a black top hat, veil, jacket and trailing skirt by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen stood guard on a horse outside St Paul's Cathedral as 1,300 guests mourned inside.

The catwalk schedule was suspended for the morning to remember the straight-talking 52-year-old, who was director of the fashion course Central Saint Martins (CSM) college for 12 years until her death last May. Wilson's alumni read like a roll call of London's most talented designers, from the late McQueen to Stella McCartney, and many joined the family and friends in paying tribute.

London Fashion Week honors Louise Wilson

Former students Christopher Kane, Louise Goldin, Simone Rocha and Roksanda Illincic all spoke at the ceremony, which was also attended by designer Roland Mouret, milliner Stephen Jones and Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet.

As well as those who launched their own labels, countless other Wilson graduates went on to staff the studios of the world's big fashion houses. Alber Elbaz, the creative director of Lanvin who said the students Wilson sent him were "always the best", gave an address at the service. "The wonderful thing about Louise was her ability to pick people and to train them," Suzy Menkes, international editor of Vogue, told AFP. "She was tough, she wasn't an easy person, but the designers now say they were so pleased that she brought them out and made them themselves." In the evening many of the guests will head to the graduate show by current Central Saint Martins students. "These are the last we'll ever see that have been picked by Louise Wilson herself so I think that will also be a very emotional moment," Menkes said.

CSM, which also counts John Galliano among its alumni, is the only college to have a London Fashion Week show and is crucial to the city's reputation as the place to find new talent. Many of them leave as they grow more successful but more and more are returning as London's reputation as a commercial as well as creative centre grows.

Fashion now contributes 26 billion pounds (40 billion dollars) directly to the UK economy, according to new figures from the British Fashion Council, up from 21 billion pounds in 2009. About 5,000 buyers and journalists are expected for the five-day event, which falls between New York and Milan fashion weeks, and kicks off with shows by South Korean-born designers J. JS Lee and Eudon Choi.

London Fashion Week opens with memorial to Louise Wilson

This season will see the hotly anticipated return of Gareth Pugh, the avant-garde designer who also honed his skills under Wilson's tutelage. Famed for his conceptual, otherworldly clothes, often inspired by clubwear, Pugh normally shows in Paris but is returning to his native country to mark 10 years since he launched his eponymous label.

A retrospective of his work is currently running at an exhibition space in Covent Garden. After last season's one-off presentation in New York, which saw dancers writhing in a cavernous, fog-filled space, much is expected of Pugh's show on Saturday night at the V&A museum.

He is among 78 designers showing on schedule this season, including J.W. Anderson on Saturday, Topshop Unique, Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood Red Label on Sunday and Burberry Prorsum and Christopher Kane on Monday. (AFP)

 

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