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British Duds Show No Dud

London Fashion Week kicked off on February 14, featuring more than 40 catwalk shows over the following five days, all guided by a new and business-savvy chairman on a mission to generate pounds and attention for British designers.

Stuart Rose took over as chairman of the British Fashion Council (BFC) in December, a year after he left his job as boss of Arcadia Group, whose stable of well-known high-street shops includes Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton.

Rose is hoping to marry his years of business acumen with the UK's reputation for launching cutting-edge designers to guarantee London Fashion Week's future beside the design world's better-funded productions in Paris, New York and Milan.

"I'm a businessman and I come from a background in retail, and one of the things I hope I can do is bring a little bit of business experience to the BFC," said Rose.

"One of the resources we are short of is money and I'm looking at ways we can put (London Fashion Week) on a sounder financial footing," he said. "Quite often we're operating on a hand-to-mouth basis which is uncomfortable."

British designers sell about 700 million pounds (US$1.33 billion) worth of clothing annually and the UK clothing and textile industry is worth more than 10 billion pounds (US$18.9 billion) to the country, employing around 225,000 people.

The government pumps about 400,000 pounds (US$756,000) into London Fashion Week which featured only 15 shows a decade ago a mere fraction of what it needs to thrive, according to Rose.

"We're grateful and thankful for what the government does, yet I must say in the bigger picture it's not very much money," he said.

Rather than going to the government cap in hand, Rose wants Britain's clothing retailers to put something back into the industry and help fund the next Stella McCartney, John Galliano or Alexander McQueen.

"We've got terrific talent coming through and we need to invest in them and champion them," Rose said.

While many of Britain's top designers jet off to nourish their talents in continental Europe or North America, London Fashion Week will feature enough sexy and sharp tailoring to satisfy even the most demanding buyers.

Actress Sadie Frost and designer Jemima French displayed their Frost French Autumn/Winter 2004 collection on Sunday.

Monday featured provocative Polish-born designer Arkadius and the very British but always exotic Paul Smith with his Paul Smith Women.

London Fashion Week a twice yearly shop window also features dozens of off-calendar shows by the best and hungriest up-and-coming designers.

(China Daily February 21, 2004)

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