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How London became the world's fashion capital

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Hey, you stylish thing, you – you know our capital is a fashion epicentre. But what glamorous ingredients (and serious ones) made it thus?

The feverish frenzy of February’s London Fashion Week is now a distant memory.

The last remaining stubborn bits of glitter have long been prized out of the crevices of Somerset House and the capital’s stocks of coconut water have been replenished.

Designers all over the world are focusing on September’s S/S 14 shows and applications to schedule at the next LFW have already closed. The competition to get a place in the coveted line-up is as stiff as a Vivienne Westwood corset. But how does London compare on the global fashion scene? Is it up there with the best or do other cities have the cutting edge on the UK capital?

“We love London, we only launched on the first day of last season’s London Fashion Week, and so this season we were more established and relaxed and the atmosphere was just amazing,” says Natalie Brossard, co-founder of online boutique start-up LuxxLab.com. “Everyone is so positive and there is so much creativity.”

Natalie Brossard

Natalie Brossard, founder of LuxxLab.com

Luxx Lab is an ambitious project with an intended global reach, both in terms of its customers and suppliers. But while the business selects what it sees as the best designs from hotbeds of design around the world, the business is registered and run in London.

So why are international brands choosing London as their base? Many would argue the strength of the fashion schools here is a large factor. The sheer quantity and quality of fashion talent emerging as graduates here is a huge pull for many in the industry from buyers to the young designers themselves.

“London is a hotbed of innovators and trend makers with an incredible amount of creativity,” says Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council (BFC).

“In Britain we are lucky to be the home of the world’s best art and fashion colleges which have been known for developing design talent for this exciting global industry.  Many of the international students that study at these colleges chose to stay and develop businesses in London, contributing to our global reputation for innovation as well as contributing to the British economy.”

 The strength of London’s fashion education is often cited as being one of the reasons it has such a strong scene. Something which the well-travelled entrepreneurs behind Luxx Lab agree with.

“It is due in part to a combination of many factors coming together, it’s the culture, the fashion schools, the street style,” says Brossard. “I think once you have that kind of atmosphere where you don’t need to play it safe, it gives others that same confidence to be a bit braver, out there and edgier.”

London’s swathe of young talent wouldn’t be able to make such waves on the global catwalks if it wasn’t for the strength of the support system it has in the city. There are numerous initiatives which aim to give young designers help in various different ways. From Vauxhall Fashion Scout to Fashion Fringe to The BFC’s NewGen, young designers with talent can get the help they need.

“The British Fashion Council has developed a strong support pathway for talented emerging designer businesses,” says Rush.

“Over the past few years we have built on the successes of schemes such as BFC NewGen sponsored by Topshop to further support growth.  The UK is known for developing the world’s greatest talent pool of designers and we believe it is important to support that talent to develop strong global businesses.”

It’s not just the opinions of international fashion retailers and the somewhat biased British Fashion Council that thinks London is the fashion capital of the world. An annual poll by American analytics company Global Language Monitor has reported it to be the case also. Its list of the world’s most fashionable capitals put London in first position for the second consecutive year in 2012.

London’s continued place at the top has encouraged designers that would normally show in other cities to come to the UK capital. London Fashion Week welcomed a number of top designers to its stage this year including the ‘one-man’ fashion powerhouse that is Tom Ford as well as Mick Jagger’s girlfriend L’Wren Scott. It seems London Fashion Week has what others simply don’t.

“When you compare London Fashion Week to other fashion weeks it is really different, it is a very positive vibe. Everybody is welcoming,” says Anouchka Bala Luxx Lab’s other founding partner.

London has long has a reputation for breaking the mould. Alexander McQueen famously called it, “self-confident and fearless.” It’s this kind of atmosphere which encourages new talent to try something different.

“In London people are respectful, people are innovative and they take risks,” says Bala. “There really is an eclectic mix of people and I think it really helps that people feed off each other – it is more expressive, there is no one sticking to one particular style or trend, there is room for everybody and they are catering for everyone which is the way we want to be.”

“Fashion is art, you can’t play it too safe, you have to be willing to take risks with patterns and fabrics, that is definitely the reason London is one of the best,” adds Brossard.

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