LONDON Monochrome dresses with bold bursts of color and dashes of feathers and fur kicked off London Fashion Week on Friday as designers showcased elegant and minimalist creations for Autumn/Winter 2013.
Blacks, whites and grays formed the base palette for the collections that hit the runway on the London leg of the international fashion circuit, but outfits were spiced up with splashes of neon and exotic motifs.
PPQ, formed from fashion duo Amy Molyneaux and Percy Parker, showcased lime green outerwear and a hand-painted surrealist print before eveningwear of black velvet gowns with feathered cuffs swept down the catwalk.
"I was looking at doing a print that was a bit more freestyle this season, so I delved into surrealist shapes that weren't so regimented," Molyneaux told Reuters.
One of the big four catwalk fixtures alongside Paris, New York and Milan, London Fashion Week is best known as a cradle for cutting-edge talent and avant-garde trends.
Monochrome dominated other collections including that of British designer Zoe Jordan, who opened Fashion Week.
Jordan, an architect by training, said Italian cathedrals and the urban skyline of Hong Kong inspired the sharp silhouettes and metallic finishes of her designs.
"What we are trying to do is that nonchalant glamour, it's a very London thing, you know, the girl who doesn't try too hard," Jordan told Reuters after the show.
Jordan praised London Fashion Week for nurturing new talent.
The city's art and design schools have been a treasure trove for fashion talent, producing designers such as John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and a raft of others.
"London really stands out as a fashion week because they are trying to help support younger designers and find emerging talent. It's not just about praising the big guys, they're looking for the next big thing," Jordan said.
London blends its up-and-coming names with veteran designers like Vivienne Westwood in a semi-annual burst of creativity to entice recession-weary consumers back into shops.
The direct value of the British fashion industry to the United Kingdom's $2.5 trillion economy is 21 billion pounds ($32.60 billion), the British Fashion Council (BFC) said.
Jean-Pierre Braganza, a graduate of London's Central Saint Martins fashion school, looked east with his tribal collection, dominated by geometric paneling and eastern designs reminiscent of Chinese dragon shapes in navy and grey.
Burnt pumpkin offset fashion duo Fyodor Golan's collection of black, ivory, adorned with baroque sketches or embellished with beads.
Skirts and dresses were subtly sexy keeping thighs and chests covered while showing off shoulders and the nape of the neck.
"For us it's all about sexuality - exploring, showing it but not in a perverse way - just going for it," Fyodor Podgorny, who shares the label with Golan Frydman, said of London Fashion Week.
Contrasts of color and texture also starred in London-based Turkish designer Bora Aksu's collection, which drew inspiration from the opulence of the roaring Twenties.
Models floated down the runway in leather corsets, loose shift dresses with high lace collars and cropped jackets in dove grays and bright fuchsias.
"The whole idea of the Twenties is this contrast," Aksu, who has dressed Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller told Reuters.
"There is this structure (to the clothes) but with it is such floatiness and dreaminess, like a fairytale kind of mood," he said.
Sheer capes were layered over fitted leather dresses, knitted jumpers were paired with sheepskin jackets and crochet and lace details were fused onto silky separates.
"I just love the way that he used all my favorite materials in one outfit. It's just so elegant and also really fun," said British singer Kate Nash from the front row of Aksu's show.
Looking ahead, the spotlight will shine on American designer Tom Ford, who will be showcasing his womenswear on the catwalk for the first time in London, having previously limited viewings to select fashion insiders and editors of glossy magazines.
Singer Rihanna will add a touch of A-list glamour on Saturday with the launch of her first clothing line with British high street retailer River Island, one of the 56 catwalk shows taking place over the five-day event.
($1 = 0.6441 British pounds)
(Additional reporting by Katharina Urban-Oberberg, Dasha Afanasieva and Li-mei Hoang, editing by Paul Casciato and Michael Roddy)