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London Fashion Week opens under shadow of novel coronavirus

LONDON: London Fashion Week kicks off Friday with more than 60 shows over five days, including much-anticipated offerings from Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger, but with participation dented by the novel coronavirus epidemic.

Organisers the British Fashion Council (BFC) said it expected attendance “to be significantly reduced” due to the travel restrictions imposed as a result of the outbreak.

“We will make every effort to ensure that the shows reach audiences that aren’t able to travel and are exploring additional partnerships,” BFC’s Chief Executive Caroline Rush said.

The COVID-19 epidemic — as the World Health Organization has formally named it — has so far claimed around 1,400 lives and infected nearly 60,000 people.

The vast majority have been in China, the source of the outbreak, but it has also spread to countries around the world, including Britain where nine cases have been identified.

Organisers said they will be carrying out “deep cleans” every evening at the event’s central London hub, while anti-bacterial hand sanitisers will be made available throughout the venue.

Despite the virus overshadowing the build-up, leading figures in British fashion will present their women’s autumn/winter 2020/21 collections.

They include the queens of punk rock culture Vivienne Westwood, on Friday, and Pam Hogg, on Sunday.

Meanwhile Vienna-based designer Petar Petrov will be among the newcomers showcasing at Fashion East, London’s pioneering non-profit initiative championing emerging talent.

– Improve image –

After largely deserting New York Fashion Week in recent years, Tommy Hilfiger returns to the British capital to unveil his fourth “TommyxLewis” collection, which has a strong focus on sustainability.

With climate change concerns paramount, an increasing number of designers are choosing to use renewable materials and support local crafts.

That trend is set to feature in the collections of Mulberry, Phoebe English, and Johnstons of Elgin — all with a strong production presence in England.

Under pressure from environmental activists such as Extinction Rebellion, which has previously held protests there, London organisers are trying to improve the image of the event and promote good practices.

They include a “switch to blue” campaign to bring the fashion industry together “to lead in ambitious environmental action”, as well as a collaboration with designer Richard Malone for a reusable canvas bag.

Meanwhile on Tuesday young designer Rosh Mahtani, founder of the jewellery brand Alighieri, will receive the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, which recognises the role fashion plays in diplomacy, culture and communications.

In its third year, the BFC praised her “ethical approach and commitment to local manufacturing” while commending Mahtani as “an inspiration for many young British designers”.

A Londoner who grew up in Zambia, where her parents who are of Indian origin ran a business, she produces gold-plated jewellery inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy.

The inaugural Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation will be announced on Monday, almost a year to the day after the death of the star designer.

Over the weekend, London Fashion Week will also partly open to the public.

Fashionistas willing to stump up £135 ($176, 162 euros) can get access to the catwalk shows of Temperley London on Saturday and De La Vali on Sunday.

Those taken by what they see will even have the chance to buy pieces at a dedicated post-show pop-up sale.

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