Photos: Dresses go flouncy, slinky at London Fashion Week

Photos: Dresses go flouncy, slinky at London Fashion Week
A model wears an outfit by designer Paul Costelloe during his show at London Fashion Week, in London, Friday, Sept. 17, 2010.(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
LONDON (AP) - Designer Paul Costelloe kicked off London Fashion Week on Friday by breaking with his old-school traditions, offering a brash, eye-catching show filled with short, flouncy dresses in soft colors.

Abstract checks and some diamond-shaped art deco styles completed the look. (View photos >>>)

Costelloe was the first to offer his vision for the spring and summer 2011 collections as fashionistas descended on Somerset House next to the River Thames for London's five-day, champagne-fueled extravaganza.

Costelloe usually opens fashion week with a somewhat sedate show emphasizing cut and quality, but he kicked it up Friday with a display described as "Tinkerbell-turned-party girl."

The short dresses included metallic weaves and twills that indeed twinkled in the spotlights, many featuring high waists and subtle pleats. A handful of floor-length dresses were topped by silvery metallic-style jackets with a space age look.

His playful mood was highlighted by his own outfit - Costelloe wore a jacket and tie with dark slacks, accented by white Converse sneakers.

His menswear was fanciful - few will opt for the sports jackets, pressed shorts and black patent leather shoes with dark socks a few models were wearing - but the crowd enjoyed the six young men in well-cut suits who strutted out near the end of the show.

Friday's schedule also included a last-minute addition dealing with environmentally friendly "sustainable" fashions to be shown at one of Prince Charles' residences.

Still ahead are a host of London favorites including Vivienne Westwood, who usually uses her Red Label show to push her environmental concerns; Christopher Bailey of Burberry, Stella McCartney, Paul Smith and others as the fashion focus shifts from New York to London.

The weekend will be marked by late-night parties for the fashion faithful, but the mood will turn solemn Monday when a memorial service will be held for Alexander McQueen, the celebrated designer who took his own life earlier this year.

The gatherings reflect the importance of fashion here. A recent report by Oxford Economics, commissioned by the British Fashion Council, said fashion is Britain's 15th largest industry, employing more than 800,000 people and contributing 21 billion pounds ($33 billion) a year to the economy.

London Fashion Week, according to the council, generates orders worth around 100 million pounds ($156 million).

Caroline Charles

Caroline Charles turned back the clock when she unveiled her spring and summer collection.

Her 1950s-style floral prints in silk and other fabrics were worn by models with their hair in tight buns and lips in bright red lipstick to capture the glamour of that era. Some of the evening wear used sequins and beads to dazzling effect.

The final long, swirling dress she presented was the most dramatic, suggesting cocktail parties and late night soirees. A pale leopard skin print dress with black gloves and a narrow black belt also caught the eye.

Many outfits included matching or contrasting gloves, some extending above the elbow, others cut very short. One floral dress had aqua colored gloves, and a retro black jacket was offset by long red gloves.

The collection also included Capri pants and boxy jackets.

Bora Aksu

Bora Aksu broke out the ruffles, frills, bows and drapery in a "more is more" avalanche of chiffon, mesh, brocade and satin. The color palette was muted as nudes stood among rich grays, navy and black, which was highlighted with sparkling metallics and a splash of raspberry red.

A loose sequin neck tie and a bow tie were the only masculine part of a collection made up mostly of mini-dresses and skirts.

"The collection had a new age feel about it. The graphic leggings and the patterns reminded me of a space ship," said Kimberly Mansfield of Lushique.com.

Maria Grachvogel

Maria Grachvogel's spring and summer collection was a minimalist celebration of female beauty, with long, unadorned dresses and models wearing naturally styled hair and very little makeup.

The pared-down silhouette had a fresh look as Grachvogel experimented with silver crepe catsuits and vivid prints. Some dresses in unusual colors like canary yellow and pale silver gave the collection a faraway feel set off by the jungle drums prominent on the soundtrack.

Many of the evening wear pieces were cut from a single piece of fabric that draped naturally over the body with a minimum of seams and decoration for deceptively simple, sensual look.