Inside Somerset House at LFW

From the moment you enter Somerset House, you are suddenly very aware of just how exclusive the fashion world is. There’s a hubbub of activity everywhere you go: from the various Blog bars where journos are tapping away on their laptops to the constant snapping of cameras. And of course, everyone is impeccably, incredibly dressed.

Those who are so painfully stylish that they look like they’ve stepped straight off the couture catwalk can barely walk five steps before being stopped by photographers. Not that they mind of course – you can’t leave the house wearing a bright orange fur draped over your shoulders and not expect to be photographed during LFW. They gladly stop and pose, pouting with that air of arrogance that makes you feel smaller than your Louboutins. Once you’ve got your shot though, a couple will break a smile, and you realise that they’re not so different from you after all – they just know how to dress very, very well.

Somerset House is home to the London Fashion Week Exhibition, which gives a space for both well-known and not-so-well-known designers to exhibit some of their new collection. One of the most exciting is the BFC NEWGEN exhibition, showcasing some of the best emerging British fashion talent, as chosen by the British Fashion Council. From the incredibly intricate embellished jackets by James Long to Sister by Sibling’s loud and innovative knits, there’s plenty to catch your eye. Numerous well-known designers have come through NEWEN’s ranks, from Alexander McQueen to Giles Deacon and the scheme has been sponsored by Topshop since 2002. To celebrate their decade of sponsorship, Topshop has launched a series of exclusively-designed charity T-shirts (£30) and sweatshirts (£40) by everyone from Christopher Kane to Mary Katrantzou (available online and at Oxford Circus).

Somerset House is also the place to come for accessories – jewellery and hats don’t lend themselves too well to catwalk shows if you don’t have a clothing collection to show with them. Fiona Paxton was showing some incredible tribal jewellery, while William Chambers’ floral creations make him the milliner-to-watch in the future. Tatty Devine and Les Néréides had some bold animal-inspired pieces and the unusual product of the week has to go to Paperself, who has just launched a set of London-skyline papercut eyelashes.

It was a beautiful sunny day at Somerset House yesterday, and the International show began at 1:30pm. I lingered with hope near the doors, but the bouncers were very clearly present and asking to see everyone’s invites. I could but gaze wistfully past them towards the trays of champagne and rows of gift bags, and decided to console myself with the press room where I found a much younger crowd, all clearly in the same boat as me, either tweeting, blogging or photo editing on their Macs, replenishing their energy with Vitamin water and Lavazza lattes (all served skinny, natch).

For all those fraught fashion editors, there’s a Toni & Guy Blowout bar, offering free blow dries to keep everyone looking their best. Don’t think this is standard treatment though – LFW are renowned for their hospitality – other fashion weeks aren’t quite so generous. There’s even an afternoon tea (of sorts) served. Like moths to a flame, it seems even fashionistas can’t resist the lure of macarons, bread and cheese on a brisk winter afternoon. I overhear a definite model-type exclaiming, ‘What kind of food is it? Bread? I love bread!’ Wonders will never cease.

Photos by Paul McGhie

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