LONDON - Britons may be mourning the end of an exhilarating Olympic summer but the London party is just beginning for the fashion crowd.
Designers, buyers and fashion journalists are gearing up for a whirlwind series of catwalk shows and cocktail soirees at London Fashion Week. Organizers hope this season's extravaganza, which begins Friday and features more than 60 runway previews for spring 2013, can build on the buzz generated by the Olympics.
"This summer has shown London in its best light, highlighting the city's creativity and unique DNA," said Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council. "September is set to be an extremely exciting season in what has been an amazing year for the U.K."
London's biannual fashion week features five days of women's wear catwalk shows, some menswear previews and dozens of exhibitions from emerging clothes and accessory designers. The event attracts buyers from around the world and is expected to generate some 100 million pounds ($160 million) in orders.
British fashion was a talking point even before the games when Stella McCartney designed the Olympic uniforms for Team GB (Great Britain) — a minimalistic reimagining of the Union Jack.
Other British designers including Alexander McQueen and Victoria Beckham received a tribute at the closing ceremony for the Olympics, when Lily Cole, Kate Moss and other top models sporting shimmery gold dresses strutted down a catwalk in the Olympic Stadium.
London Fashion Week is a more eclectic affair than its cousins in New York, Milan and Paris, featuring celebrity-studded shows by seasoned big names like Burberry and Vivienne Westwood as well as a crop of exciting younger designers, including Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Mary Katrantzou and Roksanda Illincic.
"London is a melting pot of design talent and 2012 feels like a very exciting time to be showing in the city," said Ruth Chapman, co-founder of Matches, a high-end British fashion retailer.
One of this season's most keenly watched catwalks will be a comeback show by Philip Treacy, the celebrity milliner. Treacy, who has made fanciful hats for Sarah Jessica Parker, Madonna, Lady Gaga and Britain's royals, is returning for the first time in almost a decade.
Also returning to London is Preen, a popular British label that has shown successfully in New York for the past six years.
Chapman offered some tips on what styles to look out for in London.
"The trouser suit for day and evening, a move away from the platform heel, and a continuation of the trend for sport luxe," she said.
Fashion Week also boosts London's competitive restaurant and nightlife scene — the models may be wafer-thin but the journalists, buyers and designers around them have been known to enjoy a meal or two, often accompanied by fine wine.
London Fashion Week will be followed by shows in Milan and Paris.