London Fashion Week kicks off 5 days of shows; sun peeks out

LONDON (AP) — The catwalks are prepped, the models have jetted in — and even the fickle British weather cooperated for once as London Fashion Week kicked off.

The sun came out Friday — briefly at least — as the fashion brigade arrived in the British capital for five days of parties and runway shows featuring the latest designs from labels including Burberry, Vivienne Westwood, Topshop Unique and Erdem.

One of this week’s most anticipated displays is from Alexander McQueen, which is moving its show from Paris to London — the hometown of the brand’s late designer — for the first time in over a decade on Sunday. The switch is a major feather in London’s cap as it competes with Paris, Milan and New York for fashion’s finest shows.

Also returning to the bi-annual event is heritage leather goods brand Mulberry, which is unveiling its first collection under new creative director Johnny Coca.

Here are some of the highlights from Day 1:

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FIZZY FUN AT FYODOR GOLAN

Minimalists, look away now.

Fyodor Golan doesn’t do understated, and its Friday show was a riot of bright neons, clashing shiny fabrics, comically giant frills and prints inspired by themes as diverse as Coca-Cola and the Renaissance.

The design duo sent models strutting down the catwalk in satin coats and dresses printed with blown-up, classic Coca-Cola ads, while others wore pieces featuring Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.” Among the outfits: Neon purple patterned tights worn with silver brogues, huge pink dots on an olive velvet dress, and oversized gold frills adorning a pair of jeans.

Wearable everyday attire is not really the brief here: It’s fun and humorous, and an excellent testament to London’s eclectic fashion scene.

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BORA AKSU DOES LITTLE BLACK RIDING HOOD

For the new season, Turkish-born designer Bora Aksu stuck to his signature romantic, folksy look but injected the clothes with a much darker, gothic vibe.

Held in a historic church with a theatrical black-and-white checkerboard floor, Aksu’s show featured frilly hoods and lots of crochet and lace in black, burgundy and plum.

Models wore familiar Aksu silhouettes including high-neck blouses with flouncy sleeves and box-pleat skirts and some sugary pink thrown in. The demure look, however, was toughened up with knee-high lace-up boots, leather elbow gloves and smoldering eye makeup. Voluminous fur coats and trims and a flash of bare shoulder here and there added grown-up appeal.

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ANTI-FUR PROTESTERS STEAL THE SHOW

Fashion weeks always attract a colorful cast of characters — and on Friday several almost-nude, gas mask-wearing activists stole the limelight from the big fashion houses even before the shows started.

The models, who wore barely more than “fur is toxic” signs despite London’s February chill, were protesting the use of fur clothing and fur accessories on the streets outside the main show venue in London’s buzzing Soho district.

Security guards tried to move them away, but that didn’t stop the protesters from attracting a huge crowd of photographers and curious bystanders.

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PAUL COSTELLOE BRINGS BACK THE BABYDOLL

Thigh high leggings, leather elbow gloves and black ankle boots set the tone for Paul Costelloe’s catwalk show, which featured the return of his trademark babydoll dresses.

He showed his usual playful touch, easily mixing old and new, shaping some models with dresses designed with exterior corsets, and using sheer organza with lace to dramatic effect. Some outfits played with tartan patterns, others used jacquards. Long elegant gowns with red and black brocade gave some ensembles a classic touch, while others — like black harem pants paired with a sheer flowery top — were there to shock and surprise.

He’s still masterful at giving new shapes to coats and dresses made in London with the most traditional of fabrics. The result is something fresh, but clearly top quality and built to last.

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