London Fashion Week

London Fashion Week kicks off in style with a swinging collection by Paul Costelloe

Paul Costelloe opened London Fashion Week today with a very wearable collection of swing coats and shift dresses.

Twenty-four years on from his first appearance at the event his autumn/winter designs stayed loyal to his established customer base.

Colours were bright but not garish; terracotta and pink were fused with gold and silver brocade.

A champion of workwear, the Irish designer used a dark brown tweed to create a series of skirts and jackets all finished with an exposed zip.

'A safe bet' is how Paul Costelloe sees his regular role firing the starting gun for London Fashion Week.

'You can put your money on it. I'll do a collection that will be quite nice and on time,' he said.

And true to form, Paul Costelloe's collection was indeed quite nice, filled as it was with sweet swing-hemmed flared mini dresses and coats in thick brocades and knits.

Super high collars which many of the models hid behind added flamboyance to the wearable Park Avenue collection.

Costello said the credit crunch had given him 'the kick to move it on'.

'It's a time to be more aggressive and express yourself and be noticed,' he said.

His autumn/winter 2009 collection - Park Avenue - is inspired by New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

'It's got a touch of Jackie O definitely, but with a Costelloe handle,' he said.

The understated designer, who was born in Ireland but now lives in Putney, south west London, said he is 'reasonably pleased' with the tailored coats and dresses which make up the collection.

Costelloe's classic autumn palette of olive, grape, terracotta and the ever popular black is brightened by silver, gold and fuchsia.

'The shapes are very slightly A-line, a trapeze shape,' he said. 'It's quite kind to most people.

'They can still go to McDonald's and still enjoy wearing these shapes.

'Most of the girls I use have some shape. I want the skirts to sit on them. I don't want them to look gaunt and exhausted. I like people to look healthy.'

Although he has cut the number of models for today's show from more than a dozen to only 10 and admitted to being 'very careful' with this year's catwalk costs, Costelloe said business is strong with the wintry start to February helping sales of his current autumn/winter collection.

'I'm still showing about 40 outfits. They just have an extra change,' he said.

'I think people are looking at the material and much more they are looking for quality and something that maybe is an investment to some extent.

'But two months later, they will walk into a store and say 'I must have that'. That's women and that's why we love them.'

Paul Costelloe Autumn/Winter 2009/10 collection at London Fashion Week

The five-day schedule - London Fashion Week's 25th anniversary showcase - promises to be filled with all the usual glamour, despite the bleak economic climate.

The British Fashion Council (BFC), which organises fashion week, said designers were asked if they wanted to scale back their catwalk shows and replace them with less expensive presentations.

But most designers declared the catwalk shows must go on, and despite a handful of names who have pulled shows at the last minute, the London schedule is as packed as ever.

Extra drama prompted a collective gasp during British Fashion Council (BFC) chairman Harold Tillman's opening speech.

As he officially declared Fashion Week open, Mr Tillman said it would be the last time it would be hosted by the Natural History Museum. It will move to Somerset House, in central London, in September.

Mr Tillman said the new venue was "iconic and more central'. 'We plan to take London Fashion Week into a totally new era,' he said.