LONDON Reuters - Designers took inspiration from nature, sportswear and eclectic pattern mixes for their London Fashion Week collections, offering an array of glamorous gowns and sleek casualwear heavy with hand-crafted details.
Burberry, Erdem and Marchesa showcased spring-summer collections that drew on the countryside -- plants, flowers and botany -- for their abstract prints, embroidery and lavishly embellished gowns.
"It's just a very romantic, feminine season and the idea of looking at the world through the joyous lens through all of the great clothes that we are seeing," U.S. luxury department store Neiman Marcus's Fashion Director, Ken Downing, said.
"The whole story of pattern-mixing is also prevalent. It can be wide stripes with narrow stripes, big flowers with small flowers, or many times mixing stripes with flowers or even animal prints together at one time," he said.
Sportswear influences also featured heavily, with designers Richard Nicoll, Jasper Conran and British retailer Topshop's up-market Unique label showing hooded anoraks, jersey dresses and cycling tops in colors from bold primaries to chalky pastels.
"Sporty is still a trend, ever since Celine ushered it in a few seasons ago and has been going strong -- you see a lot of editors in sneakers and track pants -- and we are still seeing that on the runway," fashion magazine Lucky's Editor-in-Chief, Eva Chen, told Reuters.
Designers also embraced a more relaxed attitude toward dressing up, with wide-legged trousers, loosely fitted sheer blouses and voluminous dresses featuring pleating and digital prints in ochre, coral, pink, aqua and purple.
These were paired with boxy cropped jackets, silky trench coats and flat shoes along with hand-finished details, a feature designers were keen to point out as a counter to the fact that hot-paced growth in demand for luxury goods is waning.
Growth in the global luxury market is expected to rise by 4 to 6 percent in 2014, a far cry from the elevated levels of double-digit growth seen five to 10 years ago, according to a report by consultancy Bain and Co.
"While the days of 40 percent spending growth from Chinese visitors have seemingly and perhaps naturally come to an end, the Chinese remain the UK's biggest spenders on luxury," British luxury goods association Walpole's Chief Executive, Michelle Emmerson, said.
"Sustained growth in the region of 10 to 15 percent can still be expected from these high-spending tourists," she said, referring to shoppers from Asia in Europe and the United States. Australian designer Emilia Wickstead whose gowns are worn by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, said she was seeing demand in all her ranges and was not concerned about the cooling down.
"There is a little bit of that niche in the luxury market for the price point that we sell at and so we've got the made-to-order, the made-to-measure and the ready-to-wear and so far it's been fantastic, so not a concern," she told Reuters.
Designers are also focusing more on accessories such as handbags and shoes as luxury department stores look to beef up their offerings after seeing a significant rise in demand.
"The demand for women's footwear over the past five years has been exceptional, so much so that we have recently opened a new floor dedicated to shoes," department store Harrods' Fashion Director, Helen David, said.
Accessories designer Anya Hindmarch, who is known for quirky presentations of her luxurious handbags, said her business was seeing growth all over the world, particularly in Japan, the United States and Hong Kong, and that she expected to outperform the luxury market over the next few years.
"The product is really bubbling at the moment, so we are having a really great time," she told Reuters at her show featuring spinning neon teacups and glow-in-the-dark skeletons.
"We are still a brand that is growing, so there is always opportunity, there is lots to do and it's a really exciting time," she said.