Sep 16, 2:21 PM EDT

London Fashion Week returns with big names hitting catwalk

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AP Photo/Alastair Grant

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LONDON (AP) -- The world's style spotlight shifted to Britain Friday as London Fashion Week kicked off with the first in a dizzying series of shows planned for the coming days.

The focus is on British style and creativity but the lineup includes many contributors from other parts of the world.

Friday's shows included Paul Costelloe, Bora Aksu and other standouts. Over five days, there also will be shows by Burberry, Julien Macdonald, Christopher Kane, Mulberry, Roksanda - a London-based designer favored by both Michelle Obama and Melania Trump - among others.

The first shows drew large crowds despite on-and-off rains that marked the end of a humid late-summer heat spell. Central London was once again filled with tall, slim models in jeans and oversize sweaters rushing to backstage rooms where makeup artists and stylists transformed them into figures of fantasy.

Designers seemed to be searching for roots and authenticity without sacrificing the sexy flair that has come to be part of fashion week.

Costelloe drew on his Irish roots for a catwalk show that featured many dresses and outfits crafted from exquisite linen, including Belfast linen and Wexford linen.

The choice made the color palette simple - off-whites in most cases - but the imaginative cuts, the elaborate cowl necks, the variety of structured pieces and the judicious use of organza and brocade made the work stand out.

Despite the traditional fabrics, there was nothing old-fashioned or predictable about the show, which included multicolored party dresses and outfits with mid-length coats that were longer than the mini-dresses they concealed.

Costelloe said he sought out linen made in the time-honored way, eschewing what he called the "mass-produced fabric commonly found today."

At the Bora Aksu show, the fantasy involved an invocation of rural Greece - in homage to the designer's late grandmother and her lifestyle in a small town near the Aegean Sea - but a rural Greece where the peasants wore beautiful but extremely revealing hand-embroidered gowns with sheer mesh panels on the backs and sides.

It was a mixture of the traditional and the eye-catching, many pale cherry pinks and yellows and blues giving the clothes a timeless feel. He opted for many high-necked dresses, but with the backs totally exposed, creating an unusual but attractive silhouette.

The fashion crowd has already been feted by Prime Minister Theresa May at a Downing Street reception and partied at a lavish Perrier-Jouet champagne party that featured model Naomi Campbell, wearing a plunging black dress, serving a brief stint as a surprise DJ.

She was joined by model Erin O'Connor, Arizona Muse and other fashion week veterans at the event, which featured a "bio-responsive" garden with trees and plants that responded to the movement of the crowd.

Some fashion houses are focusing on making new items available immediately to online buyers to streamline the shopping process, blurring the lines between the traditional fashion seasons. Others have merged their menswear and womenswear shows into one extravaganza.

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