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Trend-setters from across the globe poured into the British capital Friday for the start of London Fashion Week, which will see hotly anticipated collections by Tom Ford and superstar Rihanna hit the catwalk.
The big names are part of an ambitious five-day extravaganza that organisers say will raise Britain's status as a fashion capital -- and give a much-needed boost to the struggling economy.
"Britain has the most creative, dynamic and nimble fashion industry in the world," said Natalie Massenet, the newly appointed chairwoman of the British Fashion Council and the founder of lucrative online boutique Net-a-Porter.
"The time is right to make things happen for British fashion globally and in a big way. We will lead, not follow," she told designers and fashionistas gathered at LFW's official launch.
The hectic programme -- which includes 56 catwalk shows and 20 presentations -- got underway with collections by rising designers including Zoe Jordan, who combined sharp monochrome silhouettes with flashes of bright orange.
Lacking the big names of rivals New York, Paris and Milan, London Fashion Week has traditionally been seen as their edgier younger sibling, showcasing fresh talent from Britain's prestigious design schools.
But the presence of major British labels such as Burberry, Mulberry, Vivienne Westwood and Christopher Kane -- who recently sold a majority stake to the luxury group PPR -- have helped LFW rebrand as a top destination for fashion buyers.
In a major coup for organisers, American designer Tom Ford is due on Monday to give his first official catwalk show in London -- a move that has reportedly attracted hordes of buyers from across the Atlantic.
Barbados-born singer Rihanna, meanwhile, will show off her first-ever collection, in collaboration with British high street chain River Island, on Saturday.
"Launching at London Fashion Week is a dream come true for me. I have wanted to design my own collection for a long time," said the singer.
"I can't wait to see the reaction from my fans and the fashion press!"
Fellow popstar-turned-designer Victoria Beckham, the former Spice Girl, is due to judge a design competition alongside fashion veterans Donatella Versace and Diane Von Furstenberg on Saturday.
Other highlights of the line-up include the London debut of US designer L'Wren Scott -- whose gowns are a regular sight on the red carpet -- and the return of British designer Julien MacDonald after an absence of more than a year.
The British Fashion Council estimates that the fashion industry is worth £21 billion ($33 billion, 24 billion euros) to the British economy.
It hopes orders worth over £100 million will be placed during London Fashion Week, which runs until Tuesday.