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Anna Wintour to adorn British fashion week

London's Fashion Week has long been inferior to Milan, Paris and New York.

Not this year.

American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is planning to attend the London show in a move that has the fashionista universe here clapping its hands with glee.

The most powerful woman in fashion, Wintour will add luster to London's event, which has struggled in past years because it lacks the money and the starpower of larger shows. It is often Wintour's nod that gets designers into stores and clears the way for glossy pictures on the pages of her influential magazine.

Although she came to London last year for a look at the fall collection, her appearance is anything but regular.

"She much more of a rare bird - so any sightings are treated with great excitement," said Imogen Edwards-Jones, the author of the "Fashion Babylon," a novel on the untidy underside of the industry.

Add insult to injury: She has also chosen to skip Paris.

"They'll be very upset in Paris," said Edwards-Jones. "Some very fashionable heads will be in a tizz."

London's fashion week opens Saturday, a weeklong presentation of catwalk shows largely focusing on up and coming young designers. Known for its creativity and urban flare, London's designers have been criticized for being so cutting edge that the clothes don't fit in the average woman's wardrobe.

The event has also suffered because most designers who make it big leave quickly, pursuing the money and exposure accorded to the larger shows.

Add to that the vagaries of scheduling: London's big week falls right after New York and before Milan and Paris - making it tough for buyers to attend all four.

"It's like a big circus," Edwards-Jones said. "It's a month of fashion shows - this amazing circus that goes from one city to another."

But Vogue senior fashion writer Mark Holgate says London's designers have been evolving, responding by becoming more realistic about what they can achieve. Holgate spoke with excitement about the energy and passion he experienced during his trip last year.

"They're not trying to become megahousehold names," he said of the designers. "They care about the art of making great fashion and great clothes."

Scottish wonder child Christopher Kane, who has worked as a consultant for Versace, will do a catwalk show. Adidas by Stella McCartney will have a presentation, though organizers were coy in describing precisely what kind.

Other designers doing shows include Luella Bartley, a former fashion journalist who got her start in London and is returning after 6½ years. Bartley, whose coveted handbags are often seen on the bent elbows of celebrities, will be opening a boutique in London soon.

Designer Matthew Williamson, whose client list includes Madonna, Keira Knightley and Kate Hudson, will be doing a show, as will Julien Macdonald.

Up-and-coming designers include Duro Olowu, a self-taught Lagos, Nigeria-born designer who trained as lawyer before moving into fashion.

Fashion week coincides with the Sept. 22 opening of a major retrospective at the V&A Museum. The exhibition, "The Golden Age of Couture, Paris and London 1947-1957," centers on Christian Dior's New Look and the work of other luminaries who marked a fresh era in fashion following the austerity of World War II.

Also taking place is a memorial to the late stylist, Isabella Blow, who was renowned for her larger-than-life hats and blood-red lipstick. The London-born Wintour, a friend of Blow's, will attend.

Known for her discerning eye, Wintour can make or break a collection.

Take the case of John Galliano. Without financial backing in the 1990s, Wintour famously championed him, ultimately leading to his getting the coveted top job at Dior.

Wintour is also said to advise company bosses on hiring designers and to preview collections at the designer's studio. If she doesn't like something, designers will remove it from the catwalk show.

And now that she's coming to the London shows, she'll also be the person everyone wants to see - even it isn't even her first time here.

"I've never seen anyone exude such power," said Dennis Nothdruft, the education coordinator at London's Fashion and Textile museum. "She becomes the sun and everyone else becomes a satellite rotating around her."

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