LONDON - The crowds at London Fashion Week are usually packed with magazine editors, department store buyers and celebrities but this season there is a new addition to the pack: the consumer.
Ordinary shoppers have been welcomed into parts of London's most exclusive fashion event to try to boost the value of the industry and raise Britain's profile as a fashion destination.
The move is part of the British Fashion Council's plans to change the way the fashion industry, often seen as mysterious and elitist, is viewed - with the hope of stimulating growth and add to the estimated 816,000 jobs in the industry.
"This season we have taken fashion week to the streets of London and rallied support from the whole capital by making London Fashion Week much more inclusive," Council Chairman Natalie Massenet said in an opening speech on Friday.
"Anyone, all of us are free to come down and join."
Among the ideas to generate a buzz about London Fashion Week are lining the city's main commercial artery, Oxford Street, with flags celebrating the designers; musical events and guest appearances; and a photobooth linked up to Facebook.
Fashion-hungry shoppers can also snap up items from designer collections, watch live streams of catwalk shows, and buy tickets for London Fashion Weekend, held for consumers by the British Fashion Council after the main shows.
"It's exciting to see all sorts of events celebrating fashion week and I do think London is just generally cooler than other cities. It's got the young, hip vibe," 19-year-old student Julia Glove said outside Topshop clothes store on Oxford Street.
However, not all consumers are convinced by the efforts to welcome the public into the fold.
"I don't know how they expect people to relate to an industry that is snobby and judgmental," 32-year-old Kate Hutchins, who works in marketing, said standing under London Fashion Week bunting.