LONDON (Reuters) - Traditional English fabrics like felts, velvets, tweed and tartan hit the catwalks as Burberry and McQ by Alexander McQueen revealed their autumn/winter 2012 collections in extravagant shows at London Fashion Week.
McQ creative director Sarah Burton, who designed the wedding dress Kate Middleton wore for her marriage to Britain's Prince William last April, dressed her models for Monday's show in belted khaki military outfits featuring large pockets teamed with shiny leather lace-up stiletto boots and big hair.
Oxblood-coloured dresses, black tulle dresses with colourful floral embellishments and tartan dresses with sheer sleeves also featured on a runway covered in autumnal leaves at a former postal sorting office in central London.
"Even for her it was extraordinary," actress Salma Hayek said of Burton's collection after the show, adding that she was hankering after one of the floral dresses which Burton sent down the runway.
In a statement McQ said the collection was about "a love story, a love of McQueen and a love of great British style."
McQueen, one of the bright lights of the British fashion scene, died in 2010.
Earlier in the day, Burberry's creative director Christopher Bailey evoked the British countryside by sending models in T-shirts with bird motifs down the runway at a celebrity-packed show.
Tweed caps, an umbrella with a carved duck head handle, corduroy skirts and quilted jackets were among his creations, while peplum skirts, tiered fringe dresses and necklines embellished with brushed stone embroidery also wowed the audience.
"I love the idea of mixing this kind of town and field, this country world with this town world," Bailey said after the show.
Burton and Bailey both accentuated the female figure by nipping coats and dresses in at the waist - the former with military-style belts and the latter with elegant brown, orange and yellow bows, giving the models an hourglass silhouette.
Christopher Kane showcased a mixture of leather jackets, animal print separates and chiffon dresses with velvet detailing.
Dresses in bright red, violet, dark blue flowed down the runway on models with gel-slick hair, wearing minimal make-up and chunky black heels.
"I love everything about Christopher Kane. I like that he has a quite dark side, that he likes to explore, always produces very wearable, beautiful clothes," model and TV presenter Alexa Chung, a British Fashion Council Young Ambassador, told Reuters.
Peter Pilotto and partner Christopher De Vos offered up a collection of figure-hugging dresses with Asian-inspired prints, sexy cut-out details and multi-coloured fox fur scarves.
Sleek stretched dresses featuring mesh panels, cut out bodices and yellow, blue and green prints set on a black background also featured in the collection.
"We find it very exciting to unite the future and the past in this way," Pilotto said.
Graduated shades of blue punctuated designer Mark Fast's show with cerulean, azure and dark blue greys dominating a grunge theme that reaches back to the heady days of an emerging rock scene in 1990s Seattle led by the lead singer of Nirvana, Kurt Cobain.
Many of the pieces featured shaggy threads and tattered looks to give a sense of decay and edginess, Fast told Reuters.
"(It's a) Kurt Cobainish take on a cardigan with an injection of lycra," Fast said. "From seeing what I was wearing, what other people around me were wearing, came this grungy feeling."
Sophie Hulme, whose presentation included a giant golden dinosaur, sent her models out in colourful sweaters and tailored coats with quirky twists. She told Reuters her collection was based on toy dinosaurs and fishermen's sweaters.
The designer, who was wearing a cream shirt with lace in the shape of dinosaurs, said she looked towards menswear for inspiration and how their clothes were put together.
"They're very realistic clothes you can wear which I think is a really good evolution that seems to be happening at the moment," she said. "So I'm excited to be part of that."
Additional reporting by Ethan Bilby, editing by Paul Casciato and Michael Roddy