By Li-mei Hoang and Brenda Goh
LONDON (Reuters) - Oversized coats, sheer blouses and slinky cocktail dresses heralded the return of grown-up glamour on the catwalk on Tuesday at London Fashion Week, where the city is looking to cement its reputation as a global showcase for emerging talent.
Tom Ford, Jasper Conran and Marios Schwab celebrated the female form in their autumn/winter 2014 collections with figure-hugging dresses, sleek pencil skirts and tailored jackets in luxurious fabrics like fur, wool, cashmere and silk.
"There have been a lot of clothes that are really kind of hiding the body and the body disappearing so it's nice to see designers embracing the idea of letting a woman look like a woman," said Ken Downing, fashion director at American luxury department store Neiman Marcus.
Monochrome palettes with punctuated shades of grey were fused with burnt orange, ochre, cornflower blue and fuchsia to create clashing colour blocking effects.
"There's a very interesting colour palette going on," said TV presenter Brix Smith-Start, who owns luxury boutique Start London.
"The way that the colours are put together, in a new clashing, colour-blocking with all these unexpected colours together is interesting," she said.
Texture and embellishment also played a key role.
Designers moved away from digital prints and toward shearling, fur, cashmere and leather at Burberry, Topshop Unique and Christopher Raeburn.
Silk tops and dresses were embellished with floral appliqués and sequins at John Rocha and Temperley London, which focused on creating a relaxed but elegant feel.
"There is a real return to comfort. We have come out of a era, post-financial crisis, where everyone got really dressed up and buttoned down," said Imran Amed, editor of online magazine Business of Fashion.
"We haven't lost the polish but everything is more relaxed, there are lot of relaxed silhouettes and beautiful fabrics," he added.
London Fashion Week regulars Christopher Kane, J.W. Anderson and Nicholas Kirkwood have all recently enjoyed investment from global fashion companies Kering and LVMH.
"In London, we've got the balance really well with clothes that buyers will want, whilst still being directional, beautiful pieces. London seems to have come of age," said Sasha Wilkins, founder of fashion blog LibertyLondonGirl.
Eye-catching accessories also featured prominently as growth in the luxury market moves towards more affordable goods like handbags and shoes.
Anya Hindmarch, whose shows are often a highlight on the fashion week calendar, looked towards iconic household brands for inspiration and used dancing models on conveyor belts to showcase her latest collection.
Vintage designs from brands such as Kellogg's Frosties and Coco Pop cereals were added onto large tote bags and snakeskin clutches.
"I've always been obsessed with the idea of taking something that is every day but doing it in a really beautiful way," said Hindmarch.
Britain's fashion industry is estimated to be worth 26 billion pounds ($43.45 billion), according to the latest figures from the British Fashion Council.
($1 = 0.5983 British pounds)
(Additional reporting by Basmah Fahim; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)