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London Fashion Week to have royal wedding flavor

Celebrity chef Aldo Zilli isn't expecting many of his patrons to order fish and chips for the next five days, and he's anticipating a rush on his zucchini spaghetti, a special low-cal dish of pasta-shaped vegetables served over Thai salad.

Zucchini spaghetti can mean only one thing: it's London Fashion Week, time for the great and the slim to mind their calorie count so they can squeeze into the latest gear. It's not just models who have to look great, it's the crowds who attend the catwalk shows and late night parties as well.

There's extra buzz this year as the fashion-conscious set looks forward to April's royal wedding. The nuptials of Prince William and trendsetter Kate Middleton are expected to zing British designers by focusing peoples' minds — and credit cards — on glamour.

"Business does improve this week," said Zilli, proprietor of two London restaurants that bear his name. "But the type of meals change. There's more healthy eating. People tend to eat less fried food, but roasted fish goes up."

The demographic makeup of the British capital also alters slightly as buyers, journalists, models and hangers on flood London. There is a higher proportion of tall, thin young women wearing jeans, sweaters and practical shoes on the Tube as they rush from show to show, shedding their casual clothes in favor of designer gowns and stiletto heels once they get backstage.

These will be the B-list models, of course. Naomi and Kate will be in limousines, as they are too important to actually participate, except to distribute kudos and air kisses to their favorite designers.

London's shows, known for a wide variety of designers and styles including fringe affairs showcasing street outfits, have been growing in popularity in recent years despite being increasingly squeezed by shows in New York, Paris and Milan that have effectively shortened London Fashion Week to six days.

Well-known frockmakers, of course, still abound — look for Vivienne Westwood, Christopher Bailey for Burberry Prorsum, Paul Smith, Christopher Kane. A fair amount of attention will be focused on Daniella Issa Helayel, the Brazilian-born rising star who enjoys the distinction of being one of Middleton's favorite designers.

In fact, the royal wedding — just a little over two months away — will provide a leitmotif for much of the proceedings as speculation about who will design Middleton's wedding dress becomes ever more fevered.

Issa London, as Helayel's label is known, is considered a longshot, largely because she does not usually make wedding gowns, but other contenders like Westwood, thought by some to be too avant garde, and Amanda Wakeley — a favorite of the late Princess Diana — will show their autumn and winter collections along with other big names.

Anticipation about the royal wedding, and what trends will be set by the guests at what is expected to be the event-of-the-year, is expected to have a spillover effect on London Fashion Week, which already expects a high volume of American buyers.

"It's a great boost for fashion," said Harold Tillman, chairman of the British Fashion Council, which organizes the designer shows twice a year. "We're very pleased. I think the wedding is going to be a great talking point, and there's an intrigue as to who might be designing the wedding dress."

He said Middleton's unique style is also going to spur interest in British designers.

"She looks amazingly attractive in anything she wears," Tillman said.

This wedding is more than just a wedding, it's also a major fashion event, said Jo Hooper, head of womenswear buying at the John Lewis stores in England. She cited earlier royal weddings, dating back to Queen Victoria's in 1840, as setting trends that lasted for years, adding that Middleton has already shown she has a "Midas touch" because dresses she has worn have become major sellers at British stores.

"There's no doubt this will be one of the biggest British fashion moments of the last ten years," she said. "We're all intrigued to see how it will impact the fashion industry."