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London Fashion Week kicks off in wild winds and rain

People arrive smiling despite the rain for the first day of London Fashion Week, in London, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

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People arrive smiling despite the rain for the first day of London Fashion Week, in London, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

LONDON - Goodbye snowy New York, hello gusty London! After a week battling frigid temperatures and sleet in the U.S., the fashion crowd found little solace in the British capital as London Fashion Week kicked off Friday in sweeping wind and rain.

No matter: the fashion crowd can always be counted on to show up looking like they just came from a magazine shoot, whatever the weather. Nor did the lack of big-name designer shows on Friday deter fashionistas from having a ball.

Somerset House, the fashion week's headquarters, was buzzing with street photographers and bloggers. Across the river, an alternative fashion show celebrated style for curvier women with "plus-sized" models, including David Hasselhoff's daughter Hayley.

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FORGET THE CATWALKS, THE STREET'S WHERE IT'S AT

Can't get a ticket to a catwalk show? Use a little imagination, and you can star in your own.

The fashion world may be notoriously snooty and exclusive, but a thriving street style and fashion blogging scene can make anyone an Internet sensation — provided their outfit is eye-catching enough.

Somerset House was crawling with eagle-eyed street photographers hunting down the best-dressed attendees, and at every corner dozens of students, bloggers and model wannabes were twirling and pouting for cameras in the rain.

"At fashion weeks, the show is out here on the street," said Carmen Negoita, a blogger in a bright red floppy hat, spiky leopard Christian Louboutin heels and a red coat draped artfully over her shoulders.

Suzanne Middlemass, a photographer, said most women relate to street fashion much more than catwalk styles because it showcases "real women" mixing and matching accessible clothes.

"I'm looking for something different. A bag or a shoe can really help you stand out. It can also be something really simple but well thought out," she said.

The big no-no? Trying too hard.

"You can always spot those," she said. "Not everyone gets it right. You need to have an eye for it."

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THE HOFF'S DAUGHTER: RESPECT PLUS-SIZE MODELS, PLEASE

Away from the glitz and glamor at Somerset House, a much more modest

But Hayley Hasselhoff says there's no reason why plus-sized models shouldn't get the same recognition as stick-thin ones.

The 21-year-old model, daughter of Baywatch star David "The Hoff," was making her debut catwalk appearance at London's Plus Size Fashion Weekend Friday. The showcase coincides with, but isn't related to, London Fashion Week, but organizers hope larger models like Hasselhoff could eventually be included on mainstream runways.

"Calling it 'plus size' doesn't do it justice," she said after walking in a sneak-peek show for reporters. "It's about women with curves, and women of all shapes and sizes. I just hope one day (events like this) will get the same respect."

Hasselhoff, who says she's a U.S. size 12 to 14, has been modeling since she was 14. She's recently returned to the catwalk after taking time off for acting classes.

The showcase, only in its second year, features four catwalk showcases of bridal wear, swimsuits and lingerie over the weekend. It's still a small event, but is almost certainly going to grow — the average British woman's size is now a 14 to 16 (U.S. 10 to 12), after all.

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THE WEIRD AND BEAUTIFUL AT CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS

London may be the only place where a students' graduate catwalk show has as much power as any established designer to draw a full house.

But Central St. Martins isn't just any fashion school — it's the Alma Mata of such industry legends as Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Stella McCartney.

The college's showcase rounded off Day 1 of London Fashion Week with a display of conceptual, whimsical and downright weird outfits. There were balaclava-like headgear made of black nylons, and men's outfits that look like they could be Star Wars costumes. Some models sported giant Styrofoam boards on their chests, and others wore skirts made of a shiny, hard black plastic shell.

These were some of the least wearable items of clothing the week will see, but the energetic atmosphere was hard to beat.

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Follow Sylvia Hui at http://www.Twitter.com/sylviahui

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