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Off the runway at London Fashion Week, crowd of street stylists steal the show

A woman wearing plastic clothes poses for pictures on the first day of London Fashion Week, in London, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

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A woman wearing plastic clothes poses for pictures on the first day of London Fashion Week, in London, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

LONDON - 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 means that much of the action at London Fashion Week is now on the streets, not the runway. Anyone can become an Internet sensation — provided their outfit is beautiful or clever enough to catch a photographer's eye.

The courtyard at London's Somerset House, fashion week's headquarters, was crawling Friday with eagle-eyed street photographers hunting down the best-dressed attendees. At every corner dozens of students, bloggers and model wannabes were twirling and pouting for cameras, trying their best to look composed in the driving wind and rain. More were wandering around, waiting for their moment in the limelight.

"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. She was instantly pounced upon by waiting photographers, and she happily rattled off every component of her outfit when asked.

Isn't she cold? And aren't her feet hurting? "Yes, but if you want to be beautiful you have to sacrifice," she said. "Besides it's just a week. I don't dress up like this every day. It's a show."

Suzanne Middlemass, a freelance photographer, said most women relate to street fashion much more than catwalk looks because it showcases "real women" of different shapes and sizes mixing and matching brands and styles.

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

Some come dressed for the party, but have little interest in the actual designer shows on the week's packed schedule. Maddy Killick, a fashion student who stood out from the crowd with her sparkly orange raincoat, metallic green dress, white tights and silver sneakers, said designer shows that were too commercial bored her.

"I do go to some shows but they're not that exciting. Some are quite monotonous," the 18-year-old said. "I just like to come for the atmosphere, to meet people and look at what other people are wearing."

People who sneer at fashionistas for being narcissistic have got it wrong, she added.

"I don't do it to stand out. It's just a platform for expressing myself."

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