Hundreds of collections competing for attention, less money to throw at runway productions, and four days in which to cram London fashion week: The time-economy crunch means the city is having to come up with ways of getting it all done differently. One creative solution is the new series of presentations at the Portico Rooms of Somerset House, which provides small-scale, low-cost opportunities for designers to meet their public. No one knew how this risky operation would turn out (it could have been chaos), but on the first day, the indications were that the time-allotment system—allowing designers to set up and visitors to drop in, chat, and then leave—is actually perfectly suited to the needs of designers who aren't yet ready to fill a runway.

Jo Sykes, a debut New Generation designer with a background at Armani and four seasons' experience in selling, took full, refreshing advantage of the human interactive possibilities. She hired models of all ages, who wandered among her guests while she explained her collection—mostly minimalist, mannish tailoring pieces; charmeuse T-shirts; airy shifts; and the kind of buttery, elongated leather biker jackets over shorts that she likes to wear herself. "My mission is to design things that are gorgeous, simple, with an edge but not ridiculous, that women of all ages can buy into," said the 31-year-old. She proved it by putting 81-year-old model Daphne Selfe into a pair of silver leather jeans and a nude silk shirt, while MJ (a silver-haired model from the seventies) wore a drapey white pantsuit, and Georgina (a face from the nineties waif period) modeled a gray sleeveless jacket with shorts. "I'm just loving it that journalists are talking to them, asking how they feel in the clothes—how often does that happen?" Sykes exclaimed. The designer—who also has a second, lower-priced line, Sykes Silks—has professionalism and a flair for a neat accessory and stealthily sexy details that will take her far. The navy suede boots and the leggings with a sheer stripe in the back, imitating French seamed stockings, have "sold out" written all over them.