LONDON — The upcoming London Fashion Week has been hit by a series of defections and dropouts this season as designers seek greener pastures or deal with business issues.

This story first appeared in the January 27, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Designers Hamish Morrow and Blaak are headed for Paris, while J. Maskrey has opted to show in Los Angeles. They are among six designers who have left holes in the London schedule, which was announced last week. London fashion week runs Feb. 14-19.

A spokeswoman for Blaak said the design duo of Aaron Sharif and Sachiko Okada were ready for a change, and plan to show off-schedule in Paris during the shows.

“They wanted a challenge and a new audience,” she said. “In London, everyone turns up for their show, but in Paris, they will be more anonymous. If someone wants to come and see them, they will.”

Morrow also plans to cross the Channel and sell his collection in Paris, although he has no plans to show there. “Hamish is restructuring the business, and will be back in London next season. We see this break as completely normal,” said a spokeswoman for the designer.

Katharine Hamnett also is foregoing a runway show because of restructuring. She has produced a fall 2004 collection, however, and will show it in London by appointment. Hamnett plans to relaunch her business in earnest next spring, with plans for an additional line made from organic materials.

Emma Cook and Elspeth Gibson will be absent from London’s runways this season for personal reasons. Although both have produced collections for fall, neither will be putting on a show. Gibson gave birth to her second child, a daughter, 10 days ago, and will be selling the new collection from her shop on Pont Street.

A member of Cook’s staff died earlier this month, and Cook said she did not feel right staging a show. She will, however, have a stand at the London Designers’ Exhibition at the Duke of York’s Headquarters.

John Wilson, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, did not appear to be ruffled by the dropouts. “There are business and personal reasons for some designers not showing this season, although they are committed to showing again next season,” he said. “As always, we are delighted to welcome new faces to the schedule, which this season include PPQ and Fashion East.”

However, not everyone plans to return to London. Maskrey has defected to L.A. fashion week this season in search of the stars. “She fancied a change and had no sponsorship here,” said a spokeswoman for the body jewelry designer. “She wants to get more of a celebrity following, and L.A. is the perfect place to do it.”