As we all drain Netflix, Disney + and Amazon prime of all the TV and film known to man, we may be feeling a little dry of entertainment and craving the excitement and creativity of arts events. Well, fear not, as London Fashion Week are bringing their entirely virtual event to your screens from 19th to 23rd February, and it’s accessible to all! It will be the first, ahead of Milan, Paris and New York to go fully online, due to COVID-19 restrictions, and will consist of an amazing combination of podcasts, webinars, fashion films, designer showrooms and collection presentations. With the show having adapted creatively to be watched on the LFW’S website (londonfashionweek.co.uk), there has come huge challenges but also major positives. So how have the designers themselves been affected, and what can we expect from the show?
From one of the biggest events in the fashion calendar, to laptop screens and mobile devices providing the front row seats, this event will surely be one very unique to the rest. ITV lunchtime news conducted an interview with designer Alice Temperley to discuss her experience so far and what she has found difficult making her collection during a global pandemic. She said, with dresses and garments bold and bright, bustling in view behind her, it’s been “very calm, the opposite to normal”. It can be said that the buzz of in-person catwalk fashion events can never truly be replicated through online screening but Temperley optimistically stated she is “excited to be showing something” and after the industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, “excited that we’re still here”, even if it is an “extremely different fashion week.” Certainly, I felt sympathy for the 45-year-old designer, whose business has been negatively affected by an unprecedented time for all, as she spoke alone in her fashion studio in Somerset - a polar opposite environment to one that I can only assume most designers thrive in.
In terms of logistics, lockdown has been tough for the creative collaboration with others and the actual production of her work, Temperley saying “navigating COVID and brexit…is a double whammy” and that “it’s been a feat to do a collection obviously during lockdown with everything happening via zoom” – something a lot of us will be able to relate to, zoom meetings not always being as efficient and smooth as we hope for.
Temperley referenced the past year as a “time of reflection” for her nearly 21 year old label and told ITV news “its really changed the way we communicate, changed the way we sell”. She reflected also on how the “wholesale business has obviously fallen of the scale because stores have closed” so they have had to rely on “online business” and “virtual sales”. Coronavirus has been detrimental for the fashion industry this past year, and it has been a huge struggle for fashion retail to adapt and make money, something that designer Paul Costelloe discussed with Sky News. He stated "Sales since the pandemic have been dreadful, they hardly exist at all. We have survived on having other collections from handbags to homeware.” Of course, it’s been in the news for a while about the struggles of the British fashion industry and the tragic loss of a predicted 240,000 fashion jobs directly due to COVID-19 (according to the British Fashion Council). As well, there have been economic impacts on London as a whole from hosting an all virtual event. Usually, London Fashion Week events would bring in crowds of people to pour money into lots of different areas of the city - restaurants, shops, hotels and museums but unfortunately this year that just is not the case.
As with a lot of industries, the fashion world has creatively thought of innovative ways to work around restrictions and actually, from a global pandemic good things have emerged. Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council told Sky News "The digital platform was, of course, a first for everyone which meant there has been a lot to learn and develop.
"Whilst I do believe that digital will never replace the magic of in-person shows, for us it was really exciting to have the opportunity to create this platform that welcomes a much wider audience.
"The designers adapted swiftly by creating incredibly creative content that showed fashion can be so much more than the traditional shows." This just shows how the pandemic pushed creators into thinking outside the box and looking elsewhere for unique content ideas.
Lets not forget though another positive change and step forward London Fashion Week has made this year. For the first time, the event held this week will be fully gender neutral. Womenswear will be showed alongside menswear and unisex wear, paving the way for exciting pathways for designers and new possibilities never before explored. Josephine Jones, the first designer at London Fashion Week that is transgender said to Sky News "Clothing, to me, has always been about creativity and never boundaries... except breaking them, that is! Some of the chicest girls I know dress like boys anyway, and vice versa." I really think, this step will break down unnecessary constrictions in the world of fashion to see new innovation spark. I think it will build a more inclusive environment and will encourage a more diverse range of people to get involved in fashion. Much like the virtual aspect of the show allowing the general public to join, inclusivity seems a really prominent feature of this event and its really exciting to see what new things will come of this.
I think it’s fair to say, over the last few months none of us have really been at all experimental or extravagant with our fashion choices, after all, there haven’t been may occasions to dress up. So, let this be a much needed chance to dance again with luxurious and well-crafted clothes and feel inspired by the designs. Please do take this wonderful opportunity to join the show and take a front row seat online at londonfashionweek.com