September 25, 2020 – By Daisy Wallis
Following the continued social distancing measures in the UK, London Fashion Week presented its first hybrid 6-day extravaganza. While many designers chose to present their collections on the London Fashion Week digital platform, launched back in June, some designers and brands opted for intimate physical appointments too.
Community at LFW
2020 has been an unprecedented year, especially for the fashion industry. The evolution of the traditional fashion week format has been changed dramatically. From 3D virtual worlds at Helsinki Fashion Week to the hybrid shows at Copenhagen Fashion Week, I have watched designers and brands present innovative and exciting short films and presentations for fashion lovers around the world.
As news of further social distancing measures hit the UK this week, physical shows became even more limited and intimate. Walking around London to see the next presentation was a completely different experience to even a year ago. There is no longer the same excited rush to get to the next show or fashion lovers walking the streets in incredible street style looks. From my brief times out in the city this week, it’s clear that the fashion community has had to rapidly adapt.
Despite this, the London Fashion Week digital platform I feel became the perfect host not only to share the incredible collections, but as a place for designers, buyers and fashion lovers to come together as a community.
An emphasis on community in the time of a pandemic was a recurring theme amongst the presentations and conversations held throughout the week too. Choose Love, in partnership with the British Fashion Council, brought together 5 designers to create limited edition designs of the iconic t-shirt to raise funds for refugees across the world.
The designs from Ahluwalia, 16Arlington, Nabil Nayal, Olubiyi Thomas and Tolu Cocker are all made using organic cotton. The campaign encapsulated the feeling of community seen across the platform and gave viewers and fashion lovers a chance to help those in need.
Sustainability and imagining a better future for the industry
Positive fashion continued to be an important part of the London Fashion Week schedule too. As well as showcasing sustainable designers on the schedule, livestreamed panel discussions on sustainability and the future of the industry featured throughout the schedule.
As part of the #RÆBURNConnects series, Christopher Raeburn spoke with fashion journalist, Sarah Mower about the future of the industry. Discussing how designers and the industry will adapt to the abrupt changes of 2020, offered insights into the industry from both a designer and journalist perspective.
From the switch from catwalk shows to film to the benefits of a pre-order fashion model seen at RÆBURN, digital conversations like this offer a behind the scenes look at how sustainability is being approached across the industry.
Similarly, a conversation presented by My Wardrobe HQ, a designer rental platform, featuring Caroline Rush, Jane Sheperdson, Amy Powney and Diana Verde Nieto offered an insight into how the luxury industry will adapt in the face of the pandemic. The panel discussed everything from how the period of lockdown has offered a unique time of reflection across the industry to understanding how brands can adopt regenerative and inclusive models for the future.
Conversations like these have quite rightly become an integral part of the LFW schedule and allow designers and consumers alike to raise questions about the effects of the industry.
Designers and brands across the LFW schedule offered an incredible range of collections and films inspired by the importance of community in the time of a pandemic whilst showcasing the latest in sustainable innovations.
Halpern SS21 The Heroines of the Front Line
Adding some bright and joyful fun to the LFW digital schedule, Halpern presented their SS21 collection celebrating the heroines of the frontline.
The film features 8 women from across the public services sector affected by the pandemic, from staff nurses to train operators.
For each muse, Michael Halpern designed two looks inspired by their courage and personalities. From a gold and pastel pink leopard blazer for Health Care Assistant Chevonese to the incredible pink and black orb dress for Train Operator Latifah, the collection features styles inspired by the glamour and playfulness of haute couture.
In between shots of the 8 women dancing in Halpern’s spectacular creations, the women discuss their experiences of working on the frontline during this difficult time. Despite experiencing the effects of the virus firsthand, these women each radiate positivity, something that Halpern has beautifully reflected in the bright and bold prints and appliques seen across the collection.
Set against a bright and colourful backdrop and upbeat music you can’t help but not dance along to, the film showcases the playfulness and beauty of the collection and celebrates the incredible work done by key workers. A must watch this season!
Through her latest collection and film, Bethany Williams also focused on the essence of community, celebrating the incredible work done by the Magpie Project. The project based in Newham works to support mothers and children facing homelessness. Finding inspiration in the stories of those she met working with the project, Bethany Williams’ collection encapsulates the importance of family and community for children.
From the design process to modelling the latest collection, ‘All Our Children’ is not just inspired by the families but also includes them at every stage of creation. The bold and bright patterns and illustrations seen across the collection were created from the children’s drawings, in collaboration with artist Melissa Kitty Jarram. As well as this, the film and lookbook feature five families from the Magpie community wearing the latest collection.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child, we are that village and they are all our children.” – All Our Children, Eno Mfon
The collection is also inclusive and, just like Williams’ previous collections, is created with the environment in mind. Deadstock and recycled materials feature across the collection, with several patchwork pieces being made out of deadstock jersey and nylon provided by Adidas Originals. Relaxed tailored styles, featured for the first time in a Bethany Williams collection, and two corset designs made in collaboration with designer Rosie Evans created out of fruit packaging waste are some of our favourite pieces in the collection and are designed to be all-inclusive.
In her most ambitious and varied collection to date, Bethany Williams’ ‘All Our Children’ is a bright and moving celebration of family and community. And as Eno Mfon’s beautifully powerful poem emphasises, we all have a responsibility to support children just like the work of the Magpie Project.
After his incredibly moving Her Dreams Are Bigger film, Osman Yousefzada returned to the LFW schedule with the first capsule collection and film under his new label both digitally and physically. Set in the incredible Mandrake Hotel, Osman’s latest presentation was an intimate affair, where attendees were guided through to a grand screening room to be completely immersed in his latest film.
Inspired by the chants of his family’s activism in the 80s against racism, the ‘Here to Stay’ film makes reference to the racism and cultural appropriation of the fashion industry. Scenes of strikes and protests are interwoven with shots of the latest collection and provide a striking backdrop for the powerful poetry written by Osman and artist and academic Makayla Ford.
“Fashion should be about the creation of human value from Weaver to Wearer.” – Osman Yousefzada
After watching the film, a few times as we wanted to savour every word of the incredibly moving poetry, we were then guided to an open-air terrarium-like room housing a few pieces from the incredible collection. With only a few attendees allowed to view the collection at a time, unlike the presentations of the past, we were able to truly appreciate every cut and detail of each piece. My personal favourite was an incredibly intricate ruffled mini dress which looks beautiful in the campaign images but even more impressive when up close.
The capsule collection itself offers a similar call to action, rooted in social responsibility and sustainability. Comprised of 50 pieces from elegantly draped shirt dresses to sharp tailoring in an array of neutrals, the collection features stunning prints and hand tie-dyed fabrics created by artisans in India and Pakistan. The collection becomes a moment of celebration and empowerment of these artisanal crafts.
Incredible block print dresses made from light cottons also make up Osman’s latest sustainability-driven project Last Yards. Made from pre-existing luxury fabrics, the pieces are made in limited runs to not only ensure a more environmentally conscious approach to design but to create truly unique and exclusive pieces.
One brand that has used the time in lockdown to reflect and re-evaluate the future of their work is palmer//harding. In a short film and series of campaign stills, the design duo Levi Palmer and Matthew Harding offer a touching tribute to familial love in these uncertain times.
Unlike other designers and brands on the LFW schedule, palmer//harding chose to reshoot their winter collection as part of their move to make immediate changes to their design practices. With the help of their family and friends in both the UK and US, palmer//harding presented unseen styles and designs from their AW20 collection that can be worn now.
Asymmetric shirting, structured dresses and striped neutral co-ordinates are adorned by every generation from Matthew and Levi’s family and friends.
Campaign images and the heart-warming film add a personal touch to the collection, offering a relatable glimpse into Matthew and Levi’s distance from family during the pandemic. Images and clips of Matthew’s mother, grandmother, sister and niece in Rickmansworth are interwoven with scenes from across the pond of Levi’s mother, cousin, best friend and mentor shot through Zoom – a new sense of normal for many us around the world.
Inspired by the emotional effects of lockdown, Edeline Lee’s film for the collection was strikingly relatable – offering a short yet powerful look into the anxieties of solitude. In a minimalist and contemporary domestic setting, the film begins with a single woman navigating the space. The space quickly becomes overwhelmed as overlaying shots of the woman, adorned in Edeline Lee’s latest designs, engage in different lockdown-related activities.
From cleaning to exercising to even baking (a pastime that everyone, including Edeline Lee, seemed to dabble in), the 2-minute film reflects the new normal of 2020.
The collection features many of the designer’s signature structured styles of dresses and blouses designed for the working woman in fun shades of green, coral, blue and navy. Layers of ruffles in contrasting shades adorned flattering and chic midi dresses, details that Edeline Lee likened to the layers of a cake.
Edeline Lee has utilised the unprecedented experiences of lockdown to create a collection that maintains the emphasis on timeless, handmade pieces but in a range of fun and wearable shades.
Presenting a continuation to her February 2020 collection for LFW, Phoebe English’s Nothing New Part Two consists of 8 relaxed and cool looks featuring no virgin fabrics and locally sourced natural dyes.
Pre-consumer waste and reclaimed linens are repurposed into relaxed trouser and jacket sets inspired by the change of lifestyle as a result of the pandemic. Reclaimed linens and silks are transformed into versatile pyjama-style pieces that are homely yet cool.
Even the design practices used reflect this desire to reduce waste. Zero waste cutting ensures that no fabric is wasted and results in patchwork quilted jackets and skirts that are chic yet still homely and relaxed.
Featuring an earthy-toned neutral palette, reclaimed fabrics have been dyed using locally sourced natural ingredients and food waste, such as oak dye from lockdown walks and avocado stones from local cafes.
The collection and accompanying film serve as a powerful reminder of the environmental crisis, and how waste can truly be turned into something beautiful.
Blending contemporary and futuristic styles together, knitted tanks are paired with sheer knitted trousers with a 3D texture. Futuristic textured sheer shirts in shades of blue are also teamed with rich burgundy tailored trousers, shorts and waistcoats.
Much like Creative Director Yi-Ling Kuo’s previous collections, the emphasis on the collection focuses on creating technical hand-crafted knitwear that is as individual and unique as its wearer. For this collection, 70% of the materials are made using repurposed materials such as recycled bottles and even paper details.
The collection is brought to life in the digital sphere with a film connecting the futuristic designs with a beautiful natural backdrop. 1×1 Studio’s latest collection is a celebration of individuality and style whilst demonstrating their commitment to caring for the environment.
In a time where clothes, as Richard Malone describes, have been rendered entirely abstract, the collection acts as a form of escapism. Exaggerated silhouettes, luxurious velvets and elegantly draped and gathered gowns form the basis of a collection that radiates theatrical glamour.
Bringing the elegance and grandeur of the theatre to the LFW schedule Richard Malone still maintains his sustainable and resourceful design practices. Irish linens and off-cuts from Richard’s previous collections are used throughout the collection, crafted during the lockdown period. And the rich and luxurious velvets were even washed by hand in his own bath!
Richard Malone’s collection and film offer a moment of glamourous escapism from the uncertainty of today.
2020 a year of reflection at LFW
Despite being such an uncertain time, the London Fashion Week hybrid schedule offered an accessible and exclusive platform for designers and brands. Just like in June, designers were offered a chance to share their experiences of lockdown and isolation through their collections and films on an accessible platform designed for fashion lovers around the world.
The continued inclusion of important discussions on sustainability and the future of the industry demonstrates the BFC’s and designers’ dedication to inspiring change, and most importantly, action across the entire industry. With the severity of the climate crisis at the forefront of everyone’s minds, conversations like these need to become an integral part of fashion week schedules across the world.
While the latest social distancing rules in the UK limited the number of physical presentations, digital films and conversations offer a unique insight into the creative and design processes of designers and have the power to unite a global community of fashion lovers.
Even as I watched from my laptop screen, I felt immersed in a digital world of impressive digital films, intriguing discussions and a part of a community of fashion lovers sharing their favourite shows and looks on Instagram.
From this season’s London Fashion Week it is clear that we are at a point where the future of the industry is uncertain.
While we may not see a return to the traditional catwalk shows for quite some time, this LFW schedule offered a unique chance for designers and fashion lovers to come together as a community to discuss the key issues facing the industry today and appreciate the incredible working going on in spite of the pandemic.
What was your favourite show or look from London Fashion Week? Let us know in the comments below!