LFW lowdown: here's what went down at London's first digital fashion week

Emma McCarthy
·5-min read
Haydon Perrior
Haydon Perrior

History was made this weekend as London Fashion Week staged its first digital-only, gender neutral showcase.

But while catwalk shows, backstage dramas and sore feet were notably absent, it wasn’t short of memorable moments. From the opening speeches to the virtual after-party, here’s a recap of the highlights.

A new perspective

Ahluwalia's Jalebi (Ahluwalia Studio)
Ahluwalia's Jalebi (Ahluwalia Studio)

With catwalk shows off the agenda, the capital’s creatives sought to bring their work to life through ever more inventive means. Priya Ahluwalia created an interactive 3D exhibition in the form of a virtual reality art gallery. Drawing from her Indian-Nigerian heritage and London roots, the young designer presented works from her new book Jalebi, with snapshots of what it means to be a mixed heritage person living in modern Britain “hung” in a digital exhibition which visitors were invited to explore through their screens.

Many offered a behind-the-scenes look at their craft, including designer Robyn Lynch, via a homemade film documenting the making-of her collection using deadstock material donated by cycling brand Rapha, and design duo Marques’Almeida, whose documentary charts the creation of the first reM’Ade collection made entirely from scrap fabric leftover from previous seasons. For others, it was an opportunity to flex a creative muscle beyond clothing. Experimental genderless fashion label Pronounce chose their slot to tell a story in the form of an illustrated 350-page flip book entitled Slow Down, designed as a “visual response to 2020”.

It’s good to talk

(Daniel Fletcher)
(Daniel Fletcher)

“We need to reset” said British Fashion Council chief executive Caroline Rush in her opening speech on Friday, which was followed by a performance by ­spoken-word poet James Massiah, who sought “to get this party proper started — or restarted, so to speak”. This opened up the virtual floor to a schedule brimming with panel discussions and industry heavyweights weighing in on the topic of how to fashion the future.

“Us designers churning out product after product just doesn’t feel relevant anymore,” said stalwart menswear force Lou Dalton in a video conversation with former Topman creative chief Gordon Richardson, photographer Mark Neville and stylist Stuart Williamson; while Next in Fashion frontrunner Daniel Fletcher mused via Instagram Live that “the situation this year has pushed me to re-evaluate the way that I do things”, speaking of his collection created remotely with seamstresses via Zoom.

Inclusivity was at the heart of Teatum Jones’s panel discussion Round Table not Runway, while in a conversation entitled The Collaboration Worldview, menswear talent Bianca Saunders drew the conclusion: “I want the brand not to exist just as clothing, but to create conversations.”

The class of 2020

(Central Saint Martins)
(Central Saint Martins)

Given London Fashion Week’s reputation as an incubator of agenda-setting creative talent, it is perhaps unsurprising that the capital’s fashion schools served among the weekend’s best and brightest highlights.

Central Saint Martin’s MA graduates staged a takeover of yesterday morning’s schedule with a film reel offering an abstract view of creative processes throughout isolation, including one student crafting a pair of trousers out of masking tape and another weaving on a loom in their bedroom.

They were joined on the platform by students from 12 other colleges, including London College of Fashion, University of Westminster and Kingston University, in a collective outpouring of new talent which proved that the restrictions of lockdown have done little to hinder the next gen.

Charity begins at home

(Charles Jeffrey)
(Charles Jeffrey)

Until two weeks ago, designer Charles Jeffrey intended to use his Saturday evening slot on the schedule to throw a party. But as the anti-racism movement erupted around the world, he decided to cancel the planned celebration.

Instead, the designer passed the mic to POC voices in a live-streamed talent showcase intended to aid grassroots charities working to support marginalised communities. Featuring performances by the likes of dancer Malik Nashad Sharpe, Croydon-based singer songwriter Rachel Chinouriri and spoken word artist Kai-Isaiah Jamal, audience members were urged to donate to a fundraising effort for UK Black Pride, while sales of a tandem capsule collection — launching in December — will see proceeds donated to the Kaleidoscope Trust.

Apocalypse now

The biggest trend to come out of London Fashion Week? Post-apocalyptic merchandise. At least according to Matthew Miller.

In a satirical body of work masterminded by the Stoke-born, London-based designer, a dystopian view of what luxury could look like in 2027 took centre-stage on yesterday afternoon’s schedule via a film of archive footage intended to shock and question the future of our species. The corresponding concept-driven collection features t-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with bleak slogans such as The New Normal and The End Is Fear alongside survivalist commodities at grossly inflated prices, from fuel to a fully stocked drinks fridge and even space transportation.

“I feel an obligation as a designer and artist to release work that is both relative and relevant to the tumultuous, uncertain times that we find ourselves in,” said Miller. However, while the inclusion of a £99 cement brick may be an ironic statement, Miller’s dedication to sustainability — with every t-shirt and hoodie made to order in London in a bid to eradicate waste — provides a practical future-proof solution to consumption.

The after-party

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What is London Fashion Week without a legendary after-party? Thankfully, the capital’s night owls weren’t left wanting — though they had to provide their own drinks.

On Friday night, presenter Miss Jason and Hasani B2B manned the decked at menswear designer Liam Hodges’s virtual after-party, supported by Beats by Dre, to raise funds for LGBTQIA+ POC projects in the UK, while on Saturday night the virtual f’row was treated to a live hour- long back-garden set by DJ royalty Fat Tony.

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