Typically, this time of the year, we'd be busy covering some of the best fashion inspirations as seen on the streets of the major fashion capitals. And reporting on our favourite runway shows and collections, either from experiencing them in person or through live streams.
That hasn't been a possibility since March, and won't be, at least for the rest of the year. In this COVID-19 world, the fashion industry is in quite of a disarray. Some major fashion houses have opted out of the traditional fashion show calendar, some are calling for an industry-wide shift, while others are experimenting with the idea of reaching out through digital means. What the latter may look like, is still up in the air.
London Fashion Week is the first in a series of digital fashion weeks this 'season'. From 12 to 14 June 2020, the British Fashion Council transformed the usual London Fashion Week website into a platform with a selection of live-streaming assets that are now available on-demand, as well as a spade of designer interviews, panel discussions and interactive virtual experiences.
It was gender-neutral
Instead of sticking to what would have been a menswear show season, London Fashion Week Digital included both menswear and womenswear designers. The line-up included the likes of Xander Zhou, Xu Zhi, Stephen Jones Millinery and Natasha Zinko x DUOltd. The decision to combine both menswear and womenswear allowed for a more inclusive approach to the curation of designers included this time around. Another edition of London Fashion Week Digital will also be held during the traditional September womenswear show schedule, and will also be an avenue for both menswear and womenswear designers.
New spring/summer 2021 collections weren't the focus
In fact, clothes were not a huge part of the three-day schedule. While a pre-pandemic London Fashion Week would normally showcase upcoming collections from the creative minds of London-based designers, this edition steered more towards in-depth discussions surrounding the future of fashion and sustainability.
It was more because of circumstance than anything else. With lockdowns and stop-work orders in placed in many parts of the world, manufacturing was halted and thus, new collections couldn't be made in time.
Designers that did show collections, either presented autumn/winter 2020 collections that will be available in stores soon or previewed upcoming spring/summer 2021 collections but not in their entirety. Stephen Jones Millinery previewed the upcoming spring/summer 2021 offerings with a video done in collaboration with fashion avatar Noonoouri, while gender-fluid brand KA WA KEY mixed in spring/summer 2021 pieces with an array of archived pieces showcased through a homemade video that was filmed against a green screen.
There were no household names
Considering that it was open to both menswear and womenswear fashion, there was a noticeable lack of presence by quintessential London-based fashion brands and houses. Big names such as Burberry and Vivienne Westwood weren't part of any scheduled events; even young London-based favourites such as Wales Bonner, Edward Crutchley , Paria Farzaneh, and Martine Rose were absent. However, this made way for brands that have remained relatively under-the-radar to shine, especially in such a unique setting.
It was diverse and inclusive
And not only in the sense that it was gender-inclusive. Some fashion designers chose to showcase work related to their personal lives and in turn, displaying the rich diversity of London's fashion scene. Designer Priya Ahluwalia, who's of Nigerian and Indian descent, created a virtual experience to showcase 'Jalebi', a limited-edition photography book that traces her heritage and the influences of her work, as well as what it means to be a designer of mixed heritage in Britain. Charles Jeffrey Loverboy chose to host and live-stream a fundraiser for UK Black Pride, focusing on highlighting Black creatives across several artistries; a timely complement to heightened Black Lives Matter sentiments.
It was different
As much as the purpose of a fashion week has solely been to showcase new collections and interpretations of style, London Fashion Week Digital proved that it could evolve into something more. Perhaps, given better circumstances, the schedule could have been more extensive with an even bigger roster of well-loved British brands. But the fact that such a platform is available to an even wider audience, helps brands connect even better with their audiences—both existing and potential.
While there are limitations to not having a physical fashion show or showroom (clothes do need to be felt and seen up-close), the seemingly limitless end to creativity on a digital platform could make for exciting innovations. And at a time where brands are scrambling to find new ways to be sustainable and create less negative impacts to the environment, a digital-only fashion week isn't the worst idea.