London Fashion Week wraps up today and in the weirdest year ever, the fashion industry is at last pressing refresh and heeding climate campaigner’s desperate call-out for meaningful change. For years fashion has been cited as one of the world’s most polluting industries and indeed, with irresponsible manufacturing processes, untraceable supply chains and a pressure on newness that led to billions of tonnes of waste a year, it was easy to understand why.
While some argue that high end designer brands aren’t directly responsible for climate change, in the way that cheaper, fast fashion’s wear-it-once-then-chuck-it mentality is, the whole speed of the fashion system, the consistent quest for the new and unattainable need for speed certainly has added to the situation. From designers suffering severe mental health issues through to desertification caused by the epic amounts of water needed for cotton production, fashion needed to pause and think long and hard on it’s actions.
While the Covid pandemic hasn’t been the most comfortable reset to sit through, it’s certainly pushed London-based designers to rethink and present their work – which is still brilliant, still inspiring – in a more considered way. Prompted by weeks and months spent in lockdown, the fashion capital’s biggest names were ready to take on the challenge and use the creativity London is renowned for to make the changes needed. In everything from the volume of looks presented (in several cases collections were halved), to the materials used (repurposed and recycled materials featured heavily) and the lack of prescriptive trends it was a refreshing and appropriate way to make clothes in 2020 and beyond.
The death of the traditional trend has been coming for seasons… instead of switching up our wardrobe to feature purple just because the catwalk called for it, we now go to brands (whether that’s Gucci, Prada, Cos or Mango) that suit our own personal style. In London there are still tendencies and general moods… sandstone was a prevalent shade, ruffles featured strongly and fantasy was a general mood (particularly at Burberry where Riccardo Tisci imagined a love story between a mermaid and a shark to inspire his collection) but the rise of the anti-trend is the biggest takeaway from LFW this week.
Mega Monday – the day that hosts the buzziest labels on schedule – is usually dominated by front rows peppered with celebrities and graced by fashion’s grande dame, Anna Wintour. This season designers favoured intimate presentations for a few (socially distanced) members of the press where they could talk about their inspirations and really show off the craftsmanship involved. These are some of our favourite collections from fashion’s new world order:
Featuring the bright colour blocks that have become a signature of the brand, Roksanda focused on tops (how practical!) with a few standout gowns included (because we still need to dream.) Sustainable cashmere and indigo linen ‘denim’ were clever fabrics to include, while models (‘real’ people) lounged around in an interior set-up mimicking lockdown experiences.
During lockdown Kane retreated to his garden to paint. Mixing glue and glitter into freeform patterns these artworks became prints on a very small, tightly edited collection of clothes with structure and shape, which were shown against easels in the designer’s Mount Street boutique.
Always one to look to historical and literary inspiration, the ‘spare’ time during lockdown that Erdem had to read, and subsequently dream, conjured up this collection. Following the life of the lead character in Susan Sontag’s novel, The Volcano Lover, the Spring collection is rich in detail with tiny pearls, puff sleeves, floral patterns and damasks all in focus.
Stripping back to 20 looks shot on 4 models and presented alongside a short film (as many designers did) VB spent lockdown focusing on how she created her collections in the early days of her brand. The back to basics strategy worked. There were super-wide flares, gentle tailoring and modern neutrals (in shades she described as hollandaise and creme brûlée, after David’s lockdown cooking.) Every piece was realistic, purpose-led and wearable and all sang louder for being presented away from the speed of the catwalk.
Providing a jolt of bright coloured optimism, Molly Goddard focused on her strengths – that is, super voluminous dresses, quirky knitwear, eye-popping colour and ruffles on everything. The dresses, skirts and jumpers looked fantastically fun but were grounded with chunky platforms. Created in collaboration with Ugg the footwear provided us with welcome styling inspiration after months of only having to consider whether to tie our elasticated waist-cords in a bow or not and reminded us that dresses can be just as easy to wear as a tracksuit.
Winner of the Queen Elizabeth II award for British Design is 2019, Williams uses the medium of clothes to bring focus onto charity and truly sustainable practices within fashion. 20% of her profits go to The Magpie Project, which supports women and children under five living in temporary accommodation in Newham, London, most of whom are exempt from government funding and support. Using vintage bedsheets, jeans made from canvas bell tents, corsets created from fruit packaging waste and reclaimed knitwear to make new, her innovation is beyond inspiring and proves that creating fashion goes far beyond initiating staid catwalk trends. Once again London is at the front of fashion’s future and – at last – it looks like a sustainable one.