An Online London Fashion Week 2020 Could Democratise the Industry for All, and Here’s How
The elite of London Fashion Week’s ‘front row’ set probably receive more column inches than the designers themselves, but in a groundbreaking move, we all share the best seats in the house this year.
The Beckhams and Anna Wintour in the coveted front row. Image credit: @Londonfashionweek
Although there has been an ever increasing selection of shows streaming live online for years now, the unprecedented circumstances of 2020 have thrust the entirety of London Fashion Week into cyberspace. For a while, it seemed like there might be a small handful of physical events with the customary star-studded audience, but increasingly strict COVID-19 measures mean that these could be in jeopardy.
While this is undoubtedly a huge shakeup to the catwalk status quo, it also has important implications for making high fashion more accessible for all. With big names like Temperley London and Burberry only producing online shows, now you can get exactly the same view as Anna Wintour, but from your sofa in your pants — if you so wish. Sure, the fashionistas might be watching in more luxuriant surroundings than your humble lounge, but this is a democratising move slicing through the elitism of fashion. In the words of British Fashion Council Chief Executive Caroline Rush “Bringing the consumer in more as part of the conversation is incredibly important.”
Richard Malone demonstrates that ethical fashion can be opulent. Image credit: @richardmalone
This move to an online space perhaps better reflects the fashion industry’s changing ethos. Once characterised by excess, opulence and sheer decadence, a shift in attitudes has made sustainability a serious focus as opposed to a hollow buzzword.
Phoebe English’s crisp creations turn offcuts into icons Image credit: @phoebeenglish
This change can be seen in the celebration of designers such as Richard Malone with his remarkable dedication to full transparency, from field to fabric, and Phoebe English, gathering cutting room scraps from a 15 mile radius and transforming them into structural treasures. This is a drum that Vivienne Westwood has been resolutely bashing for decades, and the realisation that environmentally sound fashion can be exciting, lavish and groundbreaking as opposed to restrictive, beige and smelling faintly of patchouli has been a longtime coming.
Vivienne Westwood has been at the forefront of the sustainability movement. Image credit: @Viviennewestwood
The online space is a natural arena for ethical fashion to thrive. A digital fashion show requires no air miles and has a much smaller carbon footprint than a physical production which requires jetsetters to fly from all corners of the globe to bear witness.
In our rapidly changing world, it is vital that the UK fashion industry shapeshifts and evolves in tune with the rhythm of society as opposed to becoming an out of touch dinosaur. Going online opens new avenues for growth. After all, the excitement of Fashion Weeks around the globe comes from celebrating the unique culture and vibe of the city in question. Each week has its own distinct personality that embodies a place in the now and this wouldn’t be possible without fresh faces exploding onto the scene.
Molly Goddard is one to watch this AW20. Image credit @MollyGoddard
Bringing London Fashion Week online has the potential to allow more diverse young designers to make their mark and flourish, bringing fresh blood into the industry. Putting on a slick, high-end catwalk show is prohibitively expensive, but filming one yourself gives those who are low on cash a chance to be creative and deliver crisp new formats.
Not everyone can casually hire the London philharmonic for a Richard Quinn spectacle, but young people who are already making waves have the creativity and talent to whip up groundbreaking shows on a shoestring. The smoke and mirrors magic of film can mean a little goes a long way in terms of resources and it’s easy to make something filmed on your iphone in the living room look polished with a bit of digital know-how.
Richard Quinn’s show featuring the London philharmonic was an SS20 London fashion week highlight. Image credit: @Richardquinn
The disruption of the traditional catwalk format has been bubbling up with increasingly avant garde setups like Rihanna’s iconic, inclusive, body-positive 2018 Savage X Fenty show, so it’s only natural that this process continues with the people who keep the fashion industry relevant; young creatives.
Rihanna’s iconic 2018 Savage X Fenty show was a turning point in catwalk disruption. Image credit @savagexfenty
In the words of Caroline Rush, “It is essential to look at the future and the opportunity to change, collaborate and innovate” and adopting digital innovation is a step in the right direction for both designers and consumers.