Between February and March of 2020, the world ground to a halt due to the outbreak of Covid-19. Milan Fashion Week was at the heart of Europe’s outbreak which then spilled over to Paris, affecting the entire industry.
During a time of pause, the global fashion industry was forced to answer a question that’s it’s been evading for years "Can we carry on like this?”.
For June, London Fashion Week went digital with brands choosing to either show, shut house or hold for a season. This month marks the second predominantly digital fashion week with brands using their agility to present in the best way that they can, given the circumstance.
A little retrospective.
London has always been the agitated, punk rock younger sister to the more refined Paris. The aspirational cousin to New York. The long lost cousin of Milan.
Over the decades, London has become a global epicentre of fashion and trend due to the industrialisation of the city and the increasing accessibility to subcultures through the media. With schools such as Central Saint Martins and the London College of Fashion, University of Westminster and Goldsmiths, London has birthed and nurtured many of the world’s most celebrated designers.
Over in west London, Vivienne Westwood (originally from Cheshire) began her creative career making and selling jewellery on Portobello road. She went on to become a figurehead in London’s punk rock scene opening the store “Sex” on the King’s Road with her then husband, Malcolm McLaren who managed the Sex Pistols. The store sold clothes that were designed by Malcolm and made by Vivienne herself.
Her eponymous label has always shown in London and is one of the biggest global fashion houses to date, most known for the stand out tartan prints, politically charged slogan tee’s and Vivienne’s walk/run/skip/jump at the close of the show
Lee Alexander McQueen was a working class man born south of the river in Lewisham and raised Stratford, east London who quickly became the darling of the fashion crowd with Isabella Blow being credited as the one who advocated his success.
Journo’s and editors alike became enchanted by Lee’s ability to evoke visceral emotional reactions to his shows that were often enchantingly dark, macabre and other worldly. The SS01 collection entitled “VOSS” began with the revealing of a large glass tank filled with moths and showcasing a naked plussized woman, reclined on a chaise-longue and wearing a gas mask. A statement for the time and stark contrast to the trend of models and celebrities being very thin.
His final show, Atlantis, is credited as being the show that “changed fashion” (Dazed Magazine, 2016) with the Armadillo shoe and extra-terrestrial looking platforms that were made famous by Lady Gaga.
And Can we talk about London Fashion Week without talking about South London’s finest, Naomi Campbell? I don’t think so. While Naomi is no stranger to controversy, it goes without saying that her legacy as a globally recognised face of fashion far precedes her. As a Black model, Naomi’s had many firsts for Black people in the industry and garnered lifelong relationships with many of the greats from designers like Azzadine Alïa and McQueen to Nelson Mandela and grime mc, Skepta.
At 50, Naomi still frequents the runway for iconic maisons such as Valentino and has branched out to Youtube with a growing channel that features a #GetReadyWithMe with Jackie Aina, interviews with her friends and industry legends. Naomi has consistently been an advocate for change, regularly using her voice to address the often problematic fashion industry.
Lest we forget the legends of Saville Row, Oswald Boateng and the late Joseph Casely-Hayford. Both known for their contribution to British men’s and womenswear, particularly with their crisp suiting and tailoring. Let’s also give a shout out to the new-gen, Martine Rose, Grace Wales Bonner, Samuel Ross of A Cold* Wall, Ashish and Bianca Saunders!