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London Fashion Week returns in full force

By Rachel Douglass

22 Sept 2021


Image: BFC, Charlie Wheeler - Supriya presentation

In what could be considered a cultural revival for London, The British Fashion Council (BFC) hosted this season’s London Fashion Week, welcoming back the global fashion industry in a celebration of creativity and innovation.

Over five days, designers and brands exhibited showcases, catwalks and presentations for their new collections. The organisation partnered with Clearpay and other digital programs as an additional expansion of the event, including wholesale platform Joor who hosted virtual showrooms.

Online and offline viewers witnessed the results of lockdown conceived collections in an array of physical and digital shows, with around 130 designers part of the overall schedule. Many big names opted to stick with the digital format they have become familiar with in the past year, leaving the runways open for a vast number of emerging designers to take the physical spotlight. A total of 79 in-person activations and 81 digital activations were part of the roster.

Image: BFC, Charlie Wheeler - Saul Nash presentation

In addition to the shows, London Fashion Week and BFC partnered to bring a variety of events open to the public. The ‘City-Wide Celebration’ made its return, with the two organisations bringing together a wide range of brands, retail locations and other cultural meeting points, each hosting fashion week-related events and offers to visitors. Bvlgari, Diesel, Hollister, Oscar de la Renta and JW Anderson were among the participants, proposing either discounts, complimentary gifts or special presentations to visitors as part of the celebration.

Physical returns

Emerging designers were at the forefront of the physical shows this year, with coveted newcomer Nensi Dojaka and Alleyne among the line-up. Fashion East supported both Dojaka and Jawara Alleyne, as well as other emerging designers, through its incubator program complete with a multimedia showcase in addition to individual showings.

Image: Rejina Pyo

To mark a significant return to the physical sphere, some designers went for rather exceptional displays, combining immersive experiences with live performance. A particular highlight came in the form of Rejina Pyo’s show, set in the London Aquatic Centre and featuring a brief presentation by Olympic Team GB divers.

Fast fashion retailer Cos was another debut for this season’s fashion week, following the brand’s recent announcement that it is changing its direction. The H&M Group member followed in the footsteps of similar high street retailers like Topshop, with a collection that aimed to be a high-end perspective of the trend-led sector of the industry.

Image: Cos

Digital experimentation

Lookbooks, fashion films and digital-physical shows were among the formats presented through the Clearpay x London Fashion Week platform. The digital programme offered viewers a ‘virtual front row seat’ to many of the live-streamed events, as well as the further implementation of a ‘see now, buy now’ feature for shows like Knwls.

Many big-name designers opted for an online-only set-up, with classic British brands like Vivienne Westwood, Temperley London and Edeline Lee each presenting new collections through experimental visuals and campaign movies. Others prepared for both the digital and the physical with live-streamed shows, arranged with either in-person audiences, visitor appointments or no guests at all.

Image: Vivienne Westwood

Fashion films allowed for infinite visual experimentation in the portrayal of the collections, with many designers displaying innovative productions that added new dimensions to their overall concepts. Acclaimed designer Ingrid Kraftchenko presented a performance art piece alongside a virtual cyborg animation, while others like Matty Bovan went with avant-garde computerised showcases.

A new addition to the agenda was BFC’s Newgen TikTok Show Space, which hosted a number of upcoming designers at The Old Selfridges Hotel, including Yuhan Wang, Saul Nash and Eftychia. The social media platform TikTok held a series of workshops and panel discussions, as well as a catwalk style digital backdrop for users to apply to their own videos.

Trend highlights

An exploration of modern femininity from multiple participants brought forward diverse perspectives and executions of the subject. Full skirt dresses with exaggerated flares, from the likes of Bora Aksu, Simone Rocha and Paul Costelloe, drastically contrasted that of the more figure-hugging, intricately constructed dresses of Nensi Dojaka, KNWLS and Supriya Lee. Each offered their own take of the female form in the modern-day.

Image: Bora Aksu

On the other side of the spectrum, some collections presented gender-bending arrangements, blurring the line between menswear and womenswear categories. Tiger of Sweden, Helen Anthony and Labrum London all suited their models up in fluid two pieces, while others explored more eccentric routes, such as Richard Malone’s highly structured garments.

Sustainable and responsible sourcing was also widely evident as a number of designers pushed eco-forward and socially aware collections. Birmingham designer Osman Yousefzada implemented organic and leftover fabrics into his pieces, with other designers like Edline Lee also executed garments using spare materials from previous collections.

Image: Edeline Lee