London Fashion Week: From The Olympic Podiums To The West End Catwalks:

The stadia are empty and the crowds have gone. Most of the Olympic/Paralympic complex (according to the London Evening Standard”) will be padlocked and closed to the public until spring 2014  – after the completion of a £292 million project to convert the venues and build new roads and bridges”. Many athletes and politicians, though, would apparently like the area to be kept open for a while longer so “all the people who wanted to come to the Olympic site but weren’t able to”(Labour’s Tessa Jowell) can still experience “the magic of London 2012” and visit the scenes of Team GB’s success. In the view of The Guardian’s Simon Chilvers on September 15th, however, the capital is “still basking in the Olympic glow”: London Fashion Week (LFW), he wrote, “sprang to life yesterday with a typically impressive breadth of talent, character and spirit”. Associated Press correspondent, Sylvia Hui, likewise observed that the organisers of LFW (14th-18th September) hoped the event would benefit from the “buzz” of an “exhilarating Olympic summer”. On the same theme, Charlotte Hawkins of Sky News, declared “it’s time for London to hand over the sporting baton and pick up the fashion one”. By contrast, Evening Standard (ES) columnist Simon Jenkins made no direct reference to LFW in his article about the Games on 11th September, captioned “Well, that was fun – now can we have our city back?”– but asserted that (in his opinion) “There is no such thing as an ‘Olympic Legacy’”

In reality – due to a dispute among the “major fashion cities” about schedule dates – the latest LFW was at one point at risk of not taking place at all. New York wanted their Fashion Week this autumn to run from 13th-19th September. As “Yahoo! Lifestyle” commented in January, Milan was insisting on keeping theirs from 19th-25th September so Paris wouldn’t have to alter its own pre-arranged slot of 25th September-3rd October, which in effect meant LFW “would have been wiped from the calendar”. After negotiations between the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) and the BFC (British Fashion Council), New York agreed to move to 6th-13th September. ES fashion writer Karen Dacre emphasised in her preview (also on 11th September) that  “LFW has become a lifeline for the British economy, its designers contributing significantly to the country’s bank balance” – so a cancellation would clearly have been extremely damaging. Indeed, a recent Oxford Economics report for the BFC has estimated the UK fashion industry’s direct contribution to UK GDP to be “around twice the size of the publishing (£9.9billion), car manufacturing (£10 billion) & chemical manufacturing  (£10.6 billion) industries and only slightly smaller than both telecommunications (£28.7 billion) and real estate (£26.4 billion). Furthermore, the UK fashion industry’s “brand equity” (worth “around £202 million”) “conveys an image of the country as a global centre for fashion” and benefits the UK’s tourist sector by a “minimum of £98 million pa”. The BFC Chairman, Harold Tillman, in his introduction to the report, affirms that the industry “employs nearly a million people” and has “a total impact of £37 billion” on the nation’s economy.

Meanwhile, the lead-up to this autumn’s LFW was not without its controversies and surprises: “Yahoo Lifestyle” noted that, prior to the start of New York Fashion Week, Russian model Kira Dikhtar told Fox TV News that “ packs of cigarettes, daily colonics, laxatives, Phentermine diet pills, Adderal, prescription drugs that suppress the appetite” were just some of the ways her colleagues stopped themselves from feeling hungry and kept thin. The German fashion & lifestyle magazine “Brigitte” – which in 2009 had decided it would only use “real women” in photo-shoots instead of professional models – on 6th September announced a reversal of this policy, because (it said) its sales had been sliding , the non-professionals had proved more expensive to manage and their readers had found the “natural beauty” of “real people” too intimidating.  Declining demand from China and a subsequent “profit warning” reduced Burberry’s market value by £1billion – just before the opening of its biggest (44,000 square feet) global store, “Burberry World Live”, at 121 Regent Street and its “Burberry Prorsum” womens-wear presentation at LFW on Monday 17th September. The Chief Executive of the clothing outlet “Whistles”, Jane Shepherdson, told the ES that she “prefers to hire women” because they “design clothes women actually want to wear” whereas “men design for a fantasy of a woman”. The “Victoria Beckham label” was a “triumph” at New York Fashion Week (The Guardian) – but her designs have not (yet) been featured at LFW.

The LFW schedule was (as ever) dominated by the industry’s established leaders: There were long queues for the shows by prominent names such as Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Jean-Pierre Braganza, Issa London, Matthew Williamson, Giles, Osman, Simone Rocha, and Bora Aksu. In an inspired touch, Felder & Felder arranged for the English singer & song-writer Kate Nash (wearing a ”Felder flared black suede dress”) to perform throughout the parading of their “Broken Wings “ collection in the evening of the first day. “Yahoo! Lifestyle” included Scottish designer Jonathan Saunder’s display on Sunday 16th September (“beautifully apt prints and contrasting colourful designs) in their pick of the best LFW shows. “Hello” magazine welcomed Philip Treacy (the “millinery maestro”/“king of the fascinators”: celebrity clients include Madonna, Camilla & the Duchess of Cambridge) back to LFW after a 12-year absence. The innovative and colourful hats by Stephen Jones at the Somerset House exhibition also attracted considerable attention, as did “Mawi”s jewellery-encrusted handbags. “Rag & Bone” (“embodying effortless cool”) appeared for the first time on the LFW catwalks.  Sarah Hecks of MSN heralded the arrival of the rising stars on the LFW horizon – “thanks to the funding schemes of Vauxhall Fashion Scout, NEWGEN and Fashion East”. Among them are Scotland’s Holly Fulton (style signatures: ”luxe materials, graphic print and statement accessories”), Russia’s Timur Kim and China’s Yifan Wang  – just three examples of “the most promising fashion talent” emerging at LFW.




Filed under: Media, Society | Posted on September 19th, 2012 by Colin D Gordon

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