London Fashion Week: The Price Of Success:

 

What do Emilio de La Morena (from Spain) and Michael Van de Ham (from Holland) in common? Easy. They are both fashion designers, have been exhibiting their creations on the catwalks at London Fashion Week (LFW: 15th – 18th February) and are graduates of Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. The same applies to Brazil’s Ignacio Ribeiro (half of the “Clements Ribeiro” label), Japan’s Aminaka Maki Lofvander and Sweden’s Marcus Wilmont  (of “Aminaka Wilmont”).

Just before the start of LFW, the London Evening Standard’s fashion editor, Karen Dacre, enthused about the “record number of American buyers” who would be visiting the event, “to see key British brands including Burberry, Mulberry and Christopher Kane”. Indeed, as the “Daily Telegraph” pointed out, following “ a generally flat few days at New York Fashion Week”, the American fashion trade paper “Women’s Wear Daily “hailed this LFW as a ‘golden moment’ for British fashion”. At the opening of the event, the new chairman of the British Fashion Council (BFC), Natalie Massenet, declared she was determined “ to make London the most exciting fashion capital in the world”.

If this objective is achieved, it will clearly be at least partly due to the fact that so many foreign designers have followed fashion courses in the UK and then decided to base themselves here. Other examples are: Bora Aksu (“bags, ready-to-wear & accessories), originally from Turkey but living in London for the past 15 years, and the “Felder Felder” sisters, Annette & Daniela,  (“modern, sexy, cool clothing”), born in Germany but “London is our home”. All three studied at St Martin’s, as did Haizhen Wang from Dalian, China (“bold designs joined with precision & impeccable quality”) who was assigned the role of completing this  LFW with his catwalk show at 6pm on Tuesday 19th February.

The importance of making the UK capital “a melting pot of highly skilled global talent both on & off the catwalk” has been acknowledged by the British Council’s Julian Roberts in their guide to the February 2013 “International Fashion Showcase”  (inaugurated last year by the BFC & the British Council) in which Argentina & Uruguay (among a total of 27 countries) have been participating.

According to the latest available BFC statistics, the “direct value” of the UK fashion sector to the country’s economy is £21 billion. Furthermore, it “supports an estimated 816,000 jobs and is the largest employer of all Britain’s creative industries”. The BFC anticipated that there would be “over 5,000 visitors” to the February 2013 LFW – most of them “buyers, TV & radio crews, journalists & photographers”. The international media would attend from 43 countries and buyers from 39. Both the web directory “Mahalo.com”  and Vogue magazine have emphasised in the past that “ the only people who can get tickets to the showings are insiders to the fashion trade, whether they be stylists, buyers, members of the fashion media or celebrities”. That appears to no longer be the case, possibly because (according to The Guardian’s style journalist, Lauren Cochrane) “Instead of selling clothes, the catwalk is now about exposure” and (Karen Kay in the Observer) “the proliferation of blogs and websites which have an increasingly powerful reach”.

Media representatives, buyers and bloggers were all able to register for LFW by showing their business card to the reception staff at Somerset House. It was noticeable, however, that many of the people queuing patiently to get into the shows did not fit into any of these categories: Some were interns or fashion students, others had very little connection with the fashion world but had managed to get hold of tickets and understandably grasped the (rare) opportunity to attend a LFW catwalk. The consequence was much longer queues than at previous LFWs – which wouldn’t have mattered if they’d all got in. However, on several occasions, large numbers were turned away – often after more than an hour waiting in the cold – because the venue had reached full capacity & (for health & safety reasons) no more could be admitted. The excitement & enthusiasm of students who had travelled unwittingly from Birmingham & beyond was transformed instantaneously into bitter disappointment. The  officials controlling access to the catwalks tended to attribute the responsibility for this situation to PR representatives “ who had been distributing far too many tickets, so as to ensure large turnouts for their designers’ shows”.

This is not an aspect of LFW which receives much (if any) attention from the UK fashion press – possibly because they are reluctant to mention (or even suggest) that there is any sort of “downside” to the event. An exception has been Pablo Avion on “Live Runway.com”, who has queried somewhat ironically “What could be better than standing in an hour-long line to watch a show that lasts the length of time it takes to eat a Snickers bar, in a room filled with deafening music?”

By contrast, the most formidable challenge confronting “LFW” regulars” is invariably how to get from a catwalk at (for example) Freemasons Hall (near Holborn) arranged for 12.noon to another one at the BFC Courtyard Show Space (Somerset House) due to start at 1pm and then on to The Savoy’s “River Entrance” ballroom by 2pm. If the first begins half an hour late, that rules out attendance at (& coverage of) the other two. Samantha Cameron (the Prime Minister’s wife) has reputedly remarked that LFW “ has never been better organised”. But then, she probably doesn’t have to queue, run or worry about arriving in time for the next show!

 

Filed under: Society | Posted on February 19th, 2013 by Colin D Gordon

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