London Fashion Week Roundup


Sarah Gatenby-Howells runs through the highlights of this year's digital fashion week

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Image by Molly Goddard, 2021

By Sarah Gatenby-Howells

London Fashion Week took the decision to go fully digital when it became clear that England’s lockdown would continue throughout February, but despite this, creativity has not been suppressed in the transition. Designers embraced the challenges and new opportunities that technology posed, bringing to life a glimpse of what the future of fashion week could look like.


Molly Goddard: AW21

London Fashion Week is most notably characterised by beautifully dressed influencers, celebrities and editors fleeting down the streets at 9:00 AM in branded G-Wagons, downing espresso shots on the way, while the rest of us sit on the outskirts viewing the glamourous chaos through our phones. However, fashion week has had its fair share of problems.

The shows themselves cost designers millions of pounds to put on, and it is no secret that the carbon footprint left behind is not small. They have also been under scrutiny about the lack of diversity and inclusivity surrounding the event, both in the spectators and models, but also the staff behind the scenes. This new digitalisation meant that this outdated elitism often associated with the industry was broken down, as the British Fashion Council made all the shows accessible through their website meaning anyone can watch from the comfort of their own home. There is, however, a nostalgia for the chaotic nature of fashion week, a sense of yearning for cramped shows, huge queues, awful traffic and people watching, as the glamour, excitement, parties and drama have all been left on the back bench in the newly digitised event. Designer Simone Rocha describes it as the difference between going to a gig and listening to a record; both give you the same music, but listening to a record on your own will never give you the same sensations as going to a live performance where a sense of community and noise create an unforgettable experience.


Simone Rocha: AW21

Although initially daunting, Designers have now become awakened to the ceaseless opportunities of quickly advancing technology and its ability to enhance and expand the fashion experience. Designers such as Alice Temperley, Nicholas Daley, J.W. Anderson and Erdem all used visual cinematography to enhance the viewing experience, opting for short films rather than filmed catwalks. Designers Roksanda and Sonia Carrasco took it even further by using their videos to tell a story. Roksanda filmed three generations in their Surrey home reciting Shakespeare on an iPhone, while Sonia Carrasco took the most innovative approach labelling her collection, ‘-75.500000, -106.75000’ – the coordinates of the world's most endangered Glacier, Thwaites Glacier, presenting the collection through a video starring dancer Carla Cervantes.


Sonia Carrasco: AW21

Another highlight of fashion week was the embracing of gender fluidity. Designer Harris Reed, most notable for that dress Harry Styles wore on an American Vogue cover, debuted his first collection showing garments that are a ‘fluid fixation’ between menswear and womenswear. Burberry used female models to present their menswear collection alongside designers like Vinti Andrews, Tiger of Sweden and MAXXIJ who decided to show both menswear and womenswear at London Fashion Week rather than the traditional route of showing menswear at a separate show later in the year. This amalgamation of men and womenswear collections indicates a larger shift at work within the industry, one that will incentivise creativity – a concept that for the last couple of years has been lost in an industry previously highly strung and driven by revenue.


Bora Aksu: AW21

Throughout all of these changes it is clear that designers have taken great inspiration from lockdown, using isolation and repression as a catalyst for creativity and invention. The collections all had an air of theatricality to them, a hopeful show of anticipation of the months to come. Volume was a key element to the dramatic garments with Bora Aksu, Paul Costelloe, Molly Goddard and Simone Rocha all doing a fabulous job of creating garments that completely contrasted the leggings and puffer jacket narrative that has formed our wardrobes for the past year. Suits and tailoring were also incredibly popular in this season's shows, with Emilia Wicksteads beautiful collection showing how we can incorporate business and seductive femininity into our future wardrobes. Erdem took inspiration from the ballet, and their embellished designs are what 21 July dressing was made of. Other notable fashion infiltrations were the period dramas binge watched during our time at home (yes, Bridgerton), with Goddard, Rocha and Aksu all showing collections featuring lace, ruffles, square necklines and puff sleeves clearly indicative of the show's overall style.


Erdem: AW21

London Fashion Week 2021 in all its new and interesting galore is still missing its fundamental core – people. Typically, it brings in 5,000 visitors to the capitol every year, with the economy benefiting from these people staying at hotels, eating out and using taxis. Fashion is an industry worth £26bn to the UK economy and so I don’t see a full embrace of a wholly digital fashion week in the future however, there are
elements of this one that designers can and should take forward, as well as thinking about how they can incorporate more immersive elements using technology in physical shows. There is definitely change on the horizon, but for now fashion needs its glamour back with the typical red carpets and fashion weeks. It is after all art, and what is art without people to see it?