How do you host Fashion Week during a pandemic? Milan was the first city to adapt. From 14th to 17th July 2020, the autumn/ winter shows moved online and brought a breath of fresh creativity to Italy – a much-needed boost after a severe and lengthy lockdown.
Some brands flourished despite the changed circumstances. Ermenegildo Zegna XXX combined a live show with pre-recorded segments, providing a perfect showcase for Alessandro Sartori’s designs. In unfamiliar times, versatility pays off; Business of Fashion praised the collection as “light, desirable and uncontrived, sartorially-savvy and progressive”.
New York will face a similar challenge in the next few days, as designers showcase their work across digital and physical platforms from 13th to 17th September 2020. Then (finally!) the excitement will come to London; Fashion Week will run – with some alterations – from 17th to 22nd September 2020.
It suddenly feels like a luxury to have such a high-profile, international event go ahead. The first months of the pandemic threw cold water over almost all the large-scale events which normally pepper spring and summer: the London Marathon was called off, the Chelsea Flower Show was snipped from the schedule, countless art fairs were cancelled.
But London Fashion Week is strutting ahead in style, displaying ranges of womenswear, menswear and accessories from over 80 designers. Like New York the week before, London will host events both digitally and in person, with the physical catwalks and exhibitions adapted to accommodate the government’s guidelines on social distancing.
LFW isn’t about aesthetic relief alone – it’s the flagship event for fashion businesses across the UK. In 2019, the British fashion industry contributed £35 billion to the UK economy, and the latest figures suggest it employs over 890,000 people. While the uneasiness of the current news cycle includes economic concerns, London Fashion Week represents a step towards countering the financial difficulties caused by a worldwide pandemic. Dress up to help out, anyone?
The exact arrangements for each event will vary according to the brand. Some famous labels – including Christopher Kane, ERDEM, and Victoria Beckham – will host across digital and physical platforms. Other brands will showcase exclusively online, and a small minority (three designers) will continue with physical events only.
Victoria Beckham AW2020/21 via FF Channel
Perhaps the most thrilling aspect of the new LFW schedule is its accessibility. Digital content can be viewed by anyone through www.londonfashionweek.co.uk. And even aside from the main events, there’s a range of content to dip into; the British Fashion Council’s podcast ‘Fashion Forum’ brings leading figures from the UK’s fashion industry together to chat about their careers and experiences. Recent guests include London-based photographer Campbell Addy in conversation with Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, the Fashion Director of Garage Magazine.
Much will be missed – not least the flashiness of a crowded front row, where celebrities literally rub shoulders with up-and-coming actors and glamorous muses. But now that crowds are a thing of the past, we can treasure the other elements of a Fashion Week: the colors, cuts, and creativity of new collections and fresh pieces.
Words by Jaleh Brazell