The all-new, all-digital London Fashion Week could be many things, but none was a fashion show
We landed on londonfashionweek.co.uk to view the shows of LFW, but we did not know where to start. And that, to us, was not a good thing. We were led to believe that all shows would be streamed—live or not—on the LFW portal, but we seemed to have stumbled upon a fashion-themed multi-media class in session. Expecting vogue.com’s Runway or SHOWstudio’s Collection page we were not, but hoping for an experience that augured well for the future we did. Instead, we were greeted by a curious opener called “My Non-Essential London”. Was this just an ironic teaser, fronted by the omnipresent face of singer Ella Eyre, clearly captured at home?
We weren’t aiming for a song (in fact, she didn’t sing). Instinctively, we scrolled downwards or, where applicable, swiped right or left, but we did not arrive at anything resembling a fashion presentation that we, up till now, recognise. Arranged chronologically, the shows scheduled within each day of the three-day event were organised in slots featuring videos not long enough to aid in the understanding of the collections or the brands. No fashion show, no runway, no 50 to 80 or so looks of before.
Oddly there was no immediate access to LFW, the event. We had to scroll down and past three other appetiser crossheads, before we arrived at “Collections”. This was Sunday afternoon (our time), but not all of the shows scheduled thus far (London time) seemed to be posted. We could not say for certain. It did not appear to us that there was any live streaming either. Or perhaps we missed them. Events were reportedly scheduled, so we looked for them. There was a horizontal box-list of names, almost all unfamiliar. Not every box offered a fashion
show video clip. Some were links to profiles, some were Q&As involving designers, such as the one familiar name Hussein Chalayan, who was interviewed by the Oslo-based publisher Elise by Olsen in the now recognisable split-screen of two people in their own habitat. Where were the collections?
After 20 minutes, we weren’t sure what we had been watching. There were scant compelling shows to watch—or those that mattered. Sadly, navigating the site was clicking forward into frustration. Clicking any spot on the boxes of the menu did not automatically pop up a page or a window. We had to click on the specific tag “Watch”, before another window appeared. There was a play button in the right-hand corner to activate, then the familiar YouTube’s own appeared in the centre, indicating a link was established. Press that play, then we were able to watch the show. Perhaps auto-play is too pre-COVID-19? When we clicked on the back button to get out of a video that we did not find interesting or revealing, the click inexplicably returned us to the top of the home page. We scrolled back down to “Collections”, but the last viewed show was mysteriously no longer there on the scroll-horizontally menu!
Looking at the line-up, we had, at first, thought that this was not the main event. There were no recognisable names such as pre-pandemic LFW regulars Burberry, JW Anderson, Christopher Kane, Molly Goddard, or Simone Rocha. Instead, we saw many new monikers interspersed with a few of the familiar. Very little clothes were shown and hardly any trend could be made out. Most videos could have been designers making the MTV music video they’ve always wanted to create, and the recent lockdown was the perfect time to produce them. Others could pass off as extended commercials.
Clockwise from top left, Zander Zhou, Ka Wa Key, Roksanda, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, Teatum Jones, Stephen Jones
We clicked on the first familiar name that appeared—the Chinese-in-London Xander Zhou. His video was described as “Xander Zhou AW20 Critical Update/SS21 Public Beta Version”. The app development lingo perhaps hinted at the pseudo sci-fi feel of the narrative. There were six showcases, each voiced-over by a robotic/synthesised male monotone, delivering, at times, incomprehensible commentary that made us unnervingly anticipate “Danger: The emergency destruct system is now activated. The ship will detonate in T minus five minutes…” Abstract and artsy were the way to go for many of the designers. Most of the videos were very free-form and free-hand; very design school students given free reign.
The most captivating—even magical—was the animated short by milliner Stephen Jones. It featured the beloved, created-in-Munich, manga-eyed “fashion avatar” Noonoouri, identified as “special guest star”. She donned hats that showed the end result of Mr Jones’s creative process, from sketch to sample to actual article. Titled Analogue Fairydust, the film charmed in the same way old Hollywood motion pictures did and still do. Perhaps, more significantly for us, this was clearly a product of fashion, and, while wordless, it spoke the language.
Most of the videos didn’t come close to Analogue Fairydust. It is, of course, likely that due to mandatory social distancing and other attendant obstacles, designers had precious little to fall on that could generate compelling fashion stories. Creativity during isolation might not have been as potent as it could be in a design studio buzzing with activity. With insufficient fashion to offer, the digital edition of London Fashion Week was, in part, a conference of opinions. There was a lot of chatter, but, in the end, little content.
Screen grabs: londonfashionweek.co.uk