The tents at Somerset House are gone and the fashion crowd has moved on to the next stop in Milan. Another six days of London Fashion Week came to an end but the question is what remains. In between New York, Paris, Tokyo or even Berlin, the importance of London Fashion Week and British designers has been questioned by industry professionals. The UK clothing market grew constantly up to about £50 billion in 2013 according to market research company Mintel. But figures aside, how relevant is British fashion in an international context apart from the success stories of commercial high street retailers such as Topshop?
With fashionistas and models posing outside the venues dotted around the city, it seemed like London Fashion Week is just about getting snapped by a street style photographer. But it is much more than that. London Fashion Week is also more than celebrities sitting front row or runway shows in general. At the designer showrooms inside Somerset House one could see the full creativity of it all. There were those independent shoe, hat, jewellery, bag and ready-to-wear labels that presented gorgeous creations. And apart from the fashion week locations, there are also those places where Britain grows its design talent. The amount of passion and energy that could be observed at the degree shows of both Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art earlier this year was just simply inspiring.
But let’s return to London Fashion Week for a second. 2013 marked the homecoming of Burberry Prorsum’s mens’ collection. After years in Milan Christopher Bailey decided to stage the brand’s shows again in Blighty. It didn’t cause as much publicity as when Tom Ford announced he would come to London. But with Marchesa returning with their gowns to the capital this season, a growing London Fashion Week momentum was definitely in the air.
Those established brands aside, what about the younger designers? J. W. Anderson received a major investment by French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH last year, which also placed him at the helm of fashion house Loewe. And as the British designer showed Breton stripes in his SS15 collection one may wonder if LVMH and Anderson’s upcoming engagement during Paris Fashion Week influenced his design aesthetics. Maybe, but the Riviera looks definitely got an update right from East London with crisp leather pieces, the floppiest of all sun hats and twisted sailor trousers.
Also Christopher Kane found support by a big player, LVMH’s rival Kering. And on the day of his show, it was announced that Kane would launch a capsule collection with NARS cosmetics in May 2015. As his business is expanding and evolving into a lifestyle brand, did the Scottish designer take the commercial high road? Kane stayed true to his roots with a Spring collection that was dedicated to the late Louise Wilson, his mentor at Central Saint Martins that died earlier this year. So while he might have looked at the past for inspiration, Kane’s tulle explosions couldn’t have been any more fashion forward at the same time.
Other designers resist those big investment groups. Roksanda Ilincic for example opened her first store this year in Mount Street and with a colourful collection of bright orange, cornflower blue and pink, she sure will have pleased prominent clients such as the Duchess of Cambridge or first ladies Samantha Cameron and Michelle Obama.
Summing up London Fashion Week Spring 2015, there was a refreshing breeze of colour, prints (although Mary Katrantzou surprisingly cut down on these signature pieces of hers) and leather. But rather than narrowing down the collections of a mere hundred brands to just three generic trends, one should acknowledge the international attention that all of these designers got. Anna Wintour for example attended the Hunter Original show – a British brand that is still widely associated just with Wellington boots. But Britain is more than bad weather. And it is also more than fish & chips and the Royals. Great Britain is also great fashion.
– Michael Edelmann