London Fashion Week is back this Thursday 17 September 2020, but things are bound to be different. After London’s first online fashion week back in June, which resulted in mixed reviews, the British Fashion Council (BFC) is now hoping to find the right balance for its Spring/Summer 2021 showcase by blending physical and digital experiences. In other words, yes, LFW will still happen regardless of the UK’s new COVID-19 restrictions. How exactly will this work?
Last week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new restrictions for gatherings larger than six people. While the regulations don’t apply to the performing arts, which means that physical fashion events in London are still allowed to go ahead, there is an atmosphere of unease over rising coronavirus infection rates. The fashion industry’s approach to the previous fashion weeks proved to be a tough task—but how are they making it different this time, and will this LFW be a success?
The British Fashion Council’s experiment in June to turn London Fashion Week into an online-only event received underwhelming online attention. Speaking to Vogue Business, Dylan Jones, chair of menswear at the BFC, was unsurprised: “We were trying to put a fashion week on in the middle of a climate where it wasn’t possible to do events.”
This explains LFW’s physical comeback. Unlike New York Fashion Week, which is currently taking place mostly online, LFW will include plenty of live physical events. Of 81 designers presenting, 31 have decided to include some kind of physical event. While this is considered good news by many people in the fashion industry, as replicating physical events with digital ones is highly complicated, others are worried about the risk this may represent.
To adhere to COVID-19 safety measures, the shows and presentations will have fewer guests than usual and will be staged for a mostly UK-based audience. As key fashion markets such as France, the US and China remain on the UK’s quarantine list, this new approach to live events seems reasonable.
While live events will take place, each presenting designer will also be going ahead with an online broadcast—an essential tool that can reach consumers on a global scale, even in the middle of the pandemic.
Burberry has announced that it will only present a digital live stream of a show set in the British countryside without any audience. Victoria Beckham, on the other hand, will host an intimate salon show. Christopher Kane, Simone Rocha, Molly Goddard, Emilia Wickstead and a few others will set invitation-only appointments to showcase their SS21 collections. Roksanda, who had initially planned to host a presentation, is now reviewing its approach following the UK government’s new guidelines.
Erdem, JW Anderson, Richard Quinn, Marques Almeida and Bianca Saunders will present films. Speaking to Vogue Business from his studio in Peckham, Quinn explained “With a show, you can see everything, it’s very immersive, very emotional. It’s hard to get that in the current circumstance, but I think [a film] can help us communicate our messaging, and that’s the main objective of any fashion show.”
After June’s strange mix of online-only showcases, the BFC is now hoping this LFW will result in a success. The BFC is currently working with data analytics company Joor for a second season, providing digital wholesale services for many designers. Around 6,000 global buyers, ranging from the US and Canada to Saudi Arabia and South Korea, have already created a profile on Joor in June. While sixty collections were available on Joor in June, this number is now expected to double.
This new technology not only allows for a bigger reach in terms of who would normally be able to shop the event but also for designers who have decided not to showcase during September’s LFW. Among those, Craig Green and Wales Bonner, despite not taking part in the digital showcase, will still use Joor to share their designs and reach buyers.
Milan Fashion Week will also mix physical and digital events. Prada will debut with Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons as co-creative directors, something that fashion enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting. After that, Paris will also return with a fashion week schedule that looks more like your usual pre-pandemic agenda.
Until then, we will have to wait and see how London Fashion Week’s new plan goes. Being known for its innovative and rebellious edge, we can only expect the best.