By guest blogger CAROLINE RUSH
Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council, shares her views on why London is such a hub of creative fashion talent and how creativity continues to thrive despite the global pandemic.
I write this piece during the September 2020 edition of London Fashion Week, which kicked off yesterday as a digital first event, showcasing Britain’s best creative talent to a global audience. On this occasion, we will see over 80 designers on the schedule, participating in a combination of digital activations on londonfashionweek.co.uk, private appointments, and socially distanced shows in and around the capital, all operating under COVID-secure guidance. To ensure the health and safety of everyone working at LFW and of the guests attending, the BFC has been working closely with the government and shared guidance on how to work and take part in the event safely. While the format may have changed, however, LFW’s purpose remains very much the same: to showcase Britain’s best creative talent to audiences around the globe.
As the chief executive of the British Fashion Council (BFC) for the past 11 years, I’ve seen LFW become a highlight of the international fashion calendar. I’m proud of having been part of transforming its reputation, making London a leading city in terms of creativity and innovation, and a place to discover new emerging talent. Often referred to as the world’s creative capital, London attracts new, young, and multicultural talent, who come here to study, live and work. We’re known to have the best fashion and art colleges in the world, and over the years I’ve seen some of the very best emerging talent turn into global, high-end fashion brands, most of the time with the help of the BFC’s support schemes, initiatives and competitions.
My favourite thing about London is its diversity and multiculturalism, making the city a melting pot of different characters, cultures and aesthetics. All these different perspectives and backgrounds are needed for the industry to stay creative and relevant. I think everyone would agree with me when I say that London represents creative freedom; it is all about the new, the cool, the colourful, and it’s a place where innovation is welcomed. This to me is what makes our city so special, and one of the most exciting places in the world to live and visit.
Where the other big fashion capitals are awash with mega-brands, London is the place for creative entrepreneurs and designers with an ability to match creativity with commerciality. From the bigger and more well-known brands such as Burberry and JW Anderson, through to burgeoning emerging brands such as ART SCHOOL and Bianca Saunders, it is no secret that our London designers are the ones setting the bar for creativity. Take Ahluwalia's recently launched book 'Jalebi', which was transformed into a virtual exhibition for LFW in June, or Charles Jeffrey’s fundraiser for UK Black Pride. These are both great examples of how creativity and passion is what British fashion is built on and respected on the global stage.
The industry is going through a great deal of change, and it is awe-inspiring to see how British brands are tackling the challenges of the times. During the last few months, we’ve seen a number of digital-only showcases take place in London, Milan and Paris. LFW in June was the first of the Big Four Fashion Weeks to pivot quickly to build, fill and publish a digital only fashion week. The event saw a focus on creative content rather than actual product due to logistical issues including factory shut downs and supply chain disruptions, offering designers visibility with digital projects such as podcasts, panel discussions and 3D exhibitions – proving that fashion weeks are so much more than just shows.
Under normal circumstances, we would be welcoming an audience of press, buyers and industry professionals from over 50 countries who come to London to explore and discover the best creative talent: from emerging designers to heritage labels and internationally recognised fashion houses. This season, we should be prepared for an even bigger audience experiencing the gender-neutral event, seeing as the digital edition in June had over 97k site visits from 187 countries.
As we are trying to adapt to a new normal, and while the effects of the pandemic are still visible daily, this September edition will mark the beginning of a new experience, as designers are once again forming new ways to showcase their collections and express their ideas. Take our show opener, Burberry, who partnered with streaming platform Twitch to livestream their show from a nature reserve in Buckinghamshire. Internationally celebrated British brand Vivienne Westwood also presented her new collection to a global audience on londonfashionweek.co.uk, followed by digital content from Matty Bovan, Edward Crutchley and Rixo.
The incredible range of activity and sheer breadth of digital and physical platforms being employed at this edition of LFW is further testament to the creativity and resilience of our industry: the British Library hosting Syrian-born British fashion designer Nabil El-Nayal and Sarah Mower in conversation; a celebratory film on ‘The Heroines of the Front Line’ from London-based designer Halpern; a livestream from Christopher Raeburn, discussing the radical shakeup faced by the fashion industry; Victoria Beckham returning with a private appointment activation for press and buyers; and Richard Quinn, the recipient of the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, closing the season’s digital schedule with a film, available for everyone to watch on londonfashionweek.co.uk.
While the global pandemic has added a lot of uncertainty to the economy and to our industry, it has also left us with no choice but to pause, rethink and find many new ways to do business. What we’ve seen lately is how digital offers new opportunities for brands to tell their stories and new ways to connect with global audiences and customers. This September’s LFW will continue to celebrate the wonderful eccentricity of our capital, and offer a platform for dialogue and debate, telling the evolving stories of our fantastic British designers. I look forward to discovering our brilliant designers’ new collections and all the amazing content going up on the LFW platform, and I can’t wait to see what London has to offer this season!
All views expressed in this blog are the views of the guest blogger and do not represent the views of the GREAT campaign.