Rhiannon D’Averc reflects on the first ever virtual mixed-gender London Fashion Week – the highlights, lowlights, and what we learned.

We knew it wasn’t going to be business as usual. We knew, in fact, it wasn’t going to be anything like what we’d seen in the past.

The official London Fashion Week website, maintained by the British Fashion Council, was mysterious almost to the last, only transforming into the new portal a matter of days before the festival was due to begin. Until then all we knew was that this was going to be the first ever virtual and mixed-gender Fashion Week – but we had no idea what form it would take.

That form, as it turned out, was largely based around interviews, panel talks, and short art films. The catwalk or presentation format we have been used to was totally absent.

Only a small number of designers released new collections in a digital format – likely this was down to the fact that this time period was original reserved only for London Fashion Week Men’s, as well as the disruption to the supply chain.

Zander Xhou was notable for a collection that was presented in video format, using a small number of models in a variety of garments with a voiceover explaining the looks. Well, at first. That voiceover quickly descended into chaos and nonsense, giving a fun twist to the presentation that kept it entertaining.

Off-schedule, there were a few other shows going on. Malan Breton actually stuck to the traditional catwalk format, albeit through a virtually generated system. The video launched just before the main LFW events, giving us something to watch while we waited. Although the use of technology is innovative, the video itself left something to be desired (the ability to actually see the garments clearly, for example). The looks were also totally virtual, so no real-world collection for us to scramble to buy after watching.

Confusingly, they released three version of the same video – but we’ve got just the images so you can see the collection for yourself. You’ll see those in a few pages.

The videos were posted on a regular schedule by the BFC through the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but most of them appear to have been pre-recorded. Another favourite was Hill and Friends’ contribution, a quirky look into the creation of their handbags which was all fantasy and very Wes Anderson. This took the approach of showcasing their existing and previously-launched designs, but was totally forgivable because it presented something fun and interesting. Others who showcased last season’s show in banal and obvious ways didn’t strike so pleasant a chord.

Here’s our list of the things you can’t miss to help you get through the best bits – and skip out the boring, mundane, or uninspired bits that we had to sift through on your behalf!

Daniel W. Fletcher in Conversation with British Vogue

The British designer has picked up a lot of fans since his stint on Next in Fashion, and deservedly so. This discussion delves into what life was like on the show, what he’s been up to since, and why he decided to launch his latest collection as both menswear and womenswear.

re’MAde by Marques’Almedia

This is an interesting look at what the brand is doing to be more sustainable, and why. It’s a look behind the scenes of the brand – expect babies, home movies, and filming inside their studios. A good inspiration for any other larger brands who have a backlog of excess fabrics.

Tiscar Espadas ‘Capitulo II, first act’

Of the art-style presentation films, this was our favourite. Invoking the idea of the bullfighter, incorporating dance as well as sculptural elements. It’s pretty effective, and definitely done to a high standard.

Xander Zhou AW20 – Prelude

As we mentioned above, the narrative elements really made this more exciting. It was more of a straightforward presentation aside from the fantastical additions, and we loved getting a little bit of insight into the construction and inspiration behind the garments.

Hill and Friends ‘Happy Factory From Home

A joyful Wes-Anderson-style exploration of how the bags might be made. Though, we doubt that they’re actually hammered into shape by an army of clone concierges. One thing’s for sure, though – we’d like to work in this happy factory.

Osman Yousefzada’s film ‘Her Dreams are Bigger’

This is a heart-breaking and soulsearching look at the people who make our fast fashion. Yousefzada took clothes from charity shops and returned to the countries where they were made, interviewing workers about how they imagined the people who bought the garments to be. This will make you take a hard look at yourself and your privilege – and it’s absolutely worth it.

8ON8 ‘Crown of Ruins’

A very fun jaunt through city streets with the focus on a whole range of hats and caps, you’ll want to watch it simply for the eye-boggling effects of the lens. In a time when everything seems very serious indeed, it’s a good bit of fearless and silly fun.

Pronounce Flip Book ‘Nezha Riots the Seas’

Taking inspiration from their last collection, this is an innovative way to tell a story – or rather, old-fashioned, since it uses the ancient art of the flipbook. It’s always awe-inspiring to do a flipbook done well. We don’t dare think about how many hours this might have taken.

Stephen Jones Millinery – ‘Analogue Fairydust’

Of all the actual virtual fashion shows we saw this week, this was probably the best. It used a virtual influencer/model to show off the hats, but we also got to see the sketches, then a rendering, and finally an all-colour version of the finished hat. Not too many frills, and we actually saw a full collection of very nice pieces.

palmer//harding in conversation

This was the best of all the interviews and discussions we saw during the week. After watching it, we went right to the palmer//harding website to check out their supershirts and see what was still in stock. It was tempting to order something live just to hear the ‘ding’ of their sales notification.
You can watch all of the shows, interviews, and art films on the official website at londonfashionweek.co.uk.

They’re laid out in the order as they were shown, although you can also watch highlight clips created by the British Fashion Council to sum up each day if you are short on time.

Find more of Rhiannon’s work, and opinions on fashion shows and more, on Twitter @rhiannondaverc.

All images via British Fashion Council and respective designers

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