London Fashion Week opened on Friday but without catwalk shows due to the coronavirus pandemic, which is leading to a rethink of the seasonal event and reinventing the whole industry.
In addition to the 100 percent digital format, this Fashion Week — usually dedicated to men’s collections — will mix genres, an innovation that will continue post-pandemic.
For the first time since it was conceived in 1983, there will be no models parading new collections before crowds at the biannual event.
Instead, some designers, such as the duo JORDANLUCA, will present their spring/summer 2021 collections or smaller “capsule” collections by video.
Others such as Hussein Chalayan, will take viewers on a behind-the-scenes tour of their collection.
All content posted online, which will include interviews with designers, showroom visits and discussions on the environment and racism, will be available free of charge.
“I think that conversation has really developed over the last few weeks this idea of reset, not just in terms of the industry slowing down, but taking on board its impact on the environment,” Caroline Rush, director of the British Fashion Council (BFC) which promotes British fashion, told AFP.
With global outrage at the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American in US police custody, the fashion industry also has an “opportunity to be much more open, diverse, to use this voice around issues such as racism,” she added.
The global pandemic is dealing a heavy blow to British fashion, with 73 percent of companies in the industry already reporting order cancellations, according to the BFC.
The fashion industry, which employs 890,000 people, directly contributed £35 billion ($43.6 billion, 38 billion euros) to the UK’s GDP in 2019 — an annual increase of 9.4 percent.
Professionals were already concerned before the outbreak about the possible negative impact of Brexit on what is a highly international industry.
“The majority of our industry did not want to leave the EU… we have very close trading relationships and industry and have benefited definitely from being part of the EU, so… it’s very important that, where possible, those links are able to continue,” said Rush.