Like so many major events, London Fashion Week (LFW) has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, this doesn’t mean we’re going to miss out on a new season of fashion altogether because the British Fashion Council is moving the event online instead. All the fashion week events over the next 12 months – which includes both the womenswear and menswear shows – will now be held on a digital platform from June 12 to 14.
Normally, fashion week is a pretty exclusive affair with a limited amounts of tickets handed out to industry insiders, but going online will help democratize and open up high-end fashion to everyone. This isn’t the only major change happening to LFW. Instead of hosting separate events for menswear and womenswear, they will be combined into one. A shift towards a gender-neutral fashion week is a long time coming – one of the biggest names on the schedule, Burberry, combined the two shows into one in 2016. Since then, the line between genders in fashion has become increasingly blurred, with androgynous and unisex dressing become a far bigger part of the culture.
Other fashion weeks around the world have made a similar leap. Both Moscow and Shanghai chose to host their fashion weeks online recently. In Shanghai, designer Angel Chen – who you might recognize from Netflix’s Next in Fashion series – staged a six-minute digital presentation for her Akira-inspired collection. The imaginative virtual environments she created proved how incredible a digital venture can be in the hands of the right creatives. Helsinki Fashion Week, which was set for July, has also announced that it will be entirely digital.
The news is a positive move for the fashion industry, which has been hit pretty hard by the pandemic. As well as setting trends copied by the high street and being an Insta-worthy spectacle, fashion week is important in business terms. It’s a chance for international buyers to see what designers have to offer, and decide which brands to support by retailing their clothes all over the world. Even though going online means we don’t miss out on LFW, there will be at least one major omission from the schedule.
House of Holland – led by Henry Holland, who made his name with cheeky slogan T-shirts – announced over the weekend it was shutting its doors. Holland told the press, “While I can’t assign full responsibility to the global COVID-19 pandemic, it certainly didn’t help.” With so many factories based in China, as well as months of no sales in physical stores and supply chain disruptions, it’s likely House of Holland won’t be the only label to suffer as a result of the crisis.
Alternatively, the pandemic has been an opportunity for fashion to stop and take stock of the current state of the industry. It has been questioned whether it’s necessary for designers to produce at least two new collections a year, particularly considering the huge environmental impact of fashion. Combining menswear and womenswear is a step towards streamlining the schedule, and we’re sure LFW will address some of these weighty issues facing the industry.
Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council, shared, “The current pandemic is leading us all to reflect more poignantly on the society we live in and how we want to live our lives and build businesses when we get through this. The other side of this crisis, we hope, will be about sustainability, creativity, and product that you value, respect, cherish. By creating a cultural fashion week platform, we are adapting digital innovation to best fit our needs today and something to build on as a global showcase for the future.”