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LFW AW20 – Collections, Competitions and Coronavirus


It’s safe to say that it is indeed trying times for fashion and British business in general. London Fashion Week opened its AW20 doors in amongst the wilds of Storm Dennis, coronavirus and a post-Brexit Britain. For those that did make the five-day agenda it was a case of the show must go on, and of course it did.

Opening with the news of a ‘Music Meets Fashion Competition’ – a collaborative project between the British Fashion Council (BFC), MTV, ICEBERG and River Island. The competition is aimed at budding fashion design students selected through the BFC Colleges Council network in the UK as well as international design colleges, to produce catwalk and commercial pieces, inspired by music, fashion and sustainability.

Launch of the ‘Music Meets Fashion’ Competition at LFW from left to right: Liza Crompton-Prall – River Island, James Long – ICEBERG, Caroline Rush – British Fashion Council and Kelly Bradshaw – MTV.

Five finalists, selected by a panel of judges, will bring their MTV-inspired runway pieces to life at London Fashion Week Men’s in June 2020 and be awarded £1,000 from MTV to cover the cost of samples. The ultimate winner will present their sustainable, ready-to-wear pieces at London Fashion Week in September 2020. In addition to invaluable work experience at Milan Fashion Week in September 2020 with ICEBERG, the designer’s MTV-inspired commercial designs will be sold in River Island stores and online globally, and MTV will cover their design college tuition for one year. 

River Island’s Design Director, Naomi Dominque commented: We’re delighted to be working alongside the British Fashion Council, MTV and ICEBERG on this exciting new project. With one of the largest in-house design teams on the UK high-street and over 60-years of fashion retail experience, we are advocates of discovering and supporting future design talent and are well-placed to help guide the designers in realising their creative vision, whilst also appealing to our customer and being sympathetic to our planets resources.”

In line with supporting new creative talent Day 1 included On|Off Presents…an industry talent support programme that has been consulting and showcasing new and exciting design talent since 2002. This time it was the turn of House of Sheldon Hall, IYANU, Yan Denyu and Earth Logic, the latter (Earth Logic right) intently focused on sustainability and transformation in the fashion industry. Models strode down the catwalk in pure white boilersuits emblazoned with “All Power to the Imagination”, while the creators; Centre for Sustainable Fashion Professor Kate Fletcher and Dr Mathilda Tham informed us that: “For many years we have been dressing like we are somehow separate from the earth; as if our fate is somehow not tied to the health of the planet that is our home. But it is, and we need to change.” It was all rather poignant as a large group of ‘Extinction Rebellion’ protesters held up traffic outside the main venue carrying placards that read “No more false fashion” and “No fashion on a dead planet.” The group have penned an open letter to the British Fashion Council requesting that they cancel next season’s event.

Keeping on the sustainable track Anya Hindmarch ditched the traditional fashion show or presentation for a statement installation on plastic. Her London stores were filled floor to ceiling with empty plastic bottles. Known for her slogan ‘I Am Not A Plastic Bag’ adorning totes since 2007, Anya has moved away from awareness to circularity. Reusing the plastic that is in abundance Anya has developed the I Am A Plastic Bag” collection. Each bag is made from an innovative new cotton canvas-feel fabric that’s created from 32 half litre recycled plastic bottles. The fabric is then coated with recycled windscreens and fashioned into bags that are designed to be hardwearing and to never be thrown away.

Anya Hindmarch

Big brand player Tommy Hilfiger was in town touting his latest commercial designs that included sportswear inspired boilersuits, preppy sweaters and tracksuits worn by the likes of Naomi Campbell, Jourdan Dunn and Yasmin Le Bon. In an effort to become more sustainable his capsule range was created entirely from organic cotton and given some London edge courtesy of stylist and editor-in-chief of Love Magazine, Katie Grand.

Elsewhere Johnstons of Elgin combined long-established craftsmanship and heritage with technical innovation, fibre sourcing and sustainability. Inspired by the landscapes, textures and textile patterns of Scotland, Mongolia and Peru, the collection is the result of three years of development and investment.

Johnstons of Elgin image by Chris Daw

Creative Director Alan Scott said: “This collection really completes the overall architecture of The Johnstons of Elgin brand, which has been in the planning process for a number of years. For past seasons, we have worked to build up the brand infrastructure, and by investing in new technology it has allowed us to create pieces that both reflect our heritage and look forward to the future in terms of technical fabric and garment manufacturing. This has allowed us to become more relevant, real and accessible as a brand.

“For AW20, the collection is all about reflecting on our history and global sourcing and using this as a starting point to look to the future. Using 3D seamless technology has allowed us to both experiment and elevate quality throughout the entire collection. We have also tried to keep handcrafted skills alive and interweave them alongside new technology, to create pieces that are completely innovative. A pivotal collection for us, it has continued our new positioning; as an all year-round brand – offering a trans-seasonal approach to cashmere that is innovative confident and unique.”

Johnstons of Elgin image by Chris Daw

From reversible kimono jackets to checked trench styles to finest cashmere knits and wide-leg, tailored trousers – the quality, fit and craftsmanship shone through.

If Johnstons of Elgin represented a classic heritage brand reworked for a contemporary customer then Bobby Abley’s latest collection personified pop culture in all its bold and brash beauty. A riot of colour and print, Bobby combined low-rider car culture and 70’s psychedelia with Chinese inspired snakes and blossoms. This along with some oversized animal prints and a few Minions made for a collection of wearable, mostly sports inspired, pieces that celebrated print in all its vibrant glory.

Bobby Abley image by Chris Daw

On the front row there was a noticeable downturn in buyers, retailers, influencers and press from China at this season’s event due to travel restrictions imposed by the coronavirus. The epidemic has had a detrimental effect on the luxury fashion market with stores in China being temporarily closed and production orders falling behind schedule. Chinese spending accounted for a third of luxury global market sales in 2018 and was continuing to rise, according to Bain & Company.

APUJAN image Chris Daw

Meanwhile, back at London Fashion Week disinfectant was on hand and some wore face masks, both on and off the catwalk. APUJAN was one such designer that incorporated a matching printed face mask into his AW20/21 collection. Entitled “The Cloud-Making Factory” APUJAN looked to the sky for sleek, wearable designs inspired by clouds, gears, chimneys, robots and islands.

As the fashion camp headed over to Milan there was news of more cancellations and amid the coronavirus fears the likes of Giorgio Armani opted to live-stream his catwalk show, which took place in an empty theatre. Shanghai Fashion Week has now been postponed from its end-of-March date and with so much focus on ‘responsible’ practises the industry is now questioning if the days of lavish fashion weeks and catwalk shows are numbered?

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