London Fashion Week goes virtual

In another striking change, the event is no longer just about women's fashion and includes gender-neutral designs

Veteran designer Paul Costelloe returns to his stylistic roots of late 1960s Paris, using striking ochre, orange and blue colours in his collection (above).
Veteran designer Paul Costelloe returns to his stylistic roots of late 1960s Paris, using striking ochre, orange and blue colours in his collection (above).PHOTO: PAULCOSTELLOE OFFICIAL/INSTAGRAM
Designer Harris Reed presents flamboyant looks (above) that playfully blur gender distinctions.
Designer Harris Reed presents flamboyant looks (above) that playfully blur gender distinctions.PHOTO: HARRIS_REED/INSTAGRAM

LONDON • The designer who caused a furore with his androgynous outfit for former One Direction singer Harry Styles helped kick off London Fashion Week last Friday, which is being held virtually due to the coronavirus.

This time last year, thousands flocked to the global fashion event to see designs by Victoria Beckham and Vivienne Westwood, just weeks before the pandemic hit Britain.

This time, however, fashionistas will not be squeezing together in the front row with social distancing measures still in place.

Instead, they will be following the latest trends from the comfort of their homes.

In another significant change from last year's events, the week is not dedicated to women's fashion and is gender neutral.

The new direction for London Fashion Week is typified by Harris Reed, whose designs have caught the eye of celebrities such as pop star Harry Styles.

The former One Direction member turned heads in December when he appeared on the front cover of Vogue magazine wearing one of the 24-year-old stylist's creations: a frilled dress beneath a tuxedo jacket.

In his first collection after graduating from London's Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Reed showcased six flamboyant looks that playfully blurred gender distinctions.

Bethany Williams, a 31-year-old climate-conscious designer, displayed colourful unisex coats created with recycled blankets as part of a collection made exclusively for the high-end Selfridges stores.

Paul Costelloe was also among those opening the event last Friday.

The British and Irish dualnational, a 35-year veteran of London Fashion Week, returned to his stylistic roots of late 1960s Paris, using striking ochre, orange and blue colours.

London-based Turkish designer Bora Aksu remained faithful to the look of previous fashion weeks by filming his AW21 collection within the Tate Britain gallery.

Models in his show wore long romantic dresses detailed with embroidery.

The silhouettes of the clothing were inspired by revolutionary France and the mathematician and physicist Sophie Germain, who battled to make a place for herself in a very masculine world.

"Sophie's own isolation allowed her to find the ideas that would drive her for the rest of her life. In that way, she has shown me that even in the bleakest of times, there is always hope, if one chooses to seek it," Aksu explained.

Among the most eagerly awaited collections are those by the British brand Burberry - known for its tailored trench coats - which presented its menswear Autumn/ Winter collection for 2021, designed by Italian creative director Riccardo Tisci yesterday.

Former Spice Girl and designer Victoria Beckham presented her creations a few days before London Fashion Week.

Her collection, which mixes the seasons, aims to be "optimistic but realistic", she explained.

Beckham has been living under coronavirus lockdown in Florida, where her husband, former England football captain David Beckham, is now one of the co-owners of the American professional soccer club Inter Miami.

During the pandemic, the former pop star said "people still want to dress up", but with "a need for comfort".

Her designs include military details that evoke a "sense of protection - a toughness", she added.

Her collection also exhibits a lighter, more delicate side with dresses made from jersey fabric or with prints of flowers and goldfish.

The more joyful designs are in stark contrast to the grim outlook for the fashion industry in Britain, seriously impacted by the pandemic.

Britain suffered more than 119,000 Covid-19 deaths and has been under national lockdown measures since last month.

The fashion sector, which employs more than 890,000 people and contributed £35 billion (S$65 billion) to British gross domestic product in 2019, has also been hit by Brexit and the end of free movement between the European Union and the island nation.

Early this month, hundreds of fashion figures - including top former models such as Twiggy and Yasmin Le Bon - signed an open letter, coordinated by the industry forum Fashion Roundtable, warning the sector risked being decimated because of Brexit.

To increase the visibility of young talent in the pandemic, the British Fashion Council, which represents the industry, has partnered with the social media giant TikTok.

The umbrella organisation has also joined forces with Clearpay, a group allowing customers to "buy now pay later" to boost sales.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2021, with the headline 'London Fashion Week goes virtual'. Subscribe