LONDON (AFP) - The designer who caused a furore with his androgynous outfit for former One Direction singer Harry Styles helped kick off London Fashion Week on Friday (Feb 19), which is being held virtually due to 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 on 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 like 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 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 on Friday.
The British and Irish dual-national, 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 choose to seek it," Aksu explained.
Impact of Brexit
Among the most eagerly awaited collections are those by the British brand Burberry - known for its tailored trenchcoats - which will present its menswear Autumn/Winter collection for 2021, designed by Italian creative director Riccardo Tisci on Monday.
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 January.
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.
In early February, hundreds of fashion figures - including top former models like 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.