There was a time when buying fashion was solely an investment in yourself. You bought fashion, at varying price points, thinking little or nothing of its intrinsic value after you’d finished using or wearing it. If it was lucky it would make a few pounds at a local charity shop after being donated. It was only very special showpieces or clothing worn by famous people that held any real value.
Left - Dolce & Gabbana sold its last Alta Moda Couture collection in NFT format
Today, designer fashion is being spun as ‘Contemporary Vintage’ or ‘Future Vintage’. It is being sold on the promise that it will retain some type of value or even increase. A generation of younger people are being asked to pay increasing prices for trainers and clothes on the pretence that they are an astute investment. Sounding like a giant Ponzi scheme, and adding in things like NFTs, are we seeing a new generation being hoodwinked into ‘investing’ into fashion?
“I think it's a complex landscape here, almost half of the UK Generation Z saw some negative alteration to their employment through the pandemic period, and for this generation, it's increasingly hard to get into meaningful work.” says Petah Marian, founder of Future Narrative, a retail, culture and consumer trends expert.
“This sense that the system is rigged against them is leading to all sorts of speculative behaviours, be it trying to get access to limited-edition trainers to flip, or in some cases crypto currencies. Some people do make considerable amounts of money out of selling items, but, unless you know what's going to hold value, it's a risky game, as a lot of the future value lies in how well it will resonate later on.” she says.
In November, London designer fashion retailer, Machine-A, with self-described 'contemporary vintage’ e-commerce site Byronesque, launched a vintage area selling archival and rare runway pieces from the like of Rick Owens and Raf Simons.
“As I understand it, contemporary vintage is just a new way of marketing vintage items. The way that Machine B is positioning itself is that the contemporary vintage selection will be key vintage items from a series of iconic designers that have a certain cult appeal.” says Marian.
Called Machine-B, it launched at the Machine-A store in Soho and online. What was interesting was how Machine-A was using these archival pieces to promote its other contemporary designer offering and labelling it as ‘future vintage’. This speculative retail approach included small and lesser known brands such as Stefan Cooke and Kiki Kostadinov.
Kerry Taylor, founder of Kerry Taylor Auctions, the world's leading auction house specialising in vintage fashion, fine antique costume and textiles, says, “I have concerns about people purchasing trainers for hundreds of thousands of dollars – when we know that items made from rubber or plastics in the 1960s have started to revert/disintegrate. High quality artisanal items such as Hermès handbags however are probably only going to increase.” she says. “I would trust vintage vintage as it has an established track record rather than ‘contemporary vintage’ which is a bit of a contradiction in terms. We have no idea of the marketing hype will come true.” says Taylor.
Taylor thinks brands and designers are marketing their clothes and product like this to make them seem more special in a world flooded with brands and garments. If you were to ‘invest’, what would you look for?
“They should buy what they like rather than just for an investment. Investments can go up or down – but if you love a piece – then it doesn’t matter so much. Always check condition – avoid anything altered or with damage.” says Taylor.
Marian thinks brands that have a strong and passionate fan base or items that either speak to a brand's codes or are exceptional examples of where it departs from it are more shrewd investments, as well as items that have a limited release.
“It's part of the broader narrative around circularity and retailers slowing consumption around new items, while also generating buzz around key designers by elevating second-hand items as "archive pieces" that are special and rare.” says Marian.
Right - Burberry's first NFT collection launched in August 2021
Fashion brands are offering other avenues to invest, and making their brands look more attractive in the process. NFTs or non-fungible tokens, offer a chance to buy digital versions of an item. Individuals need to establish a digital wallet to store your cryptocurrency in order to purchase an NFT.
In June, Gucci partnered with Christie’s selling an NFT video called ‘Aria’, the title of its AW21 collection, for $25,000, while in September, Dolce & Gabbana sold an NFT couture Alta Moda suit for £740,000 at auction. The new owner also got a physical suit for that price. Dolce & Gabbana grossed $5.7 million from its first auction of NFT collectibles.
Tying fashion items and collections to NFTs raises the investment levels, but are NFTs likely to be a good long-term investment?
“It's very early to say what the mass uptake will look like.” says Marian. “There's a passionate community of collectors that are driving up the value of NFTs at the moment, but I can't say what the long term value of the current releases of NFTs. I think NFTs are here for the longer term, but it's very early to say what the value or the market will look like for individual assets in a year or two years from now yet.” she says.
Add the growing noise around the Metaverse - the British Fashion Council (BFC) recently announced a brand new category as part of The Fashion Awards 2021—the first ever Fashion Award for Metaverse Design exclusively with Roblox - and the way digital and physical items are blurring, these new ways of owning or consuming as item are selling themselves as investment opportunities to a younger and more engaged consumer.
All investments are speculative. By linking and promoting positive examples of fashion items increasing in or holding their value, brands are cleverly giving the illusion that it is a certain. This is targeted at the younger consumer queuing at stores in Soho or entering ballots for items happy to pay significant sums of money with the idea lurking in the background that they will be able to resell it at some point or even flip at a profit. Websites like Stock X continue to propel the hyped hysteria.
Left - Hyped kids? Luxury brands are invested in giving the perception their goods will retain or even increase their value to younger, Gen Z consumers
Fashion has never really been a serious investment before. Fashion, in its nature, is fickle and unpredictable. Implying that something is resellable at a price close to what you paid for it and/or a solid investment is another pull brands are using to activate the purchasing power of their expensive products. It doesn’t feel like you’re chucking your money away like it did in the past to a generation more careful with money. This bubble is getting bigger and we all know what happens to bubbles when they get too big.
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September is fashion’s month. Once bulging fashion magazine issues - remember those?! - the start of fashion’s most important selling season, and, of course, fashion weeks makes September the most important month of the year for the, estimated, global $1.5 trillion fashion industry.
Above - Louis Vuitton's COVID LV Shield hitting stores in October
Fashion week is the canary in the mine and the biggest to suffer from the pandemic. Events which combine travel and vast numbers of people aren’t going to work right now, and, therefore, puts the traditional idea of fashion weeks into a strange predicament. While many fashion councils are trying to push ‘business as usual’, it is far from it.
New York has started, but few would have realised. Designers sitting out New York Fashion Week, this season, include Marc Jacobs - its biggest draw - plus Ralph Lauren, The Row, Pyer Moss, Michael Kors, Telfar, Oscar de la Renta and Brandon Maxwell. Those still taking part can have a socially distanced crowd of just 30 people, while, before, traditional shows ranged into the multiple of 100s. London's fashion week runs from 17th September - Tuesday 22nd September 2020 with the same strict controls.
Fashion weeks is the fashion business in an event and drives focus and attention from outside its bubble to retail and the idea of purchasing something ‘new’ to consumers. They are also extremely old fashioned and had less and less relevance way before COVID 19.
While the majority of fashion shows are pointless, a few images, brands, designers will emerge that stick and steer the fashion industry into that direction for the next six months. It’s also a coming together of people and a temperature test of the industry. But, they have become bloated and drawn out exercises in wasting time and money when fashion can no longer afford either. Limos driving groups of pampered people all over town for 10 mins feels dated and indulgent.
The major of women’s fashion weeks - New York, London, Milan & Paris - managed to scrape through COVID in February and March at the beginning of the year. This will be the first test of how major fashion weeks will run with a global pandemic hanging over it. Some brands, like Louis Vuitton and YSL, have done separate shows over the past few months, but nothing like previous years.
Left - LFW's Digital Schedule home page
This season, the London Fashion Week the schedule has been split into three sections and includes brands showing digitally, physically or both - ‘phygital’. The gender neutral showcase will run from Thursday 17th to Tuesday 22nd September 2020 and include both digital activations on www.londonfashionweek.co.uk and physical events, adhering to government guidelines on social distancing. The schedule will host over 80 designers including 40 womenswear, 15 menswear, 20 menswear & womenswear and 5 accessories brands. There will be a total of 50 digital only activations, 21 physical and digital, 7 physical only and 3 designers who will activate through a physical evening event only.
The LFW digital platform, launched in June for the men’s calendar, will continue to serve as the Official Digital Hub and will be freely accessible to everyone, industry professionals and global fashion consumers alike. The British Fashion Council says. “LFW is one of the few international events to still be going ahead in London, proving the industry’s resilience, creativity, and innovation in difficult times. Now more than ever, the BFC acknowledges the necessity to look at the future of LFW and the opportunity to drive change, collaborate and innovate in ways that will establish long-term benefits, develop new sustainable business models and boost the industry’s economic and social power. The British Fashion Industry faces enormous challenges due to the impact of COVID-19 and the BFC keeps on calling on Government to support a sector which in 2019 contributed £35 billion to the UK economy and employs over 890,000 people (Oxford Economics, 2020).”
Having a traditional ‘schedule’ for barely 28 shows seems old fashioned. As fashion blogger @bryanboy tweeted to his 502.4K Twitter followers regarding NYFW, this week, “It’s really annoying how designers still get an individual time slot for what essentially is a release for a pre-taped short film. No one cares!! Just do a date and release it on the morning or afternoon of that day and it doesn’t matter if it overlaps with other designers”.
Right - Burberry Horseferry check face mask coming soon
It’s the equivalent of waiting in all day for an e-mail. Nobody has time for this, especially when it feels like most of this stuff won’t be ordered or bought anyway. Maybe just have a single release date, hub for content and publicise that?
The most anticipated London show is Burberry’s. Rumoured to be Riccardo Tisci’s last, it will be held outdoors. Burberry will use Twitch’s ‘Squad Stream' function, which allows users to view multiple perspectives of the show at a time and chat with fellow viewers using the service’s chat window. It will be live-streamed without an audience.
LFW designer Emilio De La Morena is presenting an exhibition rather than a traditional catwalk show. Called ‘Troubles SS’21’, it is an assimilation of fashion, film, and sculpture into a “consolidation of the designers professional and personal journey in conjunction to the global pandemic”.
Fashion’s optimistic hope has been that this pandemic will blow over and we’ll get back to the normal fashion week circus asap. Fashion weeks work in the future and were hoping that by the time the 2021 collections come out this will all feel like a bad dream, but, it’s also realistic to think otherwise. Fashion is fickle, when the pandemic is over any product will instantly feel dated and obsolete. It is difficult to know how much time and money to invest in it.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, saying that not enough COVID-19 vaccines will be available to inoculate the global population until at least the end of 2024. According to Poonawalla, pharmaceutical companies are not increasing production capacity quickly enough to vaccinate everyone faster. “It’s going to take four to five years until everyone gets the vaccine on this planet,” Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute of India, said.
Some brands are incorporating PPE protection into their collections. Louis Vuitton has designed a coronavirus face shield which can also be flipped up and used as a sun visor. The LV Shield will be available to purchase from 30th October 2020 in selected Louis Vuitton stores worldwide for around £700. Burberry face masks are coming soon on the brand’s website, strange they haven't released these faster, and are donating 20% from the selling price of each face mask to the Burberry Foundation COVID-19 Community Fund operated by The Burberry Foundation to support communities impacted by the pandemic globally.
Fashion weeks as an idea is still important, it just needs to reinvent itself for life post-pandemic. Mega brands can still blow millions on a pointless extravaganza, but for smaller designers and brands it can be their slim opportunity to be scouted and brought to attention. It also reaffirms the importance of seeing, feeling and experiencing fashion, but with many influencers shunning fashion week and with the amount of traditional magazine press dwindling, who is it for exactly?
We do need to see. Digital is all a bit unreal. We may as well be dressing avatars. You also have a better memory of items in real, it’s the equivalent of a school trip, they’re fully rounded and you can picture yourself wearing it. But, is it that worth £100,000s to brands? Fashion week is a preview and is also important for brands to know what to make and order. We’ve tried ‘See now, buy now’ and now’s the time for digital presentations. Is the future for fashion weeks somewhere in-between? Or does that just take us back to square one?!
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Is there ever a perfect time to launch anything? Warehouse, the women’s high street brand founded in 1976 by Jeff Banks, is launching menswear this week. The traditional British men’s high-street has been in the doldrums for quite some time since the skinny suit was replaced by the branded tracksuit. So, the question is, does this ambitious new launch signal the start of a potential menswear renaissance or will it be simply too difficult in a segment that has seen other well known high-street brands crash and burn?
Jonathan Munro, Warehouse Menswear designer says, “We feel strongly that there is a gap for a well-designed sustainable brand at a great price point. We wanted to build on the success of the womenswear line, marking a new chapter in the brand’s history and fulfilling what we believe, is a gap in the market.” he says. It is worth noting that this isn’t the first time Warehouse has done menswear. They had menswear in the early days of Warehouse so they are not promoting this as a first.
Left - Warehouse Menswear SS20
The main focus is, the fashion word du jour, sustainable. The new range will be sold online via the Warehouse webstore www.warehouse.co.uk and through host e-tailers and retailers; The Idle Man, Zalando, JohnLewis.com, Next and the Australian retailer Myer. Price points range from £15 for a 100% organic T-shirt, up to £189 for a recycled polyester content suit and £229 for the chrome-free suede jacket.
“The core of the range is made up of high quality wardrobe staples that should last season-after-season, balanced with breathable cottons and linens in a wearable colour palette.” says Munro. “We have a great range of printed shirts, from monochrome geos to abstract hand painted illustrations which are all designed in-house. Key pieces include our heavy twill overshirts and slim utility trousers.” he says.
“Fashion needs to become more sustainable for the good of the planet.” says Munro. “100% of the range includes sustainable fibres such as organic cottons which use less pesticides and therefore less pollutants, recycled polyesters made up from salvaged plastic bottles and eco viscose which is derived from renewable wood sources.”
What will Warehouse Menswear add to the British men’s high-street market? “Sustainable clothing for the modern man who needs his clothes to last and work for him every day.” says Munro. “We know women buy clothes for men and we also know men buy clothes for themselves - it's aimed at whoever wants to buy it.” he says. “We are holding a pop-up store at Protein Studios in Shoreditch, running from the 2nd – 7th March. This is to allow customers to see the range first hand, interacting with the materials and learning more about the sustainability messaging which runs throughout.”
What does the future look like for Warehouse Menswear? “Our main focus will be to continue to research and develop new ways of working with sustainability in mind, supported by the knowledge of what the Warehouse Menswear customer is looking for in a sustainable clothing collection.” says Munro.
Brands such as Whistles and New Look both struggled in the menswear category. Whistles cancelled its menswear range this time last year and New Look removed menswear from its stores in April 2019, going online-only. The rest of the high-street from Topman to River Island to Jigsaw have struggled to compete with Zara and the sports brands. But, things aren’t all doom and gloom, according to a ‘GlobalData’ report ‘The UK Clothing Market 2018 – 2023’, menswear will be the driving force of the clothing sector, forecast to grow by 12.3% over the next five years as greater trend incorporation and newness drives volumes.
A British Fashion Council and Mintel report estimates that consumer spending menswear has grown 5.1% to reach £15.9 billion in 2018. Menswear now accounts for 26% of the total clothing market, whilst womenswear accounts for 51%. Consumer spending on clothing is forecast to rise 25% to £76 billion in the next five years to 2023.
Warehouse’s parent company, the Oasis and Warehouse Group, clearly sees potential in the menswear market having recently purchased online retailer The Idle Man for an undisclosed sum in Sept. 2019.
Right - Warehouse Menswear SS20
So, what do the experts think Warehouse Menswear’s prospects are?
“When this was announced, I’m not going to lie, I was very surprised, to say the least. I understand a lot of people keep on talking about the growth in men’s fashion & grooming, but when we see retailers from New Look to Whistles dropping their menswear offering, it does beg the question, is now the best time to launch a menswear brand extension?
“Additional to this, we have an awful lot of talk on sustainability and buying less but better quality, plus when well known names like TOPMAN are not performing particularly well at the moment, its hard to see a brand not known for their menswear being a success in these difficult, uncertain times. However, maybe this is what the menswear market needs, maybe Warehouse it going to target the ladies buying for their men, but this is an ever increasingly niche demographic. I do wish Warehouse all the luck in the world and hope their Menswear offering is a success, but I won’t be holding my breathe.” says Anthony McGrath, Founder of Clothes-Make-the-Man.com & leading academic.
“It’s certainly a challenging time to launch, but there’s an opportunity for Warehouse where other major high street names are stalling or retracting on menswear. There are multiple challenges for high street retailers; nimble online competition, prohibitive high business rates, persistent economic uncertainty and the fact that many of us no longer choose shopping as a preferable leisure activity. However, in my opinion the current menswear offer from the high street, with a few exceptions, is failing to offer well-made, well priced and exciting product. There’s a proliferation of dull, cheap clothes.
I’d like to see a certain amount of risk taking. Nobody needs another line of neutral, anonymous ‘wardrobe essentials’. Men shop for themselves. It’s not going to work if the strategy is to rely on existing customers.” says Jessica Punter, Stylist & Grooming Consultant, & former GQ Style & Grooming Editor.
“It'll be a tough fight, and depends on their marketing strategy I think. They have a nice campaign video and a pop up shop but is that enough? We'll see. They have an opportunity now to really nail it, to take the market share from the high street brands that don't do it particularly well, but time will tell! I think others failed because they weren't offering a mix of product for different customer groups, so hopefully Warehouse will.
“There isn't a 'good time' to launch I don't think, there's always going to be peaks and troughs in the industry, and right now we're just coming out of a terrible time for retail, so maybe it's a great time! To wait until fashion week or another event is pointless now as we know men don't really shop to seasons or events, they just shop because they need to. I guess it's a good time in the year though, because now is the time for newness, so makes sense from a business point of view.
“Initially, I think it'll be the aimed at the women for sure, because they are the ones going in store and online to buy Warehouse, but if they have a good marketing plan, and get it out to wider audiences, men will slowly show up. Also, I wonder who they are partnering with, if anyone, to wholesale? That'll be really important in pulling in a new menswear customer. It'll be slow, but maybe they might be able to do what others have failed to do!” says Simon Glazin, freelance fashion writer and blogger.
Left - Will it work? Warehouse Menswear SS20
“I think there's space for an affordable, fashion-forward offer now Topman is tussling with Boohoo over cheap sportswear, but Warehouse aren't going to be the ones to provide it. Well, judging from the images I've seen.” says Lee Clatworthy, Fashion Writer.
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With a schedule now slimmer than one of the teenage models, London Fashion Week Men’s, or LFWM, needs to find a new reason for being. We’ve done diversity, inclusiveness and sustainability, but now, thanks to the BFC, there’s an over-riding umbrella term called ‘Positive Fashion’. Designers such as Nicholas Daley, Bethany Williams, Bianca Saunders and Ahluwalia all had PW (Positive Fashion) after their names on the schedule.
Launched in 2013, the BFC’s Positive Fashion initiative is “a platform designed to celebrate industry best practice and encourage future business decisions to create positive change”.
Left - The BFC's new LFWM graphics
Positive Fashion is led by 3 strategic pillars - sustainability, equality and diversity and craftsmanship and community - it says, In a statement from the BFC, “The BFC takes the lead in setting the standards for an industry that strives to represent equality and diversity on the global stage. Championing the importance of every person in the sector as a vital and valuable part of our industry entitled to be treated with respect and dignity.
“Supports the community of talent, skills and craftsmanship that make up our unique industry. Our initiatives are designed to develop connections and understanding between designers and manufacturers taking a holistic approach to the long term viability of the sector. We celebrate the wealth of talent and capability that is unique to British designer businesses.”
While this manifesto all sounds totally earnest and worthwhile it does reek of wishful thinking and what does it actually mean?The green movement is only going to get bigger and the fashion sector, said to contribute £32.3 Billion to the UK economy in GDP and supporting 890,000 jobs, is firmly on its naughty step. We’ve had a lot of lip service, but sadly, without government legislation, the industry will put off the difficult, and more costly, things until tomorrow.
To further ram home the point, the British Fashion Council has announced its intention to launch the Institute of Positive Fashion (IPF). “The BFC recognises that the fashion industry engages consumers daily, and whilst it is often seen as forward thinking, it also appreciates that through global supply chains the industry can have a negative impact on the planet.”
“Through the IPF, the BFC aims to create an industry blueprint by bringing together expertise from different areas to help brands in the industry navigate an often confusing to understand topic and kick-start a much-need comprehensive step-change. Informed by research, expert opinion, industry insights and the significant industry experience of individual businesses and organisations, the power of collective effort will amplify independent activity.”
It’s a lot of marketing speak, but it does have an influence if the costs aren’t too prohibitive. ‘Sustainability' has been a part of the BFC’s strategy since 2006. Their ‘Esthethica’ showcase put sustainable fashion at the heart of London Fashion Week before evolving into Positive Fashion in 2013. This is the first time I have seen it mentioned anywhere.
But, what has exactly happened over those past 7 years and how much carbon emissions, or however you want to measure it, has been saved?
Back to fashion week and many designers are thinking about how to minimise their footprint, but they’re also trying to survive very tough times. LFWM is currently very sustainable because nobody buys any of it. But jokes aside, the ambition is there and it feels like we’re in something of a technological and supply chain cul-de-sac. Patrick Grant’s premium E Tautz label was called ‘Brand New Second Hand’. In the show release he said, “As a designer I feel acute pressure to act. We need to change the message. No more fiddling while Rome burns. Big fashion can do ‘sustainable’, it can do ‘ethical’, it can do ‘conscious’. It all helps make consumers buy MORE.
“But what big fashion cannot do is small. It can’t slow down. What they will never do is tell you to ‘buy less, keep for longer, cherish, repair, pass on’. That however is exactly what we must do and what we’re asking you to do. E Tautz clothes will not change so much from season to season that you feel you need to buy something new. In fact we’re suggesting the opposite.”
Grant has worked with Astco, one of the UK’s largest clothing recyclers, to make new pieces from unwanted textiles. He’s also enlisted the Rolls-Royce of darning, the Royal School of Needlework, to give them that patched/repaired feel. What he should have done is shown last season’s samples with the repairs from actual wear and tear from being lent out to the industry. It’s fine to talk about buying less when a coat costs £1500, but when the collections are often funded by more affordable, high-street collaborations it can often sound hypocritical.
But, everything fashion does is hypocritical. The idea of replacing something while it is still perfectly useful will always put fashion into the negative fashion bracket. ‘Positive Fashion’ could easily go the way of ‘sustainability’ and become as meaningless as it sounds. Nobody is going to disagree with making fashion positive, it just needs to be explained. We want detail.
“The world is burning. Fashion plays a BIG part in this.” said Grant in his show's press release, “But as Ranieri sings in ‘Oh My Love’ ‘from nature we should learn, that all can start again’. Even Fashion.”
Fashion weeks’ viability are continually being questioned. It’s the same conversation every time on the front row - the fashion industry’s twice yearly deja vecu - What is the point? And, how do fashion brands and designers justify the expense and time?
There’s no doubt the major fashion weeks - New York, London, Milan & Paris - have suffered recently as the industry has contracted, brands have merged men’s and women’s shows together and others have opted out entirely, reducing both the quality and quantity of many fashion weeks. Yet, many brands are still willing to spend millions on a few short minutes of exposure.
Ready-to-wear fashion weeks’ last hoped for raison d’être trend was ‘See Now, Buy Now’, which didn’t really work. It was too restrictive in a creative capacity for brands whose collections are often pulled together and styled a few weeks before each show.
It’s time to try something else, so could ‘public-facing shows’ be the solution and create a much needed source of income for these trade organisations?
Left - Will the BFC's idea for 'Public Facing' Shows' revive fashion weeks raison d'être?
The British Fashion Council has announced public-facing shows at the forthcoming London Fashion Week in September. Designers ‘House Of Holland’ and ‘self-portrait’, the first to be announced, will be taking part in the new London Fashion Week format which sees the internationally recognised event open its doors to the public.
Unlike the ‘London Fashion Weekend’ which is tagged onto the end of fashion week, and is more a exhibition-type event, this will take place during the main fashion week. There are public shows on the Saturday and Sunday with ticket holders choosing from three different time slots; 10am, 1pm and 4pm. The public audience is able to purchase tickets to “an immersive London Fashion Week experience” taking place at the official London Fashion Week Hub where Standard tickets are priced at £135 and Front Row tickets at £245.
The British Fashion Council says, “The experience includes catwalk shows, on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th September 2019; creative installations, industry-led talk panels from experts offering unparalleled insights to the fashion industry, the DiscoveryLAB, an experiential space where fashion meets art, technology and music and a newly relaunched Designer Exhibition, which will fully embrace #PositiveFashion, the BFC’s initiative designed to celebrate industry best practice and encourage future business decisions to create positive change.”
Fashion Writer, Dal Chodha, @dalchodha says, “Fashion shows are already ‘public facing’ so I don’t think this initiative is necessarily a bad thing. “What is increasingly obvious is that the industry has tried to maintain its aloofness whilst still courting attention from anyone and everyone for too long. There has been no clear welcome of the general public into the fashion conversation, despite all of the hot air about the ‘democratisation’ of fashion. I haven’t seen it.” he says. “There is nothing democratic about showing people clothes they cannot get, or streaming experiences they cannot feel.”
Dan Hasby-Oliver, Blogger, Last Style of Defense, says, “I do think this opens up crucial funding for both designers and the BFC, as well as making an industry more transparent, given the convo. around sustainability - it all goes hand-in-hand. However, I do fear it could become a circus of phone toting teens…”
“I think it’s a great idea. The designers need customers. If we can get #shoptherunway technology and eventually solve the fit issue using technology, we’ll have a seemless way for designers to make money from a runway show. The old model is dead. Off with its head!” says Melissa Shea, Cofounder of Fashion Mingle, the first nationwide platform designed exclusively for fashion professionals.
The full line-up of catwalk shows, talks and designers taking part in the London Fashion Week “Designer Exhibition” will be announced in the next few weeks. London isn’t the first fashion week to try to tap into this enthusiasm from the public.
"I have visited Seoul Fashion Week four times to report on it for Wallpaper and I was most struck by the energy, the excitement in the room!” says Chodha. “I believe they operate on a lottery system, but I don’t think people pay money for tickets. The first show I went to was bizarre because people were screaming and smiling and laughing each time they saw a celebrity or a look they liked. It felt like the photographs of 1980s shows coming to life. People were ENJOYING them – in contrast to the glum faces you see in Paris, Milan and London. Most of us are too busy trying to process what we are seeing to really enjoy it. No one applauds at shows anymore because each of us is wielding a phone, ‘gramming the moment. So if people are avidly watching and enjoying the stories, why not free up a few seats and invite them to the show? I don’t see the harm in it, as long as we are still allowed to do our job. Fashion is a tricky industry because it is so seductive. I just wish that more young people were encouraged to go and see scientists or surgeons at work too, rather than just designers!” he says.
With ticket prices to rival a rock concert, the BFC is clearly hoping to make serious revenue from this. They’ve previously sold tickets to the British Fashion Awards, and sponsors have always been given tickets to London Fashion Week in exchange for money.
“I agree that the pricing is an issue as it pits itself as a ‘luxury’ experience - also in terms of broadening out the kinds of people who have access to fashion, the price of the tickets will foster no new ways of thinking.” says Chodha. “The move from the BFC just confirms fashion’s new role as a type of theatre. It is a spectacle (even when it is bad). Just like traipsing around an art gallery or squeezing yourself into a concert, fashion is entertainment.
“‘Outsiders’ have been going to fashion shows for a long time under the guise of ‘sponsors friends’. Is this the future? It is the here and now. To be snobbish about it is to refuse evolution. Something has to change, that’s for sure.” he says.
“Fashion week is a working environment, and to perhaps make it a free for all could make professionals reconsider their place during the week, thus transitioning the event to a redundant, consumer facing replacement for See Now, Buy Now.” says Hasby-Oliver. “Perhaps more work-place/open days/industry support would benefit keen outsiders looking to the industry instead. I do think, the current price package is prohibitive to the less privileged. Concl: Yes for transparency and education for the few, No to making it a frenzied free for all.” he says.
Traditionally, Haute Couture fashion shows have always been about the consumer with the hope these ridiculously expensive clothes are ordered off the back of the show. But, it was a model only for the mega-monied who could buy entry by becoming a customer. These shows will be separate from the press/buyer shows, but should give attendees a feel of going to a full fledged fashion show. Many people want to attend a fashion show once in their lifetime and if the BFC get the designers, music and models right they should satisfy those with the desire to stump up this sort of cash to go. Unfortunately, the best designers will probably decline to take part.
Fashion and fashion weeks’ exclusivity is one of the attractions of the industry. The desire for tickets, the scrum at the door and the hysteria are all part of the fun. To sell out 6 catwalk shows for these prices will be a challenge, but will certainly generate some income. These shows need to be buzzy and full to give the full LFW experience. If successful, other brands could look at offering another public show after their main one and possibly give the tickets away in a ballot or to VIP customers. The industry will be watching.
We’re on the eve of London Fashion Week Men’s and, while celebrating its 5th year, the biannual event is having to deal with the changing menswear landscape. Brands are cutting expenditure, many are merging men’s with women’s, budgets are under pressure and London Fashion Week needs to be justified more than ever.
Left - The new face of Topman AW17, Lennon Gallagher giving good brows
The closed, industry facing idea of fashion weeks is over and it’s all about photo opportunities and customer facing events. It’s about promotion, harnessing the buzz and trying to get some direct return on the costly investment.
Perfectly illustrating this is Topman Design. One of the originals on the London men’s schedule and the first to really elevate high-street to a catwalk proposition, Topman Design has decided to shelve the show and instead have a presentation for its new SS18 collection that will be thrown open to the general public over the weekend. Arcadia, the parent of Topman, has seen sales falling and this puts pressure on making these type of events perform.
A ‘multi-media event’ called ‘Transition’, the Topman Design installation is curated by a series of collaborators.. Each collaborator will ‘own’ a space and create an installation showcasing their interpretation of this attitude with each room having a completely different and fresh perspective to create a unique journey through the space.
The event takes place at the Old Truman Brewery and open to the public on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th June between 10am and 6pm. To gain access to the event simply download the DICE app on the App Store and Google Play or at DICE.fm.
Collaborators featured include photographer and filmmaker Nick Offord, musicians ‘The Rhythm Method’, poet and writer Max Wallis, architect and filmmaker Ben Cullen Williams and photographer and creative director Campbell Addy who will be working alongside illustrator King Owusu. In addition the space housing the installation will be designed by young British architect Benni Allan of estudio b.
The space will also feature a pop-up shop selling exclusive apparel featuring prints and graphics taken from and inspired by the Topman Design archive as well as exclusive pieces from the collaborators exhibiting.
Opening the fashion week up to the city makes it an event and creates the momentum that continues to keep these things going. We need to see more of this and not simply 'See Now, Buy Now'. I was thinking when they pedestrianise Oxford Street, it could become the location for fashion week. Clear marquees could hold shows and outside screens could showcase collections to the general public increasing interest and firmly keeping British fashion as the centre of creativity and the city.
Increasing the public's interest in fashion and fashion week and taking it out of its bubble should be the main objective this LFWM.
London’s men’s fashion week got its Ronseal title, this season, replacing the old London Collections: Men moniker. The change didn’t make any difference to the lack of content and money, unfortunately, but, hopefully, it meant more to the wider public with many still not realising there even was a men’s fashion week in London.
Left - Daniel W Fletcher Presentation
London and Britain, is good at fashion, we’re good at menswear, we should celebrate it and this is the event to do that at. Twice a year, we come together, test the temperature of the industry and move forward in the way fashion always does. There will always be ups and downs and better and worse seasons, but ultimately it’s big business, from luxury to high-street, and we’re one of the best at it. Let’s champion that.
LFWM is just more pointless than previously, yet still necessary. It needs to be done, otherwise other cities will take the focus away from London and London needs to seen as a centre of ideas and fashion.
When we leave Europe, the British Fashion Council need to lobby the government for more funding for an industry that employs so many people and encourages people to visit and shop in the UK. If we’re going to build a successful post-European future we need to focus on areas we are good at. Creativity is one of those areas. Fashion links many of these together and is the energy and catalyst for newness.
When then pedestrianise Oxford Street, fashion weeks should move there into see-through marquees and become inclusive to those interested in it and bankrolling it on the pavements either side.
What’s the opposite to ‘having a moment’? Because this is what menswear is currently facing. It’s not solely a London problem, affecting all the main fashion cities, but as fashion is a business, when it needs to change and save money, things get cut.
There was lots of talk during LFWM about whether this would be the last one, but I think if it was going to disappear it would have done so this season. The doom and gloom of the last LC:M was replaced with an optimism that things can only get better and the acceptance that those big brands, now missing, are gone. It’s okay, nobody died.
This was a medicated fashion week. A fashion week on Prozac. Things weren’t as important as before, so it felt more democratic. The must-have tickets didn’t exist so people were more equal than ever. The have and have-nots of fashion weren’t as separate and it felt more inclusive and less frantic.
One of the problems I have it predictablity. Designers showing exactly what you think they’re going to show. They don’t move their collections on. I don’t expect a 180 u-turn every season, but as nobody is really buying anything anyway what do they have to lose? They just make you wonder why you turned up. A signature style is fine, but a designer known for tasteful newness will always excel.
Another, is this idea that fashion collections look a certain way. It’s all a bit graduate Fashion Scout, and was new sometime in the Thatcher era. The bong-bong-bong music and po-faced press releases suck the life out of the spectacle and the audience and has the bullshit detector on max. Fashion always needs its wanky, taking-itself-too-seriously label, I get that, but there’s only so much eye rolling one can do.
So, let’s think positive. When things hit rock bottom things can only go up. This half glass full attitude to men’s is what will keep it going. Those big brands disappearing will create room for something new: a vacuum for the future. The future is close, we just need to entertain ourselves until it arrives.