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London Fashion Week
London Fashion Week celebrates fashion with Londoners, lovers of fashion, buyers, and the media twice a year in the months of February and September. The London Fashion Week, which is sponsored by Mercedes-Benz and organised by the British Fashion Council, a non-profit organisation, showcases collections from over 250 designers to a global audience by holding catwalk shows, designer showrooms, and static presentations. An estimated 100 million pounds’ worth of orders are placed during each LFW.
When and Where
An exhibition of fashion is held in London every two years during London Fashion Week. The British Fashion Council held the inaugural London Fashion Week in a West London parking lot in 1984. The event at the time featured exhibitions and catwalk presentations showcasing the UK fashion industry and its talents. The BFC continues to run London Fashion Week today with the goal of promoting British fashion designers both domestically and abroad. In addition to hosting a number of “on-schedule” shows, there are also “off-schedule” events that are organised by privately funded organisations and held at other locations in central London with the goal of showcasing new talents and those who cannot afford to display during London Fashion Week. The BFC also hosts the London Fashion Week Festival, an open-to-the-public event that takes place immediately after London Fashion Week and features the collections of local designers to give consumers a taste of London Fashion Week.
For many years, London Fashion Week was held at Somerset House in central London. However, over the past few years, venues have frequently changed in an effort to show visitors the various sides of the British city. A few notable venues include the 2016 Preen by Thornton Bregazzi show at London's City Hall, the 2016 Gucci show at Westminster Abbey, and the 2017 Burberry show at Old Sessions House in Clerkenwell.
Numerous people, including fashion PR Percy Savage, have claimed credit for laying the foundation for LFW. Before moving to London in 1974, the gregarious Savage had helped raise the profiles of Lanvin and Yves Saint Laurent in Paris. He then staged his first London show, “The New Wave,” at The Ritz, and shortly after that, “London Collections,” which featured designers like Bruce Oldfield and Zandra Rhodes and had Princess Margaret and Bianca Jagger in the front row. The British Fashion Council (BFC) was founded in 1983, and the first formal London Fashion Week took place the following year, ushering in the era of London Fashion Week as we know it today. Designer of the Year received its first honour that same year. A T-shirt Katharine Hamnett wore with the anti-nuclear slogan “58% Don’t Want Pershing” caused a stir when she met Margaret Thatcher in the infamous meeting for which she got theaward. Hamnett achieved her goal when Thatcher appeared to cluck like a chicken, and photographers snapped pictures of the incident.
LFW began operations in a parking lot. To be more specific, designers ranging from Ghost to Betty Jackson to Jasper Conran to a young John Galliano exhibited at both this location and Kensington Olympia throughout the rest of the 1980s (Kate Moss making her catwalk debut at age 15 at his 1989 show). Clubs, counterculture, and forward-thinking design all had a significant impact on the fashion scene in London at the time. With their unusual forms and employment of varied models, cult brands like BodyMap set the path for much-needed improvements in the industry, which some brands have been sluggish to implement. However, the aristocracy embraced the movement, with Princess Diana hosting a reception at Lancaster House for several designers in 1985 and frequently wearing British fashions at home and abroad.
It turned out that the 1990s were a difficult decade for London Fashion Week. In 1992, because of the recession and diminishing interest, only a few designers presented their work at The Ritz. But it was also a time when designers like Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, whose debut runway appearances came in 1992 and 1995, respectively, were made possible. Kate Moss, Yasmin Le Bon, and Naomi Campbell were chosen by Stella McCartney, a supermodel friend, to walk for her in the latter collection, which was unlike any other graduate collection.
Campbell participated in another unforgettable LFW moment in 1993 when she walked the runway topless for Philip Treacy. She fell down in British export Vivienne Westwood’s dizzying blue platforms that same year across the Channel. 1993 also saw the launch of the BFC’s NEWGEN program, which supports and develops up-and-coming designers. The majority of the performances then moved to the Natural History Museum’s grounds in 1994, when it was time for another venue change.
Many more brands thrived, including Matthew Williamson, John Rocha, and Julien Macdonald, who was one of many designers to capitalise on the public’s love of the Spice Girls by sending Mel B sashaying down his catwalk in sparkling pink in 1999. Nevertheless, London lost some of its key talents, with McQueen moving to New York in the late 1990s and various others being headhunted by French design houses in the early 2000s.
From Milan’s grandeur and sex appeal to Paris’s polished craftsmanship, each of the “Big Four” fashion capitals radiate a very specific attitude. London, on the other hand, is all about unbridled invention, with designers that specialise in tongue-in-cheek rebellion, outlandish displays, and the blending of the lines between art and commerce. Or so the conventional story goes. Naturally, none of these cities, which serve as the host locations for countless designers during their twice-yearly fashion week stays, neatly fit into the categories assigned to them; the reality is much more dispersed. However, London’s fashion history does seem to have a certain amount of playfulness and audacity. London has a long history of creating extraordinary design, from the Swinging Sixties, exemplified by Mary Quant, Ossie Clark, and Barbara Hulanicki’s Biba, to Vivienne Westwood’s punk provocations and Alexander McQueen’s dark and dramatic visions. In comparison to its fellow style cities, it also hosts the youngest fashion week, having only been established about 35 years ago.
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