At London’s Virtual Fashion Week, Some Designers Found Space to Innovate

With runway shows canceled, brands looked for new ways to tell their stories.

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Fashion 
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London’s menswear Fashion Week was originally scheduled to take place over the course of this weekend, as it does every June: the usual program of runway shows, model presentations, events, and parties, and the endless opportunities for street style.

Then, of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to all that, throwing the future of fashion shows – and fashion weeks – into doubt. In response, the British Fashion Council set up a series of virtual events on a new digital platform, offering designers a space to show new designs or other creative projects, and hosting everything from panel discussions to digital showrooms. 

The so-called “Virtual Fashion Week” was not without its challenges: most designers have been unable to produce new collections, as the majority of garment factories remain in a state of forced closure due to quarantine lockdowns. And the shortage of heavyweight British designers on the schedule meant that the weekend’s events lacked a wider impact: Burberry, Craig Green, A-COLD-WALL* and Vivienne Westwood were among the brands that did not participate.

Alongside that, many designers expressed their discomfort at promoting new collections in the midst of the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. Instead, designers including Charles Jeffrey used the event as an opportunity to raise funds for social justice charities, while Liam Hodges cancelled his scheduled plans entirely.

In spite of that, there were standouts from London’s current crop of designers, who used the opportunity afforded by the virtual schedule to articulate their brand identity and values, even without a runway show – or even any news clothes to display. Here are the highlights.

Martine Rose

As one of London’s few designers with a significant international following, Martine Rose‘s presence on the schedule was the weekend’s most high-profile draw. Though she didn’t present a Spring/Summer 2021 collection – as she would have done under normal circumstances – Rose instead released a conscious capsule collection with the retailer LN-CC, using deadstock fabrics from her own studio.

To mark the occasion, Rose and LN-CC collaborated with the poet and activist Kai-Isaiah Jamal on a short film incorporating a recital of Jamal’s work.

Martine Rose’s conscious collection is available exclusively at LN-CC.

Nicholas Daley

In lieu of presenting a new collection, Nicholas Daley chose to revisit his AW20 show with a short film, The Abstract Truth. The runway show, which was held in a former cinema in January, featured music by jazz musicians Kwake Bass, Wu-Lu and Rago Foot, who appear in the film. Revisiting his most recent show cemented Daley’s commitment to celebrating Black creativity, and drew attention back to his strongest collection yet, shortly before it’s due to land in stores.

Nicholas Daley’s current collection is available at SSENSE.

Bianca Saunders

Ahluwalia Bianca Saunders ROKER Nicholas Daley London Fashion Week LFW British Fashion Council

Bianca Saunders

Instead of launching new clothes for her minimal, tailoring-focused line, menswear designer Bianca Saunders used the platform of virtual fashion week to release a zine with photographer Joshua Woods, and hosted a live panel with SHOWSTUDIO addressing the importance of creative collaboration. Since her debut, Saunders has used her design work to explore issues surrounding identity, masculinity, and her heritage; with these collaborations she found new ways to articulate them. 

Bianca Saunders is available at Matches and SSENSE.

ROKER

The footwear label ROKER has quietly built a name for its distinctive leather footwear that’s designed to be worn by both men and women, and for its collaborations with buzzy London labels including Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY and Art School. For his contribution to the virtual events, designer Alim Latif commissioned five short videos, asking friends of the brand to film themselves at home in a pair of the label’s signature boots – underscoring the brand’s vision of gender fluidity.

ROKER can be purchased through the brand’s web store.

Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY

Ahluwalia Bianca Saunders ROKER Nicholas Daley London Fashion Week LFW British Fashion Council

Loverboy

Though he had originally planned to throw a virtual party, Charles Jeffrey changed his plans in light of the global protests for social justice. Instead, he used his platform at Fashion Week to host a “talent showcase,” highlighting a number of Black creatives and asking viewers to donate to Black Pride U.K. Alongside that, Jeffrey revealed a new capsule collection that will go on sale in December 2020, with proceeds going to the Kaleidoscope Trust.

Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY’s current collection is available at SSENSE and Dover Street Market.

Ahluwalia 

Ahluwalia Bianca Saunders ROKER Nicholas Daley London Fashion Week LFW British Fashion Council

Ahluwalia

Designer Priya Ahluwalia, whose eponymous clothing line is known for its clever reworkings of deadstock textiles, opted to host a virtual exhibition in lieu of a show. The exhibition marks the launch of her new photography book, Jalebi, which celebrates the Punjabi community and reflects on what it means to be a mixed-heritage person living in Britain today. 

Ahluwalia is available at Browns and Matches.

The full line-up of designers and their presentations can still be viewed at the London Fashion Week website.

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