13 Dec 2018

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San Francisco's Simon Ungless

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How to

Build An Independent Fashion Brand

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Fashion Educators

Fleet Bigwood

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03 Jul 2017

Business Insiders

Jenny Meirens

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Graduate Shows

Central Saint Martins MA Fashion 2016

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The State of London Fashion Week

INTERVIEWS Bella Webb

Recent graduates share their true thoughts on London Fashion Week. Is the system broken?

Image by Sophie Ramischwili-Schafer, collage by Bella Webb

We gathered young designers, fashion students, journalists and casting agents into a group chat and asked them what they think of London Fashion Week. From their first time sneaking into a show to presenting their own collections and stepping off-schedule completely, they have experienced the highs and lows of an event often likened to a circus. With Extinction Rebellion calling to cancel fashion week altogether, our group chat of graduates tackles the existential questions surrounding LFW.

1 Granary

First question: Have you been involved in London Fashion Week before? In what capacity? (Attending shows? Volunteering backstage? Modelling? Showing your own collection?)

Laura K. Frandsen
@laurakfrandsen

I’ve attended a few shows by designers that I know personally, but in general I’ve never had much interest in fashion weeks.

Peter Movrin
@petermovrin

I got a ticket to a Burberry show when I was on the MA at CSM. For butcher from Slovenia that was a whole new level of experience. Even nicer was when we had the graduation show and I was lucky enough to be chosen. I was so full of emotions.

Bianca Batson
@biancabatson

My first experience was modelling Meadham Kirchhoff and Fashion East shows! Then I was working for Ashish and shot backstage for 1 Granary. I guess I had a personal relationship with most of the designers, so for me it was all positive and quite fun! It’s been a few years though. 

Marvin Desroc
@marvindesroc

I’ve always seen it from backstage – mostly volunteering. I’ve attended a couple of shows and, thanks to the MA, I guess I was able to show this time around. Backstage is madness but the adrenaline is great. Attending shows is not what excites me the most. It excites me more to actually work towards that show. And seeing people’s reaction to your work the day after. 

Célia Fröhlich
@abbild.studio

I attended and modelled at Berlin Fashion Week when I was younger, at the beginning of my studies. It was something I had never experienced before and I felt this sense of exclusivity. Like I was attending all these events I had only seen in magazines before.  During my MA, I helped NEWGEN recipient Paula Knorr with her presentations as an intern and a friend. I helped with everything backstage and got to know what it means to work towards London Fashion week as the person who creates this one climax and goes through a mentally and financially challenging time to achieve that. 

Josephine Jones
@josephinejonessdiary

I’ve been working as a model for designers, including my friends such as Charles Jeffrey, Veronique Leroy and ARTSCHOOL for years. Last year I signed with Elite Models so fashion week is rather manic for me now! I also attend a few shows, these days in a more official manner. Fashion East and Christopher Kane are personal favourites and always very fun. However, I’ve been sneaking into loads of shows for years and it is way more exciting than getting an invitation! 

Sidonie Wilson
@sidoniewilson

I’ve worked at four years of fashion shows, so 8 seasons and about 8-10 shows each season, in London. I’ve managed shows from seating plans, invitations, managing press, photographers, VIP management and seating. Always working long hours, in the lead up to and over LFW and always wearing black.

Emma Louise Rixhon
@etwoagency

Both in NY and London, I’ve only been when I’m working – either as a casting assistant or journalist or in this case creating content. I can’t imagine wanting to go if I hadn’t been a part of the process.

Laura Krarup Frandsen
Josephine Jones

1 Granary

You’ve all seen fashion week from different angles, so I imagine your thoughts on this will differ, but does London Fashion Week in its current form excite you? Is it something you actually want to be part of?

Josephine Jones

I think people go too fast and too hard with showing at fashion week. It depends if it’s an artistic or commercial endeavour. Sarah Mower told me the point of a runway show is, ultimately, for sales. So personally – although I invested time and energy into having a presentation on schedule – it’s not something me and my team feel particularly fussed about doing again now we have mainstream brand awareness. I don’t regret it. It was one of the most empowering experiences ever. However I’m working abroad to save money to show another presentation and capsule either next LFW or off-schedule in January or December. No one needs to be tied to a schedule! Especially since competing for attention, even with the best PR, is really challenging.

Jonathon Kidd
@jonathonkidd_

Fashion shows are weird. I feel like being invited to something is quite exciting but the reality is less so. Sometimes you’re just sat around and you see a lot less than what you would on Vogue Runway. Nothing from fashion week feels like it’s going to be historic anymore. Every season it seems like something really cool happens, but nobody seems to care afterwards. I feel like social media just changes the game massively. 

Laura K. Frandsen

When I’ve attended shows of my friends, knowing how hard they’ve worked for it and seeing everything coming together being so well executed… you can’t help but feel proud and amazed. I just don’t like the context of fashion week and would never go for the fun of it. The promotion of extravaganza and excess is not only completely out of tune with the climate and ecological emergency that we are in, but dangerously undermining it. It’s neither valuable of valid anymore.

Bianca Batson 

I find traditional catwalk can be a bit boring if there are a thousand looks.

Marvin Desroc 

It is too saturated in London. It’s fun, the energy is amazing overall but it is just way too much.

Matilda Söderberg
@_matildasoderberg_

The hype, hysteria and speed of it all really puts me off. It could be a great platform for showing and exhibiting work. It makes it simple for buyers I guess? But as Marvin just mentioned, it’s super saturated with stuff. You lose track of it all and potentially miss out on some brilliant work.

Célia Fröhlich

I believe that we forget how orchestrated everything is and how it is intended for “outsiders” to not feel like they belong. 

Sidonie Wilson 

I don’t think that it’s orchestrated to make outsiders think they don’t belong, I just think this is the fashion industry’s time to show off. It’s exclusive yes, but not in a negative way. The point of it is for sales and press to see the exciting new talent and then for them to showcase it to the rest of the world. PR’s role in fashion week is just to keep the cogs moving. 

Peter Movrin
Bianca Batson

1 Granary

What is the main function of London Fashion Week in your opinion?

Michella Oré
@frightfullyfrank

For buyers, to introduce the next season which will (ideally) result in sales. For press, to highlight and make accessible the next wave of design and creativity that is being made public for the first time.

Fabian Kis-Juhasz
@fabiankisjuhasz

As of now I’m not sure since all of it could be done digitally and online. I guess it is a huge publicity stunt and advertisement. The buyers will see the collections in the showrooms so it’s mainly just for the press.

Emma Louise Rixhon

At its best, theatre. At its worst, cash. 

Laura K. Frandsen

To keep consumerism going!

Sinéad O’Dwyer
@sjodwyer

Exactly! It feels like selling is the ultimate function. Or else it wouldn’t need to be everyone in the same place and time.

Josephine Jones

Irreverent expression of ideas. Also sales, but for me it’s an opportunity to see a wide range of people’s ideas and philosophies/manifestos take shape all around us. It has to mean something. I believe these events shape culture and motivate designers to stop procrastinating and actually show something.

Laura K. Frandsen

If fashion really is about shaping culture, shouldn’t that be a good enough reason to move away from this dead-old broken system and lead the way?

Sinéad O’Dwyer
Emma Louise Rixhon

1 Granary

To the designers in the group: do you feel that showing at fashion week was worth the money you invested in it?

Bianca Batson 

I showed off-schedule and did my presentation very DIY so, in terms of money, it was cost effective. It gets people talking, but ultimately I think producing an amazing shoot or video can do the same. I don’t think you have to present during fashion week. 

Josephine Jones

Exactly, Bianca. You definitely don’t have to be on schedule! So many designers, like Wales Bonner are rebranding as artists or artisan designers and staying away from brief fleeting runway shows where you see the clothes for a few minutes, in favour of presentations or exhibitions of the clothing. As a print designer, my work doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a runway context. No regrets, however my bank balance had a heart attack that I couldn’t have predicted. Saying that, I’ve always preferred my money where I can see it, hanging in my closet… (not a great business model)!

Michella Oré

I would second that – the notion of seasons has long become irrelevant. We’re transitioning to series-based collections which aren’t held to a specific time frame. Hopefully this will cause both people in the fashion industry and those consuming to reconsider what they purchase and how frequently they do so. Because if you’re buying a piece for the quality and design (and because it makes you feel good!) you should be set for years.

Sidonie Wilson
Michella Ore

1 Granary

If you could change London Fashion Week in some way, what would you do?

Sinéad O’Dwyer

Make it less often. 

Fabian Kis-Juhasz

You see a lot of lacklustre or repetitive work because designers don’t have the time to develop innovative ideas for each season. Fewer seasons would mean better quality and less waste.

Michella Oré

Make it more accessible to new talents who may not have the financial means or social ties to join in. While there are platforms, groups, and mentors opening doors for new designers and faces, there still remains a large bubble in which the same familiar names (i.e. schools, agencies) bounce around.

Laura K. Frandsen

The UN Secretary General has warned that we are facing a direct existential threat if we do not completely change course by 2020 latest! That literally means no business as usual if we are to have a future worth living. We are talking about how to best showcase fashion collections for 2020? 2021? Should we keep fashion week – well, the fashion industry at large – alive at the cost of our future?

Célia Fröhlich
Marvin Desroc

1 Granary

Building on Laura’s point: Extinction Rebellion have called upon the BFC to cancel London Fashion Week. What are everyone’s thoughts on this? What would your concerns be if BFC were to cancel LFW? Who would it affect the most?

Josephine Jones

I think cancelling LFW is a bad idea, we need to change LFW somehow not destroy it, in my opinion. Every designer I know big or small is working to make what they do sustainable but it does take time. Do I think we need to do better ? Yes. Do I think people can change everything overnight because of one individual protest? Nope.

Jonathon Kidd

Firstly I want to say Extinction Rebellion is like the coolest thing to happen in the UK in a long time but, honestly, the problem isn’t with most the designers that show at LFW. The problem is Zara, H&M, Topshop and so on. I see LFW as mostly young designers. If you were asking me this question about cancelling Paris Fashion Week, the answer would be different as it probably would affect big houses much more. 

Célia Fröhlich

Fashion week as it presents itself feels like a very stubborn system that we keep up and nobody knows the exact reason except for convenience and sales. Fashion likes to be seen as being at the forefront of developing towards the future, but as an industry we still don’t develop new concepts that take on the responsibility and forward-thinking that is necessary. I believe that a more open “fashion week” presentation system could be put into place that celebrates fashion and its value. But the value of fashion and garments would need to be reinterpreted as well.

Bianca Batson 

I think it would be a shame for young designers. But like I said before, you can do your own thing, show off schedule and still be successful. There are lots of brands doing this. It is a great platform for exposure though, especially with initiatives like Fashion East who have put so many designers on the map. 

Célia Fröhlich

I believe the BFC should go the radical way and cancel to think of a more sustainable concept. Like the Swedish Fashion Council putting this as a priority on their agenda. I have high hopes that they can come up with something that profits our future and celebrates the emotional value of fashion in our society.

Laura K. Frandsen

Continuing business as usual will most likely impact the lives of everyone. And everything we do from now on will decide whether we are going to meet that narrow window of opportunity or not. We can’t possibly still justify spending our time and scarce resources, promoting something that we don’t need, nor can we afford.

Bianca Batson 

It’s not business as usual if changes are made. Cancelling fashion week would impact the young designers, not the big cogs of the wheel who are churning out crazy amounts of product. And making changes to fashion week is at least a start without killing business immediately. 

Célia Fröhlich

I see where you are coming from, Bianca, but wouldn’t you believe that something interesting could come from a meeting of young designers who get the opportunity of a clean slate? Also, there are a lot of big business causing harm that don’t show at fashion week at all and reach their audience in different ways. How do we create a turning point that puts pressure on big businesses?

Laura K. Frandsen

Continuing fashion week sends a clear message, from the forefront of so-called culture, that the climate emergency is nothing to worry about and that the climate science should easily be ignored. That is the opposite of leading the way. We don’t have time for small incremental changes now.

Bianca Batson 

Not if changes are implemented to help work towards something better. Suddenly cancelling something that people have been working hard towards, and are relying on for sales of the business, to pay their staff, is not the solution. All I’m saying is that there are ways to drastically change fashion week without killing it.

Emma Louise Rixhon

I agree with this – it’s not young designers that are the problem, nor is it really the brands who show at fashion week. It’s the massive mainstream industry that is catering for 99% run by incredible powerful high street conglomerates. Change needs to happen at a societal level around ideas of consumerism and worth attributed to ownership. If anything fashion week revolves around fantasy. There is room for art and beauty and if anything we need it now more than ever – fashion can make powerful statements. The problem is that they get capitalised on. 

Laura K. Frandsen

Definitely echo this! But art and beauty and creativity dies within big business, and so do we. We do need creativity so meet what’s ahead of us, but that shouldn’t have to compromise our future.

Matilda Söderberg
Jonathon Kidd

1 Granary

Thinking about the changes people are making to try and be more sustainable – How could the fashion industry continue in a more environmentally conscious way?

Bianca Batson 

Well if everyone stopped using Uber for a week I feel like that’d have a nice impact on carbon emissions…

Laura K. Frandsen

I completely appreciate and acknowledge young labels doing things in a more ethical way. It is just not going to solve the crisis that we are in. The fashion industry at large, can never be sustainable, simply because the main problem is overconsumption.

Célia Fröhlich

During my time shadowing a politician in the German Parliament, I saw first-hand how slow the political process is in reacting to change. I believe it has to come from the industry itself and Fashion Councils are there to develop guidelines for the industry. Also, it is important to educate the consumer.

Emma Louise Rixhon

I think transparency would be a radical first step. To make consumers aware of the travel, labour, materials, the intensive hours and processes involved in every garment would make people more aware of what they are paying for and why, and help them decide whether to even purchase. A mass-scale consumer-led commitment to slow fashion. People need to learn to fix and rework their clothes or buy second hand. This obsession with the new needs to be stopped.

Laura K. Frandsen

The UK Parliament has straight up refused to legislate on the fashion industry.

Josephine Jones

I think Matthew Needham’s approach to repurposing old collections to make new ones from discarded materials is so innovative and to be celebrated. He’s really leading the way in this in my opinion!

Emma Louise Rixhon

Yes, this and Bode (who use pre-existing materials) or other designers who commit to re-using. The new knitwear hype (brands like Rui Zhou or Kepler) are also interesting because, as a process, it uses less material and doesn’t produce off-cuts.

Célia Fröhlich

A sustainable way of creating and designing seems to work in many small-scale businesses, but only to a certain extent. Should there be a limit on production? Why not build up a think tank that develop future fashion scenarios and new concepts of engaging with fashion, sustainable design and so on and have designers apply for a platform that explores and celebrates that. Not looking at stockists and how to sell much, but rather exploring how to create value that can sustain a brand whatever form it has?

Laura K. Frandsen

The problem with the whole talk about “sustainability” is that is leads us to believe that if we design better products, using different materials and put more heart into it, it will “solve” a problem. The fashion industry is predicted to increase by 63% by 2030. That is the problem. Consumerism and the promotion of it, is the problem. I’m not judging anyone for pursuing their dreams or doing what makes them happy. But we need to reevaluate the way we live and consume, in the context of a climate emergency. It will change before we know it, but our chance of controlling that change is very limited.

Célia Fröhlich

I just think we shouldn’t see this push for change (this time coming from XR) as something to be frightened of, but rather especially as young creatives to use a time in which a lot is questioned to stand out with new ideas and erupt what is perceived as given.