ANDit’s a strange time to think about clothes. And yet, that’s what many of us will be doing this weekend. Because, in an unprecedented state of affairs, this year’s London Fashion Week coincides with just eight days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Given the official 10-day mourning that traditionally follows the monarch’s death, many expected the proceedings to be completely canceled. However, official guidelines issued by the government suggested that “there is no obligation to cancel or postpone sporting events and events, or to close entertainment venues during times of national mourning.” This would be at the discretion of the individual organizations. The guidelines added that “as a sign of respect, organizations may consider canceling or postponing events, or closing venues on the day of a state funeral.”
The Queen’s funeral was scheduled for Monday September 19, colliding with LFW’s penultimate day and some of the week’s biggest programs such as Roksanda and Christopher Kane. They have all been canceled or postponed.
It’s unclear what all this means for the rest of London Fashion Week. From a business point of view, the moment could not be worse. In 2020, the British Fashion Council issued a statement calling on the government to support the industry, and Oxford Economics figures predict 240,000 job losses following Covid, bringing revenues down from £ 118bn to £ 88bn. The emerging brands took the biggest burden in terms of heavy losses, although famous brands weren’t resilient: Burberry’s retail sales fell 48.4 percent in 2020.
After two years of pandemic turmoil, the fashion industry was finally ready for a big comeback. Burberry, Raf Simons and JW Anderson made a triumphant return to the top of the show, sparking an avalanche of excitement among the fashion group that had spent the past few seasons, adjusting to schedules with fewer shows and far less spectacular than usual. Think smaller venues, lower budgets, and nowhere near the typical number of A-list attendees.
On Friday, the British Fashion Council released a statement announcing that the biennial event will continue despite a period of national mourning, adding that it recognizes the importance of the event for business and as a showcase for designers. “Therefore, the shows and presentations of the collection can continue,” he stated, “but we ask designers to respect the mood of the nation and the period of national mourning, taking into account the timing of their appearance.”
However, shortly after the announcement was made, Burberry and Raf Simons announced their decision to cancel their performances as a sign of respect for the Queen. For smaller brands that have been preparing their spring / summer 2023 collections for the last six months, this choice was not so easy. Therefore, many of them, including Molly Goddard, Rejina Pyo, and SS Daley, have chosen to respectfully move forward.
“I think the mood of this season will be influenced by recent events and it will be very present at the shows,” says designer Daniel W Fletcher, who will debut his new collection on Thursday night. “This season, the LFW has been really excited and I hope it hasn’t been lost. I think it is important for brands and designers to respect, but also remember that fashion shows are an important part of the brand’s sales and press calendar. “
Fletcher adds that for his brand, which offers contemporary unisex garments that were worn by the likes of Harry Styles and Sam Smith, cancellation just wasn’t an option. “It would be devastating because we have already invested so much in it and we would not be able to recoup those losses,” he explains. “We’ll be paying tribute at the start of our program [to the Queen] I hope our guests will join us. “
A similar sentiment was expressed by Harris Reed, whose label gender-fluid could be seen on Adele and Beyoncé. On Sunday, the designer issued a statement on Instagram explaining his decision to continue the spring / summer 2023 show this season, writing that his fellow young designers “put their entire brand budget into their shows to increase sales and brand awareness with the result. hopefully they are able to grow and not give up or need to restructure ”.
Reed tells me at this time the emphasis should be on the sense of community that LFW offers. “It’s very important that we have this moment of artistic expression,” she says. “We are all small companies and we put our hard earned money into these programs. That is why it is important that we young designers stick together and express their outfits during big shows. We are here, we are together and in this way we are supporting the British economy. ‘
Reed explains that “thousands” of hours have been spent preparing his upcoming program, along with “six-digit” financial investments. “A resignation would completely stop the development of the brand in its current state,” he adds. “We would be in a very difficult position if we weren’t able to show this season.”
There will inevitably be those who will criticize the fashion world for moving forward in such a sensitive time. But, as the designers have pointed out, such criticism probably has its roots in a common one the devil wears prada– fueled by a misunderstanding around the LFW. That it is free. Just for a joke. Superficial.
“Although LFW can be fun and entertaining to the outside world, it is a serious business event that is part of the official fashion calendar,” says Bora Aksu, who will be presenting his Spring / Summer 2023 collection on Friday afternoon. so much hard work and I believe we continue [and] showing our work will only help maintain London’s reputation as one of the fashion capitals. I’m sure the queen would have agreed and supported it.
Of course, the Queen herself performed at the LFW. In 2018, she sat next to Anna Wintour in the front row at the Richard Quinn show to present the designer with the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design. Quinn, who has since become one of the annual events on the LFW calendar, was originally scheduled to unveil his new collection on Monday night; his show is now on tuesday.
It’s likely that many of the shows they’ve decided to start this season – notably Quinn – will pay tribute to the Queen. After all, fashion is nothing but a reflection of society, even if the society is in mourning. And like any art, it has the power to send messages to the masses, offering a feeling of much-needed unity that is often divided. That being said, along with the fact that the late monarch was a staunch supporter of the British fashion industry, it may make more sense to proceed than not.
“Thriving in difficult times was one of the hallmarks of the late Queen,” says Mark Fast, who will debut his Spring / Summer 2023 collection on Friday. “When it comes to business, the show must go on. As a brand, we will continue the show to demonstrate our strength and faith in our business while respecting the Queen.
We do not know yet how the designers will pay tribute to Her Majesty or other matters of national importance this season. Reed, however, quickly teases his show. Sartorial speaking, fans can expect “chunky silhouettes, incredibly detailed clothes, and louder-than-life clothes.” Additionally, there will be a secret performer “who will blow people away as an emotional tribute to the times we live in”. If this approach is echoed by Reed’s contemporaries, the result could be something truly unique – and more needed than ever.
London Fashion Week starts on Friday, September 16 and runs until Tuesday, September 20