London Fashion Week is a key event in the diary of fashion lovers worldwide but with concerns over social distancing, many were worried it wouldn’t take place this year. In spite of this concern and after months of planning, the British Fashion Council and skilled designers have created what might be the best – and most meaningful – fashion week yet. With optimism a running theme throughout, here are our favourite shows using fashion as source of positivity.
With recycled fabrics in a technicolour of bold prints and bags made from children’s books and vintage lunch boxes, Bethany Williams’ AW 20/21 collection was a playful celebration of family which had a serious meaning. The collection, created in the designer’s east London flat, was made in support of mother’s and young children who have found themselves displaced. In a conversation with Vogue, the designer revealed that the pandemic “really highlighted the cracks in the system” which heightened her philanthropic attitude towards fashion. In response, this year’s collection was made in collaboration with The Magpie Project, a London-based charity that helps families in temporary accommodation, with 20% of the profits going toward supporting their effort. Overall, the lockdown period has been a busy time for Williams as in April, she co-launched the Emergency Designer Network in response to the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). So far, the network has produced 50,000 surgical gowns and 10,000 sets of scrubs for health workers.
Inspired by the bravery faced by key workers at the hight of the pandemic, designer Michael Halpern’s show celebrated those who helped us the most. Showing off the designs were a selection of frontline workers including a London Underground train operator, a bus station manager and a senior ICU nurse. As a New Yorker by birth, Halpern is acutely aware of how beneficial the NHS is for us and, for him, the show gave him “an opportunity to make a collection [to] show our support for these frontline workers by giving them a great day, to get dressed up and have their hair and make-up done.” In a “colourful, overly fabulous, joyous” set designed by Shona Heath, the show certainly gave those worker’s the fun day that they deserved. Exaggerated silhouettes, bold prints and an eclectic mix of lace and feathers helped to make Halpern’s collection one of larger-than-life glamour; absurd in the best ways.
Molly Goddard’s vivacious collection was a world away from the initial designs she created for this year’s show. With sales affected by the pandemic, the 30-year-old designer – whose frilly fuchsia dress captivated audiences of Killing Eve – planned to replace her signature flamboyance with a more widely accessible collection, made up of neutral tones and even considered an all-white show. However, as the early stages of lockdown brought about bleak times, Goddard’s designs began to reflect the exact opposite. “I realised how dark and depressing the last few months had been and more and more colour crept into the collection,” she said to Vogue. Once finalised, the collection became “an explosion of colour, prints and joy.” Largely inspired by 1950s artwork displayed in the Italian villa Menagoflio Litta, the collection was full to the brim with frilly tulle in the brightest of colours; including neon greens clashing wonderfully with fluorescent fuchsias and tangerine orange.
Shot at the designer’s east London umbrella factory-turned studio, the vibrant show symbolised much-needed optimism; proving to us that, despite these otherwise grey times, we can still be in a world of colour.
Whilst the current pandemic might be new to us, previous generations have also endured – and overcome – their own pandemics. It is this legacy of endurance which inspired Bora Aksu’s latest collection. Tiered tulle dresses with ruffle edged aprons and sheer face veils represented the uniforms of nurses who served in World War One and the Spanish flu pandemic. The Turkish designer wanted to reflect the fact that, although things are far from ideal, we too will see the end of this troublesome time. Intending to stand as a pillar of optimism, Aksu’s collection was just one of four shown in front of an audience at this year’s London Fashion Week. 20 socially distanced spectators lined the benches of St Paul’s Church at Covent Garden, to witness the designs flow as Aksu intended. The show began with a clinical colour scheme of traditional nurse’s white and ended with romantic pastel pinks and blues; resulting in an eerily beautiful combination of what was, what is and what is to come.
By Holly Johnson