Since the coronavirus pandemic shut down large gatherings in March 2020, the bi-annual parade of fashion weeks has struggled with how best to help designers present their new collections with maximum impact. To date, there have been live-streamed catwalks, fashion films, VR runways, ‘phygital’ presentations and much more.
After persisting the best it could with the traditional London Fashion Week and London Fashion Week Men’s schedules last year, for AW21 the British Fashion Council announced it would be combining the two in its first co-ed fashion week, running from 19-23 February. It was hoped this move would allow designers to show their collections with physical presentations but, after the UK went back into lockdown in January, it became clear that live audiences wouldn't be a possibility.
Which is, conversely, good news for fashion fans who don’t happen to be editors, stylists and buyers. Usually reserved for industry professionals, the move to a digital-first approach has opened up London Fashion Week to more people than ever – and there are plenty of ways to get involved (even during lockdown) this season.
Take your front row seat
Shows that would have once taken place in strictly invite-only venues now have a new home at londonfashionweek.co.uk – and everyone’s on the guest list. The BFC’s official online hub will be home to digital presentations by up-and-coming designers, such as Susan Nash, Tokyo James and Gayeon Lee, as well as heavy-hitters including Burberry, Molly Goddard, Erdem and Roksanda. With menswear and womenswear joining forces this year, the schedule is jam packed, with more than 20 shows and presentations on some days, and everyone is granted access at the same time – so you no longer need to scour Instagram for blurry FROW videos.
Join the conversation
The move to virtual has also allowed the BFC to put together a schedule of insightful panels, conversation and interviews with high-profile fashion industry names – all of which will be available to stream on the London Fashion Week hub. Highlights include a panel on the rise of fashion rentals with figures from MyWardrobe HQ and Belstaff, moderated by Jane Shepherdson, and a fashion film and discussion to mark the launch of Fashion Values – a new global education platform developed by the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion.
Support young designers
A core part of the British Fashion Council’s mission is to support the UK’s best new design talent and, with the lower costs and greater number of shows that can be presented online, London Fashion Week AW21 promises to offer young designers more visibility than ever. The annual Central Saint Martins MA Fashion on-schedule show is always a hotbed of future stars and, for AW21, the university has collaborated with Tod’s to create Legacy, an online project which will be hosted on a dedicated digital platform and showcase the work of 35 of the course’s most promising designers.
Fashion East, the incubator for up-and-coming talent that launched the careers of Kim Jones, Simone Rocha and Jonathan Anderson, will also return this season with a roster that includes returning designers Nensi Dojaka, Goom Heo and Maximilian as well as freshmen HRH and Jawara Alleyne. This may be the very last show on the schedule but it’s worth sticking around for.
If watching the shows is not quite enough, you can fully immerse yourself in the British fashion scene via a range of original audio content created by the BFC. Head to Spotify for What Does Fashion Sound Like? – a series of playlists curated by industry insiders, including designer Charlotte Knowles and American singer/songwriter Cautious Clay, to soundtrack your favourite shows (or your daily run). The BFC Fashion Forum podcast, which is available year round, will also kick into high gear during fashion week with a host of new episodes. Past discussions have covered topics including racism in the fashion industry, the relationship between tech and fashion and the intersection of fashion and football. Fascinating listening for anyone with a passing interest in the industry.