The commencement of London Fashion Week (LFW) conjures many images, from crowds of peacocking people to window-tinted Mercedes and the flashing camera bulbs of frenzied paparazzi.
But, while all of the above were indeed present and correct, the first day of shows started with far less grandeur and a lot more gore than LFW’s stylish attendees are used to.
This morning, environmental activists Extinction Rebellion glued themselves to the entrance of the event’s official opening outside 180 Strand, standing hand-in-hand wearing white outfits splattered with fake blood.
Meanwhile, another group of activists laid on the ground in pools of fake blood as a campaigner read a poem about the environmental threats posed by the fashion industry.
“The fashion industry is killing our planet,” the activist began. “Every year, every month, every week, you abuse this Earth.
“You choose profit over planet, profit over people, profit over our future.”
Environmental activists aren’t the only threat LFW is facing this season. With the increasing likelihood of a no-deal Brexit and concerns that the move could potentially cost the fashion industry up to £900m, many fear that this season could mark the last time the bi-annual trade event occurs in its entirety.
Nonetheless, designers are remaining defiant, instead choosing to channel current events into their designs.
Last week’s New York Fashion Week (NYFW) proved that fashion isn’t afraid to get political, with Prabal Gurung presenting pageant-style sashes printed with the words, “Who gets to be American?”
But, it’s here, on the other side of the pond, where the real change is happening.
The week-long event kicked off with a strong showing from the city’s emerging creative class who, as well as proving that London is a global hot bed for fashion talent, used their platforms to spread a message.
Mark Fast mourns the Amazon rainforest
Canadian-born Mark Fast opened LFW on Friday with a collection inspired by his love for the Amazon rainforest.
A timely muse considering that just a few months after he began researching for the new collection, the area was ravaged by devastating fires.
The designer, who said he fell in love with the colours of the Amazon – from the macaws and birds of paradise to the different species that inhabit the vast undergrowth – witnessed all that beauty disappear right before him.
Alas, the sentiment behind Fast’s collection quickly converted from a “party in the jungle” to a tribute to the beauty, colours and creations that were lost.
Utilising a vibrant palette of aqua blue, neon green and hot pink, models displayed an abundance of feathers, snake print booties and bodycon blouses.
Through these pieces, Fast’s signature edgy glamour ran wholeheartedly throughout the collection, as did his unique approach to celebrating the natural curves of the female form with his tight-fitting silhouettes.
A decade on from his catwalk debut, during which the knitwear designer caught the attention of LFW-goers by enlisting size 12 and 14 models to walk in his show, Fast resurrected an important conversation about body image.
With a cast of models equally as broad ranging and an eco-activist undertone, Fast’s spring/summer 20 offering served as a reminder of the need for more diversity and a better understanding of the fragility of our environment, within the fashion world.
Bora Aksu celebrates female empowerment
Turkish designer Bora Aksu has been a mainstay on the LFW calendar for many years, regularly showing on the first full day of the week-long event.
So much so, that by now show-goers have become accustomed to his design aesthetic which seamlessly fuses romantic sensibility with raw elegance.
For spring/summer 2020, the London-based designer delivered his usual ethereal quirks, this season inspired by Persian princess Taj Saltaneh.
In the early 20th century, the royal was considered a trailblazer of feminism: she founded Persia’s inaugural underground women’s group, the “Women’s Freedom Association”, was the first woman to take off the hijab and wear western clothes, and even led a march to Parliament.
It was this journey from young princess to activist that formed the basis for Aksu’s collection, which saw opulence contrast with simplicity, a mix of hard and soft textures, and layered gowns saunter down the runway alongside boyish tailoring.
The colour palette reflected this juxtaposition too, gradating from powder pinks to fluorescent orange and deep blue brocade.
By channelling the voice of Saltaneh, Aksu articulated his concerns with the industry in. the era of #MeToo while simultaneously cementing female empowerment as his raison d’être.
Amanda Wakeley rebukes fast fashion
Amanda Wakeley wants you to shop less. It’s an odd mission statement for a fashion designer, considering they make a living out of people who shop. But at a time when the fashion industry’s carbon footprint is under more scrutiny than ever before, designers such as Wakeley are changing tact, encouraging us to shop consciously and trade hasty fast fashion buys for investment pieces you can cherish.
Wakeley’s spring/summer 2020 collection is packed with such pieces. For the upcoming season, the British designer, whose high-profile clientele ranges from Scarlett Johansson to the Duchess of Sussex, was inspired by the balmy climes of Havana, Cuba.
Palm tree prints have been stitched into sunshine yellow frocks while shades of exotic fruits including papaya and pomegranate have been splashed across billowing beach dresses and loose-fitting blouses.
There are some delightful anomalies to the theme, such as a tailored sleeveless suit whose deep mustard plaid conjures up a thrilling Clueless-for-grown-ups mood.
There’s also something for fans of Wakeley’s infamous eveningwear – usually a perennial mix of liquid silk gowns and breezy chiffons – via a gold beaded gown with a central black ribbon and a leaf-like print. It’s Edie Sedgewick goes to the ball, if the ball is in a glamorous tiki hut and serves pina coladas in crystal coupes.
Wakeley is a seasoned traveller, with collections often inspired by past trips. But not this one, because the 56-year-old designer not actually been to Cuba. I’m assured she will visit soon.