London Fashion Week debuted its first ever fully digital season Friday morning, and from the opening moment it began referencing the greater world outside fashion – from the pandemic to the global protests unleashed by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis this month.
With not a single actual live runway show on the three-day schedule, Nicholas Daley kicked off the action for designers with a two-minute video entitled The Abstract Truth. This, however, turned out to be a musical re-edit of the show he already presented in January in London (directed by Amy Douglas-Morris Benavides and Mathias Karl Gontard), which also featured the jangling guitars and intense drumming of a live rock band.
As one of this year’s LVMH Prize finalists, Daley often references his parents – a West Indian father and Scottish mother – who first met in a nightclub in Dundee and ended up running a reggae club in Scotland for a half decade. This collection did too, with its blend of Tartan coats; tie-dye ponchos; pearly-men-meet-Rasta-caps and punchy workwear. It actually looked punchy and cool – it’s just that the same event already happened five months ago.
The actual opening event was a performance by poet, performer and actor James Massiah. He read his poem Clio Corset, heralded with the phrase: “Let’s throw a party or two, thrown some gladrags on. In your Clio Corset, me in Bianca Saunders, looking anything but shy, in Mowalala and Asai…”
After a musical intro, the poet (dressed in a sweatshirt) read his opus, commissioned by the British Fashion Council.
“It’s been long time since I had a summer fling.
And I’m thinking there are a few little things to be flung.
A couple of statues in the sea.
And some of statutes they got wrong.”
Mentioning “police sirens in the distance,” the poem clearly referenced the statue of Edward Colston, an 18th-century slave trader, which was thrown into Bristol Harbor by Black Lives Matter protestors; and a statue of Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouts movement – who is accused of homophobia and supporting Hitler. The statue was removed from the dockside of Poole, Dorsett.
Each day in London Fashion Week is divided into three sessions, and the opening morning was completed by videos from Lou Dalton and another LVMH Prize finalist: Priya Ahluwalia of Ahluwalia.
Dalton’s contribution was a discussion with three people with whom she works: stylist Stuart Williamson, creative photographer Mark Neville and her mentor Gordon Richardson, one of the founders of the London menswear season.
“The pandemic gave us all the opportunity to sit back and think, and we all asked, ‘where is my place in all this,’ And, I just want to make clothes that feel relevant, that you want to wear for more than one season,” explained Dalton.
Finishing the opening session, Ahluwalia’s contribution was entitled Jalebi, after her latest book and 3D VR exhibition. Shot by photographer Laurence Ellis as a 360-degree circular camera movement, it featured a virtual art gallery in which was displayed the strands of the designer’s work – images from her folks native Punjabi; Red London buses and a striking image of a Mercedes wrapped in a giant paisley patchwork blanket.
Due to the pandemic, the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers (originally scheduled in April) called off this year’s final event, and split its prize money between the eight finalists – meaning that Ahluwalia and Daley will each be awarded 40,000 euros.
The season, which ends Sunday night, includes contributions from such hipster designers as Chalayan, Marques’Almeida, Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Matthew Miller, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi and Mulberry.
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