"In a time where the world seems to teeter on institutional collapse, London turns to what it has always known best: to draw on its anti-establishment streak as an alternative source and continue looking forward."
Fashion East Ready To Wear Fall Winter 2017 Fashion Show in London (by Guilaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)
To speak of fashion in tumultuous times is often not without guilt. Seeing protestors spilling onto the streets resisting despotic regimes with such urgency in recent months can make mulling over next season’s pantone shade pale in comparison. But perhaps by correlation, the industry has had its fair share of chaos. The tectonic shifts in Creative Directors across the board, from Raf Simons’ appointment at Calvin Klein to Riccardo Tisci’s departure from Givenchy, make it hard to keep up. It changes the power dynamic between New York, Milan, London and Paris. New York has Yeezy and now Calvin Klein to dominate the headlines while Paris and Milan have arguably always held their helm with the Greats. Where does that leave London Fashion Week (LFW)?
The reshuffling of power structures seems to have solidified LFW’s new found role. Dame Natalie Massanet who presides over the British Fashion Council (BFC) astutely pointed out in her opening address the need for diversity and inclusivity. She applauded Business of Fashion’s recent #tiedtogether campaign, a call to arms towards universal brotherhood especially within an industry that employs across so many different spectrums. British-Indian designer Ashish prompted it first with his “Immigrant” slogan t-shirts long before W Magazine broke its “I am an Immigrant” campaign featuring New York’s fashion heavyweights that launched two days ago. On Saturday, long-standing English-Turkish designer Hussein Chalayan echoed this sentiment through his politically-charged show “Act to Form” that delved into ideas of citizenship. Chalayan cited Ancient Greek culture and gave a nod to Plato’s Republic, befitting of his intellectual designs. It was a personal response to the increasingly “isolated individuals that the current world order is generating”, he shared in his press release.
The torch of activism blazed on at Fashion East in the new wing of the Tate Modern. Kudos to Lulu Kennedy for curating a show that would have made any Londoner proud. Supriya Lele, a graduate of the MA program at the Royal College of Art, explored her Indian and British heritage as she incorporated traditional Indian textile craftsmanship into the dress codes of British subculture in her debut collection. Mimi Wade’s upbeat show was an ode to her British-American identity, referencing Old Hollywood Glamour and Victorian romanticisms. She too exercised a show of hyper awareness with a curtain call set to Liam Lynch’s “United States of Whatever”. A Sai Ta of Asai also pivoted on his British-Asian background by exploring Chinese Culture stereotypes in the West.
The show of diversity was by far most felt on the catwalk of a York-born designer. Breakout star Matty Bovan, already a favourite of Katie Grand’s, so much so that she consulted on the styling of the show, was a hybrid of urban jungle meets club kids. Tapestries clashed with the spontaneity of East London’s nightlife while the attitude was very much “Rebel with a Cause”. Each look was fiercely individual but very much part of a collective identity, even the breath-taking set by artist William Farr outlining a hard city scape couldn’t pull these girls apart. Casting bolstered the point further -- Winnie Harlow, Adwoa Aboah, Grace Bol were among the faces that graced his runway. Matty is drawing the message of inclusivity, that has always existed in the clubs, out from the underground. Like Charles Jeffrey of Loverboy and many other young designers, they walk in the footsteps of heroes that came before - like Boy George and Leigh Bowery - as they continue in this oddly British tradition of protecting the right to be different.