Although I work at a fashion college, I don’t often get to do any of the seemingly glamorous things that you might associate with the fashion industry. OK, so I’ve been to lots of catwalk shows and exhibitions of our amazing students’ work, attended talks and panel discussions with high profile industry guests, and have also been to the occasional exclusive event, but I’d not been to London Fashion Week.
I’ve seen it in magazines and LFW is always filled to the brim with exclusive events, VIPs on the front row, street style icons, and packs of photographers. The closest I’ve come to a high profile catwalk show was the Victoria’s Secret extravaganza which, to be honest, is more like a pop concert than an actual fashion show. So I was pretty excited when, last weekend, I got to attend two events that were part of the official London Fashion Week schedule.
Burberry: The February 2018 Show
Clearly, only someone very senior at a fashion college would be invited to a show as big as the Burberry one. However, sometimes that person is unable to attend and the invitation is passed on to a colleague. In this case, it went to my line manager and (luckily for me) he couldn’t go either. The phrase ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ has never been more apt! I gladly accepted the invite, despite knowing embarrassingly little about Burberry as a brand, so I was blissfully unaware that they had revealed a rainbow version of their classic check fabric on 12th February, along with the news that they are supporting three LGBTQ+ charities. I think if I had known that chief creative officer Christopher Bailey’s final collection for the brand would be a celebration of LGBTQ+ communities, I would have been even more excited to receive the invite!
Arriving at White City tube station on Saturday afternoon, I walked past a river of black Mercedes, many featuring London Fashion Week branding. As I turned the corner into the road leading to the venue, the noise was deafening – the fast shutters of the paparazzi and the loudhailers of a large group of anti-fur protesters. Not knowing much about Burberry as a brand, meant that I had no clue that they are still using real fur in their collections due the the demand from their largest markets in Russia and the Middle East. This also makes it even more impressive that Bailey got the business to agree to his LGBTQ-inspired final collection! Once I’d navigated the rather terrifying crowds outside the building, I went inside and found myself a spot to stand and wait for the show to start. It was so dark inside that photography on my iPhone was pretty much impossible, and the room was so huge that celeb spotting was pretty tricky too. I did, however, see Jodie Harsh being interviewed and, after the show, I walked past Daphne Guinness.
When the show started, hundreds of mobile phones were held aloft to capture the sight of rows of pendulum spotlights which had begun to calmly sway in a choreographed manner. By the time the opening track began (a melancholy version of Small Town Boy by Bronski Beat) and the models started to appear, I was feeling rather rather emotional. The sound and lighting continued to take us on an emotive journey right up until the finale, which featured curtains of rainbow coloured lasers alongside the uplifting sounds of The Communards’ Don’t Leave me this Way, but I have to admit that the clothing did not. There was a lot of rather scruffy looking casualwear which is most definitely Not My Thing, despite the fact that it drew heavily on their archive, but then I’m not exactly their target market.
Other than the lighting, which I later found out was by London-based art practice United Visual Artists, the only thing that grabbed my attention was a rainbow faux fur cloak at the end… but that’s more because it was worn by Cara Delevigne! You can make up your own mind though: Watch the full Burberry February 2018 show on their website; check out the full collection on Vogue Runway; and read more about UVA’s “Our Time” installation on DEZEEN.
Lulu Guinness: Love One Another AW18
My second foray into LFW couldn’t have been more different. The official Lulu Guinness AW18 presentation took place on Saturday, with dancing models and VIP guests, but they also held events on the Sunday too: for customers of the brand and one for students and staff at London College of Fashion, which I was lucky enough to be allocated a ticket for.
I headed to the Covent Garden location and joined the nice patient queue outside, all waiting for our names to be ticked off on the guest list. The brand provided us with the same heart-shaped cookies and vodka cocktails as the VIPs got (it was lunch time, so two espresso martinis seemed like a reasonable plan to me!), and we were encouraged to take as many photos and selfies as we wanted. There was a beautifully lit display of handbags and shoes from the new collection, a mirrored room with bags on plinths, an area with a wall of LEDs and three disco ball clutches hung overhead, plus a wall of hand-written messages of love from the VIPs who had attended on Saturday. The brand had also arranged a panel discussion for the students – featuring Paul Spinks (Managing Director), Olivia Morris (Design Director) and Carol Bagnald (Board Member) – with plenty of time afterwards for questions about the Lulu Guinness brand and careers in the fashion industry.
As I left with my goodie bag, feeling like I’d been truly welcomed into the world of Lulu Guinness, I reflected that this smaller more personal event was definitely more “me”. I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to attend a huge catwalk show – and one that marks such an important point in an iconic brand’s history too – but that aspect of fashion is just not for me. Give me authenticity and fun over a VIP circus any day.