London Fashion Week to be digital, gender-neutral for a year, first event in June

Screenshot 2020-04-21 at 12.07.52

Covid-19 lockdowns may start to be eased soon but their impact will continue to be felt all year on major events. The latest to announce a big change is London Fashion Week. The British Fashion Council (BFC) said Tuesday that for the next 12 months, all London Fashion Weeks “will merge womenswear and menswear into one gender-neutral platform, to allow designers greater flexibility”. That platform will be digital.

No details are available for what will happen in September, but the body has announced its plans for what would have been London Fashion Week Men’s in June.

It will be replaced by a digital-only platform starting on June 12 and running through to June 14. Digital platform will relaunch and be for both trade and consumer audiences. It will embrace “the cultural commentary, creativity and humorous spirit for which British fashion and London are known,” we’re told.

The aim is to “put storytelling at [the event’s] heart and give a voice to British fashion businesses and creatives, allowing them to tell their stories in these extraordinary times by tapping into London’s cultural zeitgeist and highlighting its position as a global multi-cultural city.” 

The platform will host exclusive multimedia content from designers, creatives, artists and brand partners, “enabling collaboration and bringing together fashion, culture and technology.” 

As mentioned, the new digital experience will be a trade-consumer crossover and will be open to “a global public and trade audience”. It’s intended to “work as a meet-up point, offering interviews, podcasts, designer diaries, webinars and digital showrooms, giving the opportunity to designers to generate sales for both the public through existing collections and the retailers through orders for next season’s products”.

The BFC said existing LFW partners will be on board. But it has also “engaged a number of digital pioneering brands”, including Amazon Launchpad, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Joor, Ordre/Orb360 and YouTube. They “will all be activating content in unique ways, helping British designer businesses reach new public and trade audiences”.

Will it ever go back to normal?

Of course, the big question is whether this will have a lasting effect on LFW and, if the cross-over digital option is a success, how the runway show-based event might reassert its dominance in the future. Clearly there are risks as well as advantages in any new strategy.

And while 20+ years ago, the rise of the internet had analysts questioning whether runway events would continue (and predicting a fast move to digital that never happened), the coronavirus crisis might be the catalyst that really does make it happen.

BFC chief Caroline Rush said of this: “It is essential to look at the future and the opportunity to change, collaborate and innovate. Many of our businesses have always embraced London Fashion Week as a platform for not just fashion but for its influence on society, identity and culture. 

“The current pandemic is leading us all to reflect more poignantly on the society we live in and how we want to live our lives and build businesses when we get through this. The other side of this crisis, we hope, will be about sustainability, creativity and product that you value, respect, cherish. 

“By creating a cultural fashion week platform, we are adapting digital innovation to best fit our needs today and something to build on as a global showcase for the future. Designers will be able to share their stories, and for those that have them, their collections, with a wider global community; we hope that as well as personal perspectives on this difficult time, there will be inspiration in bucketloads. It is what British fashion is known for.”  

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