London Fashion Week: Getting Serious About Sustainability

London Fashion Week Mayfair Fashion
High-octane dresses, plaids, tweeds, shirts, necklines, and new skirt lengths weren't the only focus at London Fashion Week where Autumn/Winter 2020 looks were unveiled. 

Throughout the four days (February 14-18) the sustainability message continued to take centre stage. No wonder then that in her opening speech Caroline Rush the British Fashion Council CEO referred to London as the “innovator of the four big fashion weeks.”

The importance of sustainability to the future of the fashion industry was trumpeted repeatedly. Anya Hindmarch closed all five of her London shops for three days, including 118 New Bond Street, and filled them all with empty plastic bottles to underline the problem posed by plastic pollution. At the official LFW hub at 180 The Strand, the Positive Fashion Exhibition included a peer-to-peer rental platform, while Kate Fletcher, a professor of Sustainability, Design & Fashion at London College of Fashion and Dr Mathilda Tham popped up pre-show at the runway of On|Off Presents to deliver a speech focusing on fashion and climate change that revolved around their new Earth Logic project.

Mulberry used LFW as an opportunity to educate customers and the industry about its responsibility initiative — Made To Last - with an immersive installation at its New Bond Street flagship. Here, factory employees from Somerset gave a step-by-step taste of how the Portobello bag is created. Another collection, including bags, totes and a raincoat made from Econyl, a regenerated nylon fibre that uses waste from landfill and oceans, was also showcased. The occasion also saw the launch of Mulberry Exchange that offers authentication of vintage Mulberry with the opportunity for customers to put the value of old products towards purchasing the new. Part of the store was also dedicated to pre-loved Mulberry pieces that had been carefully revived by the brand’s Somerset-based restoration artists and were also available to buy.

The two shining stars of the LFW line-up —Victoria Beckham and Burberry — offered collections shot through with a crisp, contemporary vibe. A series of elegant black dresses with shapely necklines kicked off the Victoria Beckham show followed by new lengths offered by tight thigh-high platform boots, knee-skimming skirts and abbreviated waist-length knits. She also served up shirts with high ruffled necks or shapely collars worn under abbreviated, brightly coloured knits and played with a striking lumberjack-inspired plaid giving it a sophisticated edge and using it for dresses and blouses with volume sleeves.

At Burberry, various checks some instantly recognisable, some not, were layered to create feminine silhouettes. The collection also included figure-hugging dresses covered in a subtle layer of sequins. There were also deep V-necked cricket-inspired sweaters, a nod to rugby shirt silhouettes together with the appearance of striped sporty necklines. Creative director Riccardo Tisci kept Burberry codes carefully balanced between the super elegant and the street-savvy. He also re-worked the classic trench adding volume around the neckline on some raincoats and quilted elements plucked from the popular puffer to others.

The move to a sleek aesthetic certainly didn’t signal the end to ruffles and frills, ankle-skimming skirts or voluminous shapes. Plenty of those remained. Take Central Saint Martin’s graduate Yuhan Wang who kicked off London Fashion Week to much acclaim. Her debut collection was Victorian in flavour with plenty of black lace and frothy white ruffles, while rose print jacquards featured on skirts and peplum jackets. The long, loopy lace collar was another collection highlight — reassuring if you’ve recently snapped up a shirt with an exaggerated peter pan collar. Don’t worry collar interest is starting to gather momentum, not about to wane.

LFW’s biggest style splash came not from the February rain but from dresses sure to set the party season alight. Alice Temperley transformed her Bruton Street townhouse into an intimate party venue complete with swing and jazz dancers who shimmied around in her designs during a Gatsby-esque cocktail presentation entitled ‘She Wants To Dance.’ Dresses and blouses featuring musical note embellishments echoed the theme, while zig-zag patterns on tulle and subtle sequin detailing on dresses ranged in colour from baby pink to an intense autumnal palette of reds, browns and rusts. Elsewhere, Halpern, well known for his sequin loaded red carpet gowns, included a high voltage rainbow-striped sequin number with a 1970s vibe. Meanwhile, Huishan Zhang sent out a model wearing a magenta gown that hit the floor with a frill and brought his Covent Garden show to a close with a stunning full-length black strapless dress edged with flowers, made entirely from sequins. In contrast, at Amanda Wakeley, intricate hand beading and chain fringing were the embellishments of choice.

As the winds and torrential rains of Storm Dennis raged around the capital, special access to national monuments which doubled up as show venues offered warmth and a refuge from the inclement weather. Erdem headed to The National Gallery with his collection inspired by the gallery’s upcoming Cecil Beaton exhibition Bright Young Things that opens in March. With a level of access rarely granted to London residents or tourists, Halpern took over the Old Bailey; Victoria Beckham showed in the Banqueting House, Whitehall with its stunning Rubens-painted ceiling, while at Simone Rocha guests marvelled at the gilt ceilings and period portraits that lined the walls of Lancaster House. On the very last day of LFW a parade of country-inspired capes, trenches, checked pleated skirts and monogrammed knits shown by the heritage label Daks chimed with the book-lined walls of Gladstone’s Library at the historic Liberal Club. It turned out to be the perfect place to end this season’s chapter.

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