British fashion: sustainability and globalization take to the catwalk

From celebrating the second fur-free edition to Positive Fashion initiative, here is what we learned from London Fashion Week this season.

Sandra Porto for Glam UK

Fashion is a serious business with an enduring power to inspire and thrill. 

Having been a continuous supporter of British fashion and culture for over 11 years, fashion week still surprises and sparks a desire for more. Every season. It is now a personal truth that not many invitations will get the heart racing other than those imaginative pieces of crafted paper: valuable passports to current social trends and style. You know there will be something new, something classic, potential and hope. And what else do we need right now? 

Positively, British fashion is still growing. According to Oxford Economics (2018), the industry contributed £32.3billion to the UK GDP in 2017 – a rather healthy increase of 5.4% from 2016; and what is more, this growth rate is 1.6% higher than the rest of the economy, demonstrating a growing hunger for style. 

Consumer appetite and sustainability have long been at the forefront of the industry debate and, this season, the British Fashion Council brought a London Fashion Week with renewed focus on sustainability with its Positive Fashion initiative – championing sustainable practices – and the second edition in which the catwalks and designer showrooms at the event were completely fur free. 

Across the city, just the week before in Kensington, Pure London, the largest trade event in the UK, celebrated another successful edition with an increased focus on sustainability, encouraging ethical fashion brands and partnering with the UN via the on-going Conscious Fashion Campaign.

Having reported on sustainable fashion since a time when not many brands would consider it a reliable business model, it is great news to see the mainstream sewing a more ethical future. It is truly reassuring.

Also uplifting is the event’s international reach, which casts a bit of hope in a delicate pre-Brexit Britain. According to the BFC, the latest edition attractedvisitors from 49 countries; however, it was on the catwalks and backstage that multiculturalism shone the brightest.

One of the most coveted new talent showcases, “Ones to Watch”, organised by Fashion Scout, was simply a triumph of globalisation and its rich influence in British fashion. Fashion Scout, the international platform for fashion avant-garde, is now officially a must stop in the calendar and, within a short walk from the BFC Space at the Strand, it truly makes Covent Garden a fashion quarter. ‘Ones to Watch’, the annual award which gives the most talented new designers a platform to shine, is judged by industry’s heavyweights such as Deputy Fashion Editor Scarlett Conlon (The Guardian), Catwalk Director Lizzy Bowring (WGSN); Senior Programme Manager at the British Council Kendal Robbins, Next Gen Buyer Constanza Lombardi (Browns) and Fashion Scout Founder and Director Martyn Roberts. 

Taking the catwalk by storm, the ‘ones to watch’ Paris born Aurelie Fontan, Chinese Shie Lyu, Taiwanese Yi-Ling Kuo and New Yorker Bowen Hu (originally from China) showcased breath-taking creations that represented the spirit of British fashion in its rebellious and almost subversive form, and presented elegant and modern shapes inspired by a rich amalgamation of influences placed in a very British context. Check out the photos.

Elsewhere on the catwalk, “i-am-chen” dazzled with forward-thinking knitwear, pushing the boundaries between fashion, art, textiles and technology: a young brand which has been recognised as one of the International Woolmark Prize finalists only two years after its inception in 2017.  Back at the Strand, delving into the backstage world of “Underage” had us properly immersed into its sexy, young and somewhat punk ‘Horror Picture Show’. A collection showcasing deconstructed classical shapes where the shoes stole the show for its femininity and daring details. 

Only regret? Due to work arrangements, missing the inspirational Edeline Lee Autumn/Winter 2019- the brand’s performance are always a highlight but this year, it once more elevated the standards bringing a selection of outstanding women to take centre stage, including Professor Dame Mary Beard, Sally Gunnel OBE and Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury. If you missed it too, head to their Instagram immediately and watch some of the highlights. 

Daring, inspirational, sexy and, with a renewed concern for sustainability, fashion week is all you need pre-Brexit. The long queues, the street style, the shoving during presentations, the front rows, it all gives a peaceful reassurance: whatever happens, creativity will survive. Fashion will survive. We will survive. 

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