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Comment: LFWM packs creative punch despite sparse schedule

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A new year and a new decade dawned as London Fashion Week Men’s kicked off the autumn 20 season with three days of catwalk shows on 4-6 January.

As the seasons change, LFWM’s role in the fashion landscape is also shifting – and taking an increasingly condensed focus on smaller designers, new names and London’s signature creativity.

The fashion crowd emerged from the festive slumber for the 15th edition of LFWM, which once again took place at the Old Truman Brewery in East London – a venue and location well suited to the overwhelmingly youthful, creative focus of the on-schedule designers.

In recent seasons, the number of brands showing at LFWM has continued to dwindle as big-name designers opt to show in Paris and Milan. Craig Green and JW Anderson were absent this season, and rising streetwear sensation A Cold Wall became the latest to vacate the schedule for autumn 20, instead showing in Milan.

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Wales Bonner collaborated with Adidas

The sparse schedule was initially off-putting. A late start on Saturday, and only three catwalk shows today (6 January) made the event more of a fashion weekend than a fashion week.

However, buyers commented that, although condensed, the shorter schedule was better organised than in previous seasons. Back-to-back shows lent a buzz to the weekend, despite the comparative lack of star names.

In lieu of the headline-grabbing acts, London’s new generation of design talent took its chance to shine. Brands including Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Wales Bonner and Martine Rose continued to grow their statuses as the names to know from the London scene – each showed collections that evolved their signature aesthetics.

Big-name buyers were spotted checking out less-prominent designers on the schedule. International retailers including Bergdorf Goodman and Milan’s Antonioli joined Matchesfashion, Browns and Selfridges in gracing the front rows and presentations of up-and-coming names such as Stefan Cooke and Chinese brand 8on8.

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Ahluwalia autumn 20

London-based brand Ahluwalia’s collection inspired by an alternative, multicultural interpretation of the 1960s, generated particular excitement. The vibrant presentation was packed from start to finish, indicating big things to come from the young designer. 

Presentations from Bianca Saunders and Pacifism were also standouts from the smaller names on the schedule.

Collaborations have become an increasingly key component to LFWM, and this season the collab machine was in overdrive as heritage sportswear names popped up as partners to designers across the spectrum of style. Nicholas Daley and Fred Perry, Paria Farzaneh and Converse, and Wales Bonner and Adidas were particular standouts.

Away from collaborations, London’s collections had a nostalgic feel for autumn 20. Both Paria Farzaneh and Martine Rose showed their collection in school halls, and several others – from Eastwood Danso to Charles Jeffrey Loverboy – created collections that harked back to their memories of youth.

Family ties were an important and emotional thread in many collections, none more so than Qasimi, which showed the final collection from founder Khalid Al Qasimi, who died in July 2019. His sister, Hoor Al Qasimi, has taken over as creative director, and the autumn 20 collection was themed around the image of sunrise and sunset.

London’s historic and rich multiculturalism was also celebrated anew by designers. The swinging 1960s were given a fresh perspective, with references to the styles and cultures of immigrant communities ranging from India, Africa, and the Windrush generation. Wales Bonner, Nicholas Daley and Ahluwalia in particular exemplified this new take on retro dressing.

Sustainability was once again top of the agenda for many designers, and this was reflected in a new focus on eco-consciousness from the British Fashion Council’s organising of the event. The once traditional mini-plastic water bottles were replaced by re-usable bottles that attendees could refill at the BFC Showspace in the Old Truman Brewery.

Designers including Bethany Williams, Nicholas Daley, Bianca Saunders and Ahluwalia were promoted on the show schedule as being part of the BFC’s “Positive Fashion” initiative, emphasising their sustainable credentials. Sustainability was embedded into almost every show on schedule – from E Tautz’s “brand new second-hand” collection using recycled materials, to Korean brand Münn’s use of deadstock silk scraps and materials made from repurposed coffee grounds and old tyres.

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Bethany Williams

Williams has become a particular beacon of London’s sustainable prowess and continued her pioneering work partnering with The Magpie Project, a charity that supports mothers experiencing homelessness. As part of the collection, Williams released a knitting pattern for socks post-show, with the aim that people will download the pattern, and donate the knitted socks to The Magpie Project for mothers and their young children.

Pioneering and experimental designers such as Williams have long been LFWM’s selling point. While a shorter schedule may mean less international attention for London brands compared to Paris and Milan, it allows designers the freedom to experiment and find their own unique identities. Moving forward, the event will have to balance the importance of commercial lure and creative potential to ensure LFWM retains its relevance and ability to support the new talent that drives its appeal.

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