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Have LFW designers sold out to sell out?

Well look who’s all grown up!

The lasting impression London Fashion Week left buyers and journalists as they jetted off for Milan was that the week, long considered the enfant terrible of the circuit, had come of age in its autumn 13 season. For years the creativity of London’s designers was not in question (the likes of John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Christopher Bailey plied their trade all over the fashion world) but their business nous was. While commerciality has been slowly infiltrating the week for a fair few seasons now, autumn 13 was the first where it felt like London’s designers all got together and screwed their collective business head on.

“Hurrah!” we all should have shouted but, while there’s no doubting many buyers will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of stocking London’s latest wares, I was left scratching my head: in making their collections more commercial some designers have lost the essence of why we loved them in the first place. When the likes of Louise Gray, Meadham Kirchhoff and Michael van der Ham all dial it right the way down you know something’s up, but in the quest for sales, hearts have been lost. The sharp oddness and extravagance designers used to make their names has been dulled. It’s like drinking Diet Coke: it’s a far inferior experience to the full fat version that leaves you feeling prudent yet ultimately unsatisfied, like it didn’t quite hit the spot.

While couture is fantastical, luxury ready-to-wear is the best platform on which to develop the fusing of the inventive and the practical, or at least it should be. Obviously anyone with eyes can see these collections aren’t all brown slacks and sensible shoes but without that je ne sais quoi they are ultimately weaker for it. Perhaps customers will prove me wrong and these new business-savvy brands will sell out in stores but I really hope they haven’t sold out in the process.

For more LFW news and views go to www.drapersonline.com/LFW

Readers' comments (4)

  • I think the new found sense of "maturity" from designers such as Meadham Kirchoff and Louise Gray is part of a natural evolution of these desiginers and their brands.

    They're not the same quirky, young upstarts as they were many seasons ago - fresh out of CSM and throwing together the most avant-garde outfits they can come up with, they've developed some business sense (or most likely had it forced upon them by financial backers) and have adjusted their designs accordingly.

    Ultimately if they are to become a longstanding business they will need to balance creativity with commercialism like everyone else. They seem to be doing that and best of luck to them.

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  • And so they should evolve....I am pleased they have.......or do you just want them to be inspirators for the High St chains (and the mass manufacturers and all othe other feeders)? It's easy peasy to collate a watered down, commercial range once the raw ideas are paraded in front of you. The secondary skill is taking the rawness and editing it into a commercial, viable offering to stores. Any designer that can do that has a chance to survive and prosper. If they can't they are vulnerable on every level as the feeders want more and more newness to feed from so, at best, a radical, pushing boundaries designer may only catch 2 or 3 seasons before being dumped as the 'one to follow' as the industry bled them out and then move to 'The Next Big Thing'. My bugbear with LFW is the infiltration by the chains. I think the Rhianna range is commercial and spot on for the RI customer but..perleese......as part of LFW? Not one original stitich in the entire presentation..it was all a parody....and Whistles? Eh? Twas a bit Italian smart brand and no way original work. ......great for it's customer base but I do feel that it was a bit of an imposter. What next? M &S on the catwalk? It's not what LFW is about.

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  • ...and another thing (as I getting cross now) What is the problem with these designers wanting to earn a decent living? They understand that sales are what count.
    That is what they are trying to achieve as it's the stores who stock them that pay the bills, not radical new looks to uplift the pages of off-beat mags and raise the 'cool status' of stylists....and gve the chain store 'buyers' a portfolio of 'looks' to plagiarise for their customer base.

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  • LFW has always had a reputation for being aloof, insular and essentially a closed shop for a very narrow band of people. It needs to commercialize because as it stands, it has little to no relevance in the real world.

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