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Fashion Week is coming to town and opening its doors to us.
Once upon a time London Fashion Week was a strictly invite only affair, but nowadays it’s an entirely London matter. This month, as well as being a part digital event, LFW sees a curated programme of public events across a range of venues in different parts of town, courtesy of its City Wide Celebration.
When it comes to property, cities are back in fashion, and the hosts of the biggest, most famous Fashion Weeks – London, Milan, Paris and New York – are all experiencing huge interest in beautiful, design-led homes. Fashion weeks play a significant part in the economies of those four cities. The industry is worth 30 billion pounds to the UK annually.
Taking place this month from September 16th to the 20th, with Spring Summer 2023 collections being unveiled, LFW is a part of the capital’s cultural identity. It is organised by the not-for-profit British Fashion Council, whose other major remit is to spearhead fashion education and apprenticeships in the country. In recent years, its commitment to the next generation of fashion designers has included greater accessibility to London Fashion Week and this month all Londoners can benefit, however fashion-conscious they consider themselves to be.
A look at the LFW calendar offers the chance to spend a day or two moving from designer stores to restaurants, bars and party spaces in locations as diverse as Spitalfields, Muswell Hill, Chiswick, Blackheath, South Ken, Islington, Fulham and Chelsea, Hampstead, Covent Garden, Mayfair, Notting Hill and Kings Cross.
Fashion Week’s principal venue is the neoclassical landmark of Somerset House on The Strand, and the event is traditionally associated with a single catwalk venue to which only the great and good are invited. But even when this was true, before LFW became a dynamic, cross-capital celebration, the event moved around, through good times and bad.
The first London Fashion Week took place in the car park of The Commonwealth Institute in Kensington High Street. This was 1984, when a graduate of Central Saint Martins, John Galliano, went down a storm and Vivienne Westwood featured – just as she does this month, 38 years on, with both her Mayfair boutiques a part of the City Wide Celebration that sees designers opening their doors for events, talks, insights and promotions – from The Marina Rinaldi Townhouse on Albemarle Street to Jessie Western on Portobello Road to Harem in Dalston to LVFD in Wandsworth to BAV TAiLOR in Kings Cross.
Fashion Week moved between its original car park location and Kensington Olympia for the remainder of the 80s, a decade that closed with a fifteen-year-old Kate Moss making her catwalk debut in Galliano’s 1989 show. LFW has thrown up unforgettable moments ever since, from Naomi Campbell’s fall in Vivienne Westwood platform shoes in 1993 to a surprise performance by Prince in 2008 and the stunning, now iconic moment in Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 1999 show when model Shalom Harlow twirled on a revolving platform in a white strapless dress as two robots sprayed her with coloured paint.
But it has not always been plain sailing for what is now a high-end, high-octane fixture in London’s cultural and commercial calendar. The financial crisis of the early 90s reduced the event to a small show at The Ritz. As the country came out of depression, LFW grew and was on the move again to the grounds of the Natural History Museum, its home from 1994 to 2008. 2009 was the first time Somerset House provided the venue and after stints in Brewer Street car park and The Store Studios, the event is back there again, basking in the mix of contemporary creativity and Georgian grandeur that now defines this landmark site between The Strand and The Thames.
This September, more than ever, London itself becomes the venue for LFW. Designer Q&A sessions, workshops around Zero-Waste Craftsmanship and upcycling, live music performances, limited edition product drops and an open-door to Londoners will typify the 5 days.
A collaboration between BANG LDN! and Sam Macer takes place at the iconic Windmill Theatre, in Soho. On Bishopsgate, Urban MBA opens its doors to young Londoners interested in its enterprise programmes for marginalised and disengaged young adults.
Brora will host Stitch It Don’t Ditch It events in their Sloane Square and Marylebone shops, while in West Hampstead, Shaku hold flower drawing sessions for adults with in-house designer, Shakera. If that appeals, so will The Fashion School’s live quilting demo by artist and quilter Jodie Glen-Martin where you’ll watch a master at work and then do-it-yourself. Quilting is on a high in the fashion and textile world due to its upcycling credentials – and in a similar vein, second hand clothing behemoth, Beyond Retro, will host sustainable fashion events in their Argyll Street store.
You can join shoemakers Joseph Cheaney & Sons for an interactive shoe polishing masterclass held in their beautiful store in Covent Garden and get a free makeover at The Organic Pharmacy on Cadogan Gardens. Nearby, the Handbag Clinic on King’s Road will show you how to expand the life of treasured handbags with trade secret tips and techniques.
And you can pepper your schedule with food and drink experiences and deals at The Londoner hotel, Wulf and Lamb, Aubaine, The Little Scarlet Door, La Goccia, The Rivoli Bar at The Ritz and many other places across town.
There’s a moment in The Devil Wears Prada when Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) eviscerates Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) for laughing when the team can’t choose between two blue belts that look exactly the same to her, and for referring to fashion as “stuff”. What follows is funny, brutal, and brilliant, and has become famously known as the Cerulean Sweater Monologue.
Miranda turns to Andy and says, “This… “stuff”? Oh, okay. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet, and you select… I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back, but what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean. You’re also blithely unaware of the fact that, in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns, and then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent – wasn’t it? – who showed cerulean military jackets. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores, and then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars of countless jobs, and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry, when in fact, you’re wearing a sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room… from a pile of “stuff.”
Fashion matters to London, to its economy and its culture and to the tens of thousands of Londoners who work every day in some facet of the industry.
Whether you’re a tragic casual corner sort of person, or a consumer of haute couture – and you’re probably somewhere in between – London Fashion Week is coming to town and taking in many of the areas and enclaves that we love and sell beautiful, design-orientated homes in, and these days it offers yet another great reason to explore and enjoy this wonderful city.
London Fashion Week runs from September 16th to the 20th – https://londonfashionweek.co.uk/