Like Londoners themselves London Fashion Week is celebrated for it’s quirky style. Often labeled as eccentric, it is the creative and experimental nature of British designers that make it an essential part of fashion week.
In the afterglow of the Olympics, London Fashion Week has been confident and self assured of its place in the seasonal fashion circus, but that hasn’t always been the case. A few years ago “scheduling” issues threatened to impact on LFW, with the potential of it being cut to a mere 4 days! Many editors and buyers would have been tempted to skip London altogether. However, after a strong backlash from within the industry and a few compromises, LFW survived the cut.
Since then it’s gone from strength to strength. An influx of established designers such as Burberry and Mathew Williamson have returned to show in London whilst the new wave of fêted London based designers; Christopher Kane, Marios Schwab and Erdem,to name a few, have remained loyal to the city and more importantly haven’t felt the need to break out to New York or Paris to gain exposure.
It’s undoubtedly thanks to sponsorship programmes like NEWGEN, Fashion East and Fashion Fringe who offer support to emerging British designers that we are in this fortunate position today.
“We aim to discover, nurture and sustain highly creative fashion designers throughout Great Britain and Ireland” - Fashion Fringe
These organisations do not focus singularly on offering designers a platform at LFW to showcase their designs but also on supporting their development as a commercial business. This sustainability element means that London will not only develop but also retain it’s talented designers.
So how does sponsorship work and who are the bright new stars that have been selected for SS13?
NEWGEN was launched by the British Fashion Council in 1993 and is now the worlds most globally recognized fashion design talent identification scheme. Designers selected for sponsorship receive financial support towards their show costs and the chance to use the BFC exhibition space at London Fashion Week.
Apparently you won’t get much change out of £30,000 if you exhibit at fashion week. That’s if you keep to a budget and don’t come over all Lagerfeld fashion spectacular with a 50 foot carousel.
Even without the carousel, this is a sum that most new designers would struggle to find.
But it’s not all about the money, there is also the sizable matter of a potential collaboration with 10 year NEWGEN sponsor Topshop.
Topshop has the power to project a designer from the unknown to becoming a household name. At least, that is, in my household where even my dad reads the Guardian fashion columns.
Mary Katrantzou, winner of NEWGEN sponsorship in 2011, had one of the most successful Topshop collaborations. Fashion bloggers and tweeters went into a frenzy the day the collection launched and many pieces including this £350 dress sold out the same day.
This year catwalk sponsorship was awarded to designers JW Anderson, Michael van der Ham and Simone Rocha. 9 other designers including Christopher Raeburn received sponsorship towards either a presentation or exhibition at LFW.
Fashion East, which similarly supports young designers “through the difficult early stages of their career”, has developed a reputation for scouting some of the most exciting new design talent. Having helped to launch the careers of celebrated designers such as RoksandaIlinic, Gareth Pugh and House of Holland it’s not surprising that their previously “off schedule” show is now firmly “on schedule” and not to be missed.
“Fashion East is such a reliable next-big-thing barometer that it's no longer an off-schedule quirk but one of the official LFW schedule's hottest tickets” Style.com
Claire Barrow, Maarten van der Horst and Ryan Lo were part of the SS13 showcase that took place on Friday.
Ryan Lo’s collection is a little bit vintage, a little bit sparkly and little bit crazy. In other words it has the spirit of London and I can imagine Susie Bubble being quite at home in some of his outfits. Glossy reds and pinks dominated the colour palette, sequins and marabou feathers reigned. A fun and youthful collection that I’d be happy to start buying into now. The pink sequin skirt would be the perfect statement piece to wear with a jumper this winter.
Claire Barrow’s collection is less frivolous with a darker colour palette and the boyish shapes and styles we have come to love from Japanese brands likeComme Des Garcons. The PVC dungarees (which actually don’t look as bad as they sound), are one of the most memorable pieces from this collectionalthough I doubt the most commercial. On the other hand the white silk top and skirt covered in sketchy black illustrations are to die for and ever so wearable.
Martin van der Horst’s use of Tesco’s carrier bags in his designs provoked speculation on the “detritus of consumer corporate culture”. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just a really nice shirt. He uses bold prints throughout the collection, the leopard print mac was one of my favourites, and I imagine will be working it’s way down to the high street. Models wore neckerchiefs to match their dresses, although I love a bit of Western, I think this accessory belongs firmly on the catwalk.
Fashion fringeare committed to helping Britain to regain it’s place as a powerhouse of cutting edge originality. This season they have a focused on “encouraging the spirit of extreme imagination, adventure and experimental design that London is historically known for.” Through a vigorous selection process, three finalists emerged, Haizhen Wang, TeijaEilola and Vita Gottlieb.
In the 3 months leading up to fashion week they were given studio space at London College of Fashion along with technical and financial assistance to create a capsule collection.
The fruits of their labour will be seen at the closing show of LFW on Tuesday. Each finalist promises to offer something unique and certainly very different from each other. Their influences drawn from Spanish Architechture (Wang), to Paul Poiret's 1911 party 'Thousand and Second Night' (Gottlieb).
Whilst the emphasis still remains on cutting edge design talent, what I like to call the “ground breakers”, the finalists are also challenged with making “beautiful sellable clothes”. Those which are often, ever so slightly critically, called the “commercial” pieces.
It is this emphasis on commercialness and harnessing fashion talent and developing into a fashion empire that will bring glory to London and it’s economy over the next decade.
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