Before I dive into my highlights of LFW, I should probably let you in on a secret: I’ve never really liked Fashion Week. The days of shows and running around central London are fine, but it’s the pretence that goes with it that gets me. People critique each other on the street, casting an eye up and down each others outfits. They’re catty about who gets front row seats, and for more intimate events, may try to swipe yours when your back is turned. Fashion Week turns people into critical, unfriendly, super consumers – and that’s not what I’m about.
That being said, there is progress being made on the ethical and sustainable fashion fronts. Sure, Fashion Week is at odds with slow fashion; how can you show a trendless collection at a seasonal event? But with sustainability being a sought-after commodity in fashion right now, I did get to enjoy two key events that have their own merits…
Techstyler x Bottletop
The first of these was Bottletop’s panel talk, launching #LFW19 on the Friday night. Their tiny Regent Street store play host to Brooke Roberts-Islam from Techstyler, and panellists Livia Firth, Founder of Eco-Age, Clare Press, Vogue Australia‘s Sustainability Editor at Large, and Cameron Saul, Co-Founder of Bottletop.
All have made ethical waves within the luxury fashion realm. Livia Firth started the Green Carpet Challenge, inviting fashion houses and celebrities alike to put ethics into their aesthetics. Clare Press was appointed just before the ground-breaking Sustainability Issue of Vogue Australia came out last year – you may remember Emma Watson was guest editor. And Cameron Saul started Bottletop after his work supporting victims of sexual violence in Africa opened his eyes to their artisanal skills, chiefly that of applying bottletops to bags. He has now elevated this technique to luxury standards.
Over the course of the night, the panel touched on a range of topics concerning our skewed view of people in lesser developed locations around the world. Livia Firth explained how fast fashion has “divorced” us from the garment workers and people who make our clothes, and without seeing them, we fail to care about them.
Cameron Saul highlighted the benefits of cross-cultural collaboration, investing in communities around the world who are skilled in creating clothes, shoes, or in his case, bags, supporting their societal structures and projecting what they do onto a global stage.
And Clare Press was astute to note how journalism often takes the voice of these workers away from them – and that we need to work on giving these people their own platform, and their own freedom of expression in a way that they are comfortable with. This was particularly resonant with me – it’s something I’d like to do moving forward with the blog.
Oxfam Runway Show
The other event that held a lot of meaning for me was Oxfam’s Runway Show, closing the events on Monday night.
After reading about Sunday’s Extinction Rebellion protest, I’d begun to realise I’m not alone in wanting to disrupt the pretence of LFW. It made me change my plans, and even even got me thinking about the duplicitous nature of ethical fashion – how it only acknowledges certain problems within the industry (such as the poor treatment of people, but not our planet) and it still enables many people to profit both financially and in reputation despite them not being wholly ethical.
(I’ve since joined Extinction Rebellion, and hope to use this platform to highlight the importance of climate change, as well as other ethical causes.)
Oxfam’s show was a sort of sorbet for the soul at LFW. All clothes shown were sourced from the Oxfam Online Shop, or their stores, and were styled on industry favourites: Bella Freud, Daisy Lowe, Kesewa Aboah, Laura Bailey, Lottie Moss, Stella Tennant, Yasmin Le Bon.
The show was opened by Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, CEO of Oxfam, who explained how just one £10 garment bought in an Oxfam Charity Shop could provide clean water for 10 people in an emergency. He was followed by a street dance performance by BirdGang, and then the runway show. Looks spanned different styles, eras, and fabrics, a perfect concoction representative of not just second-hand shopping, but the freedom charity shop fashion can provide its wearer, and the beneficiaries.