I didn’t attend LCM this season. Or should I say, I didn’t attend LFWM. And that’s part of the problem right there. Just as designers and brands have begun re-thinking their show strategy and the profusion of collections (which includes two RTW seasons, resort and either couture or bespoke for both mens and womenswear lines) which often results in rush job, unclear messaging with resultant poor buyer pick-up, the poorly timed and mis-directed BFC have elected to re-strategise. London Collections Men’s is now London Fashion Week Men’s.
It may just be a name change or an upping-of-the-supposed-ante for menswear to dig a stake in the ground as deep as that of womenswear but, whereas one would have expected a great hoo-haa to defy these uncertain Brexit times, the opposite has occurred. Brands such as Burberry, Gieves & Hawkes, Tom Ford, Paul Smith and umpteen stalwart Savile Row types have elected to give LFWM a miss with other plans in the pipeline. Or have opted to show menswear within their womenswear collections come February. Coupled with increasingly expensive post-Brexit production processes, a nose-diving £ and the ruffled feathers of lucrative European buyers, London is up against it. Pity. There’s a lacklustre energy, a quieter, more sombre mood, less good time parties (naturally) and, and I may be shot down here, much poorer collections – not all, but a definite shrinking in ‘balls’ re creativity and commerciality. Dystopian black is back.
Catching the shows via social media feeds and the uploaded imagery from trusted fashion websites and their worthy show reviewers (about three of whom I trust), comments have been captured and my thoughts running wild re the state we are in re London Fashion whether Men’s or Womenswear. Social media reviews and coverage (or lack of, thereof) have only added to my conclusions which are as follows:-
1. THE MIS-TIMED RE-BRAND & LAUNCH OF LFWM WITH A DEPLETED SHOW SCHEDULE– Post Brexit, nervy brands and nervier buyers are contemplating their futures and their customer appeal, slashing budgets and streamlining. While the BFC is to be applauded on concentrating on giving menswear the attention it deserves in a country that defines bespoke menswear as well as London verve & creativity, their timing is mis-judged, only serving to highlight big designer brands’ reluctance to commit, much like a long-term relationship that balks when marriage is mentioned. We’ve already seen the shift to show joint menswear and womenswear collections not only twice a year, but also in resort. Makes perfect sense.
2. PLUS CA CHANGE, PLUS C’EST LA MEME CHOSE – Part 1– While the menswear shows can throw us a delightful curveball (step forward Charles Jeffrey Loverboy who upped his game and gave London hope), the air of disconsolateness has been rife in the collections and in the attendees. The Dad’s Army’s prophesy “We’re all doomed” has never been so apt and the focus of some designers such as Matthew Miller and Christopher Shannon. Two worthy individuals whose cerebral political voices are heard in regular collections but this time, it felt a bit much wearing our broken hearts on our sleeves. (Especially the tongue in cheek ‘Loss’ instead of ‘Boss’ logo sweats). I know we’re f*cked, you know we’re f*cked, but do I want to spend hard earned cash from my depleting security income on items that re-iterate ‘we’re f*cked’? Our youth and our middle-aged yoot’ wannabes have been kicked in the teeth enough.
3. PLUS CA CHANGE, PLUS C’EST LA MEME CHOSE – Part 2 – I know. I know….it’s tough out there. But do we really need season after season of FROW’ers who comprise of ex models, their sidekick stylists and crass, self-promoting wannabes seeking micro-celebrity status to raise their profile if not their game? It’s no wonder huge designers seem to balk at this bunch who wouldn’t know an Oxford from a Derby shoe. And even the gorgeous Gandy Candy has been absent from this year’s line-up. Let’s face it kiddos’, there’s only so many Getty images pics you can see of the same FROW’ers, endlessly repeated on social media, without wanting to open a vein. Where’s Redmayne? Where’s Cumberbatch? Where’s Hardy? WORKING, that’s where. Advice to the BFC and PRs? David Furnish was a welcome addition as an official ambassador,, but good-looking (and often badly dressed to boot) unofficial bums on front row seats is done to death. Especially when the journalists sitting alongside them are a) much better dressed, b) clued up and c) focus on what’s actually important – promoting the British designers rather than themselves.
4. THE BFC’S OBSESSION WITH THE NUMBERS GAME RE SOCIAL MEDIA – Way back when I was first asked to advise the BFC re social media with some other well-known blogger counterparts, we were all unanimous that numbers didn’t mean jack when being considered for accreditation. It was about quality, knowledge, original informed copy, the promotion of the designers’ collections and an original viewpoint. As well as a constant and consistent approach…not just on the weeks before a trade show such as LCM or LFW. That’s why ’even the journalists’ *clutches pearls* followed us. We could say what we liked as unencumbered by advertising or politics or an editor.
Cut to 2017 and it’s all about the numbers. In theory, an unknown self –promoting, selfie-obsessed instagramer seeking status and freebies, who terms themself a blogger or better (and this really gets my goat) a ‘magazine’, can either buy a following or, as many do, simply follow 8k people to get a +10k following across different forms of social media and Bob’s your aunt – instant accreditation. What this results in is endless pics of shoes, selfies and ‘me-me’s’ at shows or, of the fleeting glimpse of the lesser-spotted-celebrity. Any focus on the designer, the show, an informed review, a reason why this was designer was a cut above or below par – gone. Whoosh! In one fell swoop. Have you tried to tried to gain accurate informed info from feeds without falling back on say, friends such as The Chic Geek or Clothes Make The Man? There’s a reason why we attend. Or used to, before being bumped despite years of experience. At this point a ‘rolls eyes’ emoji would be appropriate. Which naturally leads to…
5. THE SHIFT TO SOCIAL MEDIA FOCUS ABOUT ATTENDEES OUTFITS & THE BFC AMABASSADORS RATHER THAN THE DESIGNER’S WORK – I get it. I do. Fighting against the big wigs like Milan, Paris and New York for attention, London and the BFC needs to do everything it can to boost its media presence globally. It’s just that this need to increase social media hits has dumbed down accurate informed coverage of the designers showing, their work and their originality. Focus has been on the famous or (as said before) not so famous bums on seats, often that don’t resonate with the designer these FROW’ers attend. There’s a huge mis-match here as well as a juxtaposition of need. The need to show London as hip and happening and relevant is highly misplaced by many of the ‘famed’ attendees. While the huge numbers social media types are too busy documenting their ‘being-there’, their sponsored outfit or the (dubious) street fashion, they forget about the reason for attending – the designer. I think I preferred it when it was a seasonal trade show where the industry would convene to pass judgement as well as get behind the new..in ye olden days of the newspaper. I may have my eyes poked our or my tippy-tappy fingers removed for daring to speak my mind. But hey, as I said, remember the value of the true blogger? Original, informed opinion or a source of discussion that pushes boundaries? Q.E.D. Let’s see if accreditation appears for LFW in February.
Catwalk images kindly used from www.vogue.com