London fashion week began with a minute’s silence in tribute to Queen Elizabeth II at the Daniel W Fletcher show before a model in a black morning suit and matching armband took to the runway.
Noticeably different to the usual fashion fanfare, LFW participants on Thursday evening were just relieved it was actually happening.
Last week, there was a period when it was unclear whether LFW would go ahead, falling as it did during the national mourning period and set to clash with the royal funeral.
Within 24 hours of the Queen dying, Burberry, a royal warrant holder, declared it was cancelling its show. Raf Simons, the Belgian designer and co-creative director of Prada who normally shows in Paris or New York (a huge coup for LFW), was the second big name to drop out, abandoning a Friday night debut.
On Monday, the British Fashion Council, which runs LFW, issued a statement clarifying fashion week would go ahead, albeit a toned down version with all shows slated for the day of the funeral rescheduled and parties banned.
For many new designers, the loss of established names such as Burberry and strict new guidelines has had a massive knock-on effect. “Bigger brands have the funds to do whatever they want but for small designers like me we are impacted massively,” said Dilara Findikoğlu, a Turkish born, London-based designer whose show has been moved from Monday to Saturday afternoon, leaving her with two days less to prepare.
After two years of disruption due to the pandemic alongside uncertainty around Brexit, the fashion industry had been looking forward to this season.
The UK fashion industry is worth £32bn to the country, and LFW is a prime opportunity for designers to attract international press and buyers. The late Queen even acknowledged its importance in 2018 when she sat in the front row at Richard Quinn’s show before awarding him the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II award for British design.
Findikoğlu, like many emerging designers, had been working with a sponsor who would have covered most of her costs. They have now dropped out, resulting in future debt. “It’s very stressful. All the things I don’t want to have to worry about, I’m worrying about,” she said.
Designers and guests have been asked to take into consideration “the mood of the nation”. Guidelines from the BFC suggest withholding Instagram posts and street style photography until the mourning period ends.
Sophie Mechaly, the founder of Paul & Joe who has shown in Paris for more than 15 years and London for the past three, has rethought the soundtrack of her show, toning down its happy mood while styling touches will pay homage to the Queen.
On Sunday night, the national one-minute silence will be observed at Christopher Kane. Meanwhile, at Harris Reed on Thursday night, a bride carrying a bouquet of Lily of the Valley (a nod to the Queen’s favourite flowers) closed the show while Adam Lambert performed a moving rendition of Who Wants to Live Forever.
Afterwards, Reed, who advocated for its continuation, said: “When you’re a small brand, you have two shots a year to make a big moment. We couldn’t afford not to do it.”