What is London Fashion Week?

Hundreds of fashion-related events are held each, but there are only a few that is as prestigious and as popular as the London Fashion Week, a clothing trade show that occurs twice a year in London, the capital of England. London Fashion Week is one of the “Big Four” fashion weeks, with the other three being the Paris Fashion Week, the Milan Fashion Week, and the New York Fashion Week. What exactly is the London Fashion Week? And what occurs in the said show? We will know more as we take a look at the origins and details of one of the largest and greatest events in the fashion industry, London Fashion Week.

Origins of London Fashion Week

London Fashion Week was founded in 1984 by the British Fashion Council, a non-profit trade group founded in 1983 that aims to promote fashion and design in the United Kingdom and neighboring countries. In order to properly promote their vision and mission, the British Fashion Council created London Fashion Week.

The first London Fashion Week show was held in 1984 at a car park in West London. The tents for the event were then set up outside the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington. A few of the designers that showcased their creations in the first London Fashion Week were John Galliano, Betty Jackson, and David Fielden. It was also in the first London Fashion Week that the first-ever Designer of the Year award was given, and the winner of the 1984 award was Katharine Hammett, an English fashion designer that is most known for wearing and selling political t-shirts.

Struggling in the 90s

Because of the recession that occurred in the early 90s, the London Fashion Week was struggling to rent bigger places for the event. In addition, many designers opted not to participate in London Fashion Week since they were also struggling in selling their clothes and designs as well. However, there was one iconic London Fashion Week in the 1990s that truly stood the test of time because of its significance in the history of fashion. 

The iconic 90s London Fashion Week was held in 1992 at The Ritz, a hotel that has a small reception room that was rented by the organization. It was in the 1992 show that now-legendary fashion designers Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen first showcased their creations, which led to them becoming more known in the fashion world. For Stella McCartney, the daughter of iconic Beatles member Paul McCartney and his late wife Linda McCartney, she enlisted well-known supermodels like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and Yasmin Le Bon to wear her designs.

One of the supermodels mentioned above, namely Naomi Campbell, was also famous for being topless on the catwalk when she was enlisted by another designer named Philip Treacy for the 1993 London Fashion Week. It was also in the 1993 show when the British Fashion Council decided to launch a new scheme called “NEWGEN,” which allows up-and-coming designers to have a platform where they can present their designs.

London Fashion Week in the 2000s

photographers at London Fashion Week 2017

The London Fashion Week in the 2000s saw the rise of avant-garde fashion designers, with one of the most notable being Hussein Chalayan, who won the British Designer of the Year award twice in 1999 and 2000. The avant-garde fashion designers of the 2000s, who are primarily focused on designing outrageous and artistic gowns and other pieces of clothing, were given a platform in London Fashion Week after many Europe-based designers like McCartney and McQueen decided to move to the United States.

However, by the late 2000s, many fashion houses and designers that were originally based in the UK decided to return to London and participate in the London Fashion Week. Some of these designers include Paul Smith, Luella Bartley, and Matthew Williamson. Burberry also returned to London and hosted a live-streaming show to show off some of their latest pieces to viewers.

Most of the London Fashion Week shows took place at 180 Strand, a show space that is owned by the British Fashion Council. However, the shows were also hosted in the Somerset House, an experimental workspace in London, and at Brewer Street in Soho.

Live Streaming the London Fashion Week

Dior collection in 2017

In 2010, the London Fashion Week became the first big fashion event that allowed the participating designers to present their collection via live stream at the Somerset House. Because of the success of the live stream show, London Fashion Week continued the tradition, with the three shows that are part of the “Big Four” following suit with the online trend. Each of the designers and fashion houses has the choice to live stream their presentation online through their company’s own YouTube or social media accounts, although the British Fashion Council also offered to live stream the entire event on London Fashion Week’s official website.

In 2012, the British Fashion Council launched London Collections: Men, a separate show that occurs in January and June. In the said show, designers from all around the world can showcase clothes that are specifically made for men. In 2017, London Collections: Men was renamed to London Fashion Week Men’s in order to make it a part of the official London Fashion Week.

Besides the London Fashion Week Men’s, the British Fashion Council also launched the London Fashion Week Festival, a 4-day event where people can buy tickets to see fashion design and buy exclusive pieces of clothing that are designed by world-renowned fashion designers that participated in London Fashion Week.

In the 2020s, London Fashion Week is still as popular as ever, and it is still attended and participated by some of the best fashion designers in the industry, as well as well-known supermodels and celebrities that attend the event to join the catwalk or to just be a part of the audience. As the fashion industry is keeping up with the trends of online technology, we can expect that live streaming will become a norm in London Fashion Week and other big fashion events around the world.