Thursday, February 21, 2019

Climate Change Protests Disrupt London Fashion Week

On a day when some of the biggest names in British fashion were showing their autumn/winter 2019 collections in London, protestors were chanting, “There’s no fashion on a dead planet.” During Victoria Beckham’s show at Tate Britain on February 17, they blocked Mercedes-Benz-sponsored cars, dressed in grass coats, and carried signs that read “Ethical is always on trend,” among other pointed slogans.

Extinction Rebellion, the environmentalist group that made headlines in November by shutting down the city intermittently for several days, “swarming” areas of heavy traffic and blocking major roads and bridges in order to call attention to the climate change crisis, had disrupted the runway. A decentralised coalition now with hundreds of outgrowths in dozens of countries, the founding British faction turned its sights to one of the world’s most wasteful industries, during one of its most important weeks.

“Everybody needs clothes, but we don’t need as many clothes as we make today,” says Clare Farrell, an Extinction founding member and environmentalist who helped lead the LFW actions. “The reason why we’re going to the fashion industry is because it is one of the most polluting on earth. It is using a vast quantity of the carbon budget that we have left to produce products that we don’t need.”

Clothing underutilisation and waste costs the global economy £400 billion a year, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The extreme linearity of the textile industry means that large amounts of nonrenewable resources are used to produce clothes that are most often incinerated or turned into landfill. Textile production creates 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

So the need for industry reform is huge. “If you look at the consumer price index, it’s the only commodity that has pretty much flatlined in price in the past 30, 40 years,” says Farrell, who is also a lecturer specialising in fashion and sustainability, “so of course people just buy more of it.” But the vast majority of consumers who are buying fast fashion or high street retail don’t think about the consequences. “It’s important for people who don’t think about where things come from to be reminded,” she continues. “It’s possible that clothing relies solely on agriculture or petrochemicals for raw material, which are the two spaces that I would suggest are going to be a very volatile industry in the future. There’s a duty of care for people who understand that to educate not just the public, but even young designers who might not necessarily think about how they won’t be able to make cotton clothes when there’s no topsoil and no water.” Farrell cites UK designer Bethany Williamsas an up-and-comer who is “very principled – she is receiving this year’s Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design.”

Now Farrell and her cohorts are asking players at the highest level of the industry to do their part. Last week, Extinction addressed the British Fashion Council directly via an open letter, calling on it to “use its influential position to tell the truth about climate change.” It insisted that the BFC declare a climate emergency (London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, declared one last year, after Extinction made its debut). Though a formal declaration has yet to come out of the appeal, it did get Farrell and others an audience with Caroline Rush, the British Fashion Council CEO, ahead of the shows this season. On the phone to Vogue that same day, Farrell said organisers stressed that they weren’t targeting individuals or brands, but the industry as a whole: “And the response is almost always to make something new. That’s the opposite of what we need to do.”

What’s more, the fashion industry’s current rhetoric on sustainability might actually impede systemic overhaul more than anything else. Already this February, London Fashion Week played host to sustainability-focused events, with Mother of Pearl designer Amy Powney partnering with BBC Earth and the BFC in a series of talks on micro-plastics. “I absolutely advocate for material innovation and kelp farms and a diversity of fibre sourcing,” Farrell says. “There’s tons of stuff going on, and the issue is that that’s just not enough.” She thinks that schemes like vintage resale or return incentives at stores make consumers believe clothing is being “recycled” when it really isn’t. And fashion’s penchant for turning political movements into viral runway moments and T-shirt slogans makes Farrell skeptical. “The fashion industry is so good at co-opting anything and then making it fashionable and then selling you something,” she notes. Though she hopes that Sunday’s actions recruited some “fashionable allies.”

But did it? Designers have yet to speak out in support of the actions, though clearly Extinction Rebellion has made its presence felt. Ultimately, no one was arrested at the demonstrations, which in addition to blocking roads outside Beckham’s show, shut down traffic on the Strand. Police and rebels cooperated to let emergency vehicles through.

The real change will come when “less is more” becomes not just a design adage but an ethical impulse. After visiting a recent exhibition of new designers at Somerset House, Farrell admitted to feeling a twinge of missing creating things. “It made me feel really sad, because I looked around and thought: Oh, I really miss making things and feeling able to,” she says. But as an educator and organiser, she now has a new creative outlet. “What we’re trying to say to individual industries is this: Governments are not going to do this for us. You need to think very hard about the consequences of the business that you’re in and have urgent conversations with everybody whom you encounter about what could be done.”

Karl Lagerfeld Has Died

Karl Lagerfeld has died at what is believed to be the age of 85. Concern was sparked about the German couturier’s health after he was absent from the Chanel Haute Couture spring/summer 2019 show in January. The artistic director asked Virginie Viard, director of the creative studio of the house, to represent him and greet the guests, because Lagerfeld was “feeling tired”.

“Thanks to his creative genius, generosity and exceptional intuition, Karl Lagerfeld was ahead of his time, which widely contributed to the house of Chanel’s success throughout the world," said Chanel chief executive officer Alain Wertheimer. "Today, not only have I lost a friend, but we have all lost an extraordinary creative mind to whom I gave carte blanche in the early '80s to reinvent the brand." Wertheimer has entrusted Viard with the creative work for the collections, “so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on."

One of the industry’s leading creatives and a household name, Lagerfeld has been paramount to the success of two other labels over his lifetime: Fendi and his eponymous brand. As the pace of fashion has fluctuated, he has been a stalwart figure producing over a dozen collections a year – and often photographing his own campaigns – yet never bowing to trends or expectations. “Fashion is about change – and I like change,” Lagerfeld told Vogue international editor Suzy Menkes last year. As for his process, “I do it like I breathe."

“Working with Karl Lagerfeld at Fendi allowed me to catch a glimpse of the secret of the continuous renewal of the House," said Serge Brunschwig, Fendi chairman and CEO. "I profoundly admire Karl’s immense culture, his ability to rejuvenate at all times, to taste all the arts, to not overlook any style, along with a persistent refusal to turn to his past, to look at his work in a mirror. He was restless and his exigent nature would never leave him. The show was just ending that Karl would always say, 'And now number next!' He leaves us an enormous heritage, an inexhaustible source of inspiration to continue. Karl will be immensely missed by myself and all the Fendi people."

The effect of his loss on the industry is immeasurable, and will certainly be felt at Milan Fashion Week, where Fendi is due to present the label's autumn/winter 2019 collection on February 21, and during Paris Fashion Week, where Chanel is scheduled to show on March 5. He told Menkes that his contract at the latter was until 2045: “I have a lifelong [agreement] and I am enchanted. My work conditions are fabulous and don’t exist anywhere else.”

Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion at Chanel, commented: “Fashion show after fashion show, collection after collection, Karl Lagerfeld left his mark on the legend of Gabrielle Chanel and the history of the house of Chanel. He steadfastly promoted the talent and expertise of Chanel’s ateliers and Métiers d’Art, allowing this exceptional know-how to shine throughout the world. The greatest tribute we can pay today is to continue to follow the path he traced by – to quote Karl – ‘continuing to embrace the present and invent the future’.”

"I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Karl Lagerfeld," Vogueeditor-in-chief Edward Enninful added. "He has exerted an incredible influence over the fashion industry over the past six decades, and it goes without saying that the world has lost one of the greatest designers in the history of fashion. But it has also lost one of its greatest teachers."

"I first met Karl in the late '90s, at a Chanel party," Enninful continued. "I was working for Franca Sozzani at Italian Vogue, and he was extremely welcoming to me. When I later became fashion director at W magazine, he was very supportive. He continued to offer support and friendship when I took the editor position at British Vogue. I remember sitting with him for an hour or so every season while he was preparing his latest show, and I was always struck by his intelligence and wit. He had a very no-nonsense approach to life. I frequently left our meetings feeling I had learnt so much about art, history, politics and fashion. The world has lost an icon."

Joan Collins Is The Toast Of LFW

As fashion editors found their seats at Erdem’s autumn/winter 2019 show and browsed the works of art on the National Portrait Gallery walls, another guest was having slight difficulty navigating the lift system. Minutes ticked on and the 11am show did not start. Then, Dame Joan Collins waltzed in – shades on, flanked by team members and unflinching in attitude. Never mind the hold-up, that swagger was exactly what London Fashion Week was crying out for on a Monday morning.

To take in a front row view of the collection alongside Helen McCrory, Damian Lewis, Michelle Dockery and Alexa Chung, Collins plumped for a midnight-blue sequined floral dress, a cropped, collared black leather jacket and matching leather gloves, suede boots and a clutch squashed under her arm. Two pearls punctuated her earlobes. It was Hollywood Joan toned down for England.

Collins might have missed the show notes, but we like to think that she would have enjoyed the history lesson on Princess Donna Orietta Doria-Pamphilj-Landi, who wore the paintings from her Rome palazzo as kilts and sewed jewels into her clothes, when she was forced into hiding. While the Downton Abbey cast and theatre set, who religiously wear Erdem’s dresses, kept the style barometer of the front row at a safe level of "refined", the 85-year-old showbiz doyenne brought a pinch of the Italian royal's attitude behind the collection to the National Portrait Gallery. When in doubt, style it out, as Collins might say.

Liberty London Launches Emerging Talent Initiative At LFW

Liberty London has launched a new initiative, entitled Liberty Discovers, to mentor, encourage and showcase emerging British creatives. “It will support not just fashion but craftspeople across the board," Madeleine Macey, communications director and founder of Liberty Discovers, tells Vogue exclusively. "Our unique set-up allows us to offer insight to our discovery talent depending on the stage of their development – from finance to marketing, design, fabric and product – and then routes into production and wholesale.”

Three London Fashion Week designers – Matty Bovan, Duran and Daniel Tanner – have been selected to help launch the programme during the autumn/winter 2019 shows. “To get to work with such an iconic brand is so exciting – the heritage and history is so inspiring,” says Bovan, who delved into the fabric archives to select prints and textures for his brave, through-provoking designs.

Duran, who caught the attention of many in the industry thanks to his debut collection, “Straight from the Bin Sales”, which comprised re-worked items from Liberty’s previous ranges as a response to mass consumption and Black Friday, has upcycled Liberty London products again for this season. Daniel Tanner, who Liberty has supported with fabrics since his MA at the London College of Fashion, has sought advice from the brand’s womenswear buyer, Alex Gordon, as well as using Liberty fabrics.

Matty Bovan

Aside from archive access and mentorship from the buying team, each creative will receive help from the brand’s communications platforms to heighten exposure, and be able to use its in-house product and fabric design studios, too. “There will also be a combination of events, installations and exhibitions with their creations over the year,” says Macey.


For Bovan, the success of the programme lies in having the platform to truly showcase British craftsmanship and heritage: “I really want to inspire people and show Liberty in a fresh way,” Bovan explains. “I’ve always been such a fan. Liberty is such a quintessentially British brand and I love to showcase British craftsmanship and heritage.”

All Of The Political Talking Points Vivienne Westwood Brought To Her LFW Show

From global-warming to Brexit and free speech, Vivienne Westwood took aim at an array of politically-charged topics as she presented her latest collection at London Fashion Week. Held at St John’s Smith Square, Westminster, Westwood used the catwalk to showcase her autumn/winter 19 collection – and the joint women’s and menswear’s show was as powerful as ever.

First up, Westwood sent a host of people down the runway with something to say as they all read poems and gave powerful speeches. Actress and #MeToo activist Rose McGowan, wearing a hat with “Angel” written across it and knee-high metallic boots, told the crowd that “we need more heroes”, possibly referencing the number of women who’ve come forward to share their #MeToo stories since the movement sparked in October 2017 – with McGowan leading it.

Never one to shy away from addressing the uneven wealth distribution of the world, Westwood sent some models down the catwalk with long prosthetic noses (like the character of Pinocchio) saying, “tax the poor and give to the rich, that’s the lie with the long nose”. And McGowan made a clear statement on it, saying: “Democracy will only thrive when we can achieve a favourable balance between the wealthy and the poor”.

Of course, sustainability and climate change were big topics weaved throughout the collection – with Westwood emphasising the importance of buying less, choosing well. “Fashion is all about styling, buy less, choose well, make it last,” said one model, while the message was emblazoned across accessories.  

The UK director of Greenpeace, environmentalist John Sauven, addressed the destructive forces of some of the world’s most powerful sources and individuals: “We aim to save the arctic from motherfuckers like Shell and Putin.” And like previous shows, Westwood took a sartorial swipe at Brexit, with one model protesting: “Brexit is a crime, we should be cooperating, not cutting ourselves off from the world.”

Not one to do things in small steps, Westwood also let it be known that she aims to raise £100 million in the meantime to save the rainforest. What would a Vivienne Westwood show be without a performance picket line and politically-charged statements?

Anya Hindmarch's Weave Project Sets Fashion Editors A Climbing Challenge

It took a team of weavers three days to construct and seven days to erect the The Tube, the electric blue woven climbing frame that comprises Anya Hindmarch’s latest London Fashion Week installation. Following the wild success of last season’s Chubby Cloud, the giant squishy beanbag that Hindmarch installed beneath the famous Rubens ceiling at Whitehall’s Banqueting House for the benefit of tired fashion editors as well as the general public, the Weave Project was a more energetic proposal: attendees can bomb through the suspended climbing nets, in just “three minutes”, claims Hindmarch. She’s tested it, of course.

“It’s a real feat of engineering,” she told Vogue, on a tour of the top floor of London's Brewer Street car park, where the nets were fixed from ceiling to floor to create twisting tunnels. The creation of artists collective Numen/For Use, 3,000 metres of rope were required to construct the suspension, while 11,000 square metres of net were commandeered to create the tunnel structures, which will be repurposed as part of the collective's continued installations in art galleries. The Tube is intended to tie in – quite literally – with the relaunch of Hindmarch’s Neeson collection, comprising a hand-woven leather cross-body bag and a large tote (it takes six days to make one bag) that can be customised with initials, tassels and symbols.

Hindmarch is leading the way with consumer-facing experiential initiatives. Having switched to a direct-to-consumer model in 2018, the Weave Project is characteristic of her inclusive approach: it will be open until Tuesday 19 February, and members of the public can sign up to 30-minute slots – more than enough time to accommodate kicking off shoes, donning a boiler suit, and roaming through woven tunnels. The bags will be on sale in a room adjacent to the Tube, along with Hindmarch's signature kooky confectionary - think waffles with googly eyes.

“We want all our brand experiences to be interactive, and to involve our customers,” Hindmarch said. “It's interesting actually how different it looks from the inside, spatially. It’s meant to help you unwind, feel like a child again.” Judging from the grins on the faces emerging from the net, she’s succeeded.

Chloë Sevigny Leads A Cast Of Fabulously Real Women At Simone Rocha

The first model out at Simone Rocha hinted that something was up: Conie Valese, a New York-based artist, is not your typical Rocha wraith. Then Chloë Sevigny, another New Yorker, as well as actress, director and all-around style legend, stepped out onto the parquet flooring of the Royal Academy, her trademark sexy smirk fixed in dark plum lipstick. By the time the model-turned-director Lily Cole appeared – her first appearance on a catwalk in well over five years – the audience was in raptures. Rocha had scored the best casting at LFW. It was only day two.

“This collection I was thinking about security, privacy and intimacy. That made me think of the human body and I thought it was really important to show it on all these different bodies,” Rocha told Vogue, backstage after a show that put the female form centre stage. Elsewhere in the diverse line-up, assembled with the helm of casting supremo Samuel Ellis Scheinman: Helmut Newton muse Marie Sophie Wilson, ’80s-era model Jeny Howorth, '90s counterparts Kirsten Owen and Jade Parfitt, the singer Evangeline Ling, Lindsey Wixon, plus a roster of current It models including Adut Akech, Fran Summers and Primrose Archer, as well as Pre-Raphaelite beauty Tess McMillan.

“I was thinking about all these women and it was all about their shapes, and how to make them look their most beautiful,” said Rocha. “And also looking at Louise Bourgeois’s work, and how all her shapes could be manipulated. So, these phallic shapes could be made into jackets but then belted, they were still beautiful and kind of almost late ’50s.” The mood was high on female empowerment, Rocha’s clothes instantly imbued with an elegant grit lent by curves, wrinkles and grey hair.

Rocha was particularly enraptured with Howorth: “She was so inspiring. She came in and put on the sequin dress, and she was so modern and poetic. It was mind-blowing.”