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Fashion Week Highlights - AW20

New York Fashion Week began with the news that Ralph Lauren wouldn’t be showing at this month’s fashion week. Instead, he will be unveiling his AW20 collection in New York in April, with the exact date and location still to be revealed. Lauren has long been a driving force to New York Fashion Week, so it’s a great disappointment that he’s a no-show. But ever the innovator, according to a spokesperson for the brand, “developing unique experiential shows continues to be a primary focus for the brand to engage consumers, maintain a series of freshness and add an element of surprise.” Something else to look forward to after this monumental month has finished.

The rest of New York passed by with few surprises. Trendwise, accessories were having a moment. Area’s bejewelled mini folding chair perfectly complemented their collaboration with interior designers Harry Nuriev and Taylor Billinger, who created a glittering installation of stacked seating. Whilst at Marc Jacobs an extravagant pink headpiece had everyone swooning! However, for something more practical, The Row’s slouchy, pillow bags looked both luxurious and useful. Or go one better, with Sies Marjan’s jacket/bag hybrid. When we are trying to live more sustainably and buy less, accessories are a simple, practical technique to update any outfit.

On the other hand, London Fashion Week began loudly with a bang. Extinction Rebellion (XR) held another protest. Following on from their ‘funeral’ protest during the SS20 shows, the climate activists adorned themselves with chains and barbed wire. Amongst the black clothing and flashes of neon, their urgent demands included cancelling next seasons LFW, with XR’s Bel Jacobs insisting that the British Fashion Council will have to change its approach.

But back to the shows themselves. Burberry is stepping up its efforts to combat climate change and become more sustainable. Its venue for AW20 was at Olympia London, a Victorian hall “certified sustainable,” according to Burberry. In addition, they are also investing in “carbon offsetting” initiatives with regenerative agriculture and agroforestry in Australia. As everything is so global nowadays, it was fitting that, although Ricardo Tisci’s designs were definitely British, influences from further afield ran through. Tisci explained that, along with his love of London, he began his own label in India, with its influence felt in Madras checks and plenty of drapery.

The winner of this year’s Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, Rosh Mahtani, of fine jewellery brand Alighieri, is another champion of sustainability. Through her ethical approach of responsibly sourced materials and her commitment to local manufacturing, she demonstrates that it is possible to make a success in the right way. Presented by HRH Princess Anne, Mahtani thanked her local casters, Just Castings, for “not laughing” at her, explaining that from her visit to the castor’s door, they have supported her throughout.

As the fashion schedule gathered pace, so did the threat of coronavirus. Many of the Chinese press and buyers didn’t attend shows in New York or London, and some labels, such as Asai, had to cancel due to manufacturing delays at factories based in China. Unfortunately, the seriousness only grew once the fashion industry touched had down in Milan. Giorgio Armani made the decision to cancel his public catwalk show, choosing instead to live-stream in order to “safeguard the wellbeing of all of his invited guests.” Several Chinese designers were also absent from the Milan calendar, including Hui and Angel Chen. Further down the line, Shanghai Fashion Week, due to start on 26 March, has been postponed indefinitely.

Onto brighter news from Milan, and one of our very own Northern lads has been applauded. Daniel Lee, from Bradford, dubbed fashion’s “boy wonder” since taking over in the summer of 2018, showcased his latest collection for Bottega Veneta. Having won four awards at last December’s British Fashion Awards, and with a plethora of celebrities, including Rihanna and Neneh Cherry, under his spell, the brand’s sales have risen by 2.2%. But then it’s no surprise when you find out that he worked at Celine under the formidable Phoebe Philo. From AW20, expect wide-sleeved trench coats, knitted dresses and XXXL bags, all with a feel of luxury that is comfortable to wear.

At Paris Fashion Week, Virgil Abloh returned to take a bow at Off-White, and Kenzo introduced its new designer, Felipe Oliveira Baptista. Whilst at Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia introduced a new ‘ugly’ shoe, that before you know, you’ll be coveting.

At Givenchy, Clare Waight Keller continued the quirky accessories, as seen at New York Fashion Week; with silk scarfs wrapped around handbags, and EarPod holders strung from chains around necks or dangled from clutch bags. But forget about the clothing and accessories at Yeezy’s show. The surprise guest was none other than Kanye West’s oldest daughter, North, making her rapping debut at just 6 years old.

But it was, of course, the three fashion giants, Chanel, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, that everyone came to see. Removing the slogans from her t-shirts and placing them as light installations above her audience, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s creative director, evoked the mood, again. Showing just one day after the conviction of rapist Harvey Weinstein, ‘Consent’ flashed above the models as the walked the runway. Other phrases, such as ‘Women’s Love Is Unpaid Labour’ and ‘Patriarchy = Climate Emergency’, continued Chiuri’s powerful feminist message. It can be said that her insistence on mixing fashion with politics can distract attention from her designs. Cynically, however, these shows bring the masses to an age-old design house; positively proving that fashion holds a special position in its ability to reach a broad landscape and change perceptions.

Chanel and Louis Vuitton continued the theme of dramatic accessories. Chanel heralded the return of costume jewellery, with heaps of pearls and crucifixes sure to be a hit on the high street. And having teased everyone with glimpses of their new bags on Instagram in the run up to the show, eyes were firmly on accessories at Louis Vuitton. Vuitton closed this season’s Paris Fashion Week with a spectacle finale! As the show began, a curtain was drawn back to reveal fashions from across the ages. Rococo gowns, flapper dresses and kimonos then sprung into song with 200 voices singing a specially composed work by musician Woodkid and composer Bryce Dessner.

In contrast, Chanel didn’t create their usual grand theatrical set. Instead, white islets formed a mirrored runway. It perfectly complemented creative director, Virginie Viard’s designed theme of “romanticism but without any flourishes,” but that doesn’t mean that the theatrics weren’t missed, just a little bit.

Yet even before AW20 has finished, we’re eager for SS21 to begin. The end of Milan Fashion Week brought the news that Raf Simons was joining Prada as co-creative director. Due to show their first collection in September, the combination of Simons and Miuccia Prada is a very exciting prospect. A symbol, maybe, of our inability to savour the moment, whilst forever yearning for that something more, which is still just out of reach.

About Our Author: Katie Calvert's background is in fashion and textiles with a first class honours degree in Fashion Communication and Promotion and experience in trend, PR and events. She decided to take the plunge back into education in 2015 to complete a Master of Arts in Multimedia Journalism. Using these newfound skills and her love of fashion and culture, Katie has been freelance writing for over a year.

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