As something of a stalwart of the biannual sartorial circle-jerk that is London Fashion Week, following this season's spectacle I cannot help observe how it's changed over the six years I've been attending. Oft, for the better, but also, regrettably, the worse.
LFW has never operated in the slick, highly bankrolled stratospheres of Paris, New York or Milan and has always been about fresh, creative new blood. However 2008's recession threw LFW headlong into a micro-crisis. The decline of abundant gift-crammed goodie bags and decadent post-show parties aside, it was the designers that really felt the financial pinch, and thus, their ability to secure funding for costly catwalk shows faltered. With venue hire costing upwards of 30k (that's not including production costs or models) increasingly more had to get enterprising about how to showcase their collections - if at all.
2010 saw the British Fashion Council's inaugural 'digital schedule' where imagination-rich, cash-poor designers could present their work via an artsy film rather than a pricey show. "This is a significant step in developing our digital strategy," claimed Caroline Rush, CEO of the BFC. "Enhancing designers' experience and reach through London Fashion Week is an important area of development for the future." This gave bubbling under upstarts like Cassette Playa, Danielle Scutt and J W Anderson a platform they wouldn't have otherwise afforded.
In 2008 less than 5% of designers held modest salon shows, this season it was 40% - many of whom were larger, established designers like Richard Nicoll. So the good news is that by way of their proliferation, salon presentations that were once ignored pre-recession have superseded their 'puny and irrelevant' taboo.
Somewhat ironically however, the diminishment of catwalk shows is inversely proportional to the fashion blogosphere explosion and in turn, rampantly eager LFW attendees. Back in the day LFW was only the preserve of a kinda semi-elite coterie of press, buyers and VIP's, however this new-fangled digital publishing democracy meant everyone and their mother was now a 'fashion writer'. Whilst this created a wealth of unique, intelligent fashion commentators, for every Susie Bubble there was a hundred self-serving narcissists with an even bigger platform from which to attention-seek.
Symptomatic of the Big Brother-esque 'anyone can be a star' mentality, many of this new lens-hungry, solicitous tribe do not attend LFW to produce imaginative, enlightened trend reports. The lesser-spotted blogger will be commonly observed preening around Somerset House in their most outlandish attire to get 'style-papped' for one of the many street style snappers ready to thrust their camera upon the most outré and vainglorious before they whine to long-suffering PRs about their measly 'standing' ticket. I know one self-entitled, self-styled 'stylist' who, upon requesting show tickets for the very first time demanded, unashamedly, 'front row seats'.
There is no better illustration of this blogger-takeover than the wrath of infuriated Grazia editrix, Paula Reed, whose second row view of the 2010 Galliano couture show was obscured by pubescent blogger Tavi's gigantic hair bow. Who were all these cheeky young upstarts?? How dare they hijack our 'frow' seats??
I pity fashion PRs. They are now caught between a rock and hard place with seating arrangements these days, more often than not faced with the publicity-gaining conundrum of, hmmm...
A) Credible journalist from respectable publication
B) Flash-in-the-pan blogger du jour
This line-blurring between legitimate press member and amateur self-appointed journo caused a brouhaha amongst the BFC, whom, for a while weren't sure what the hell to do with the blogger invasion and an ever-expanding press area. A separate 'blogger' registration was swiftly implemented in 2011 and bloggers found themselves banished from the press area, in exile around the cobbles of Somerset House, noses pressed up against the window, glumly looking on as press members chugged their Vitamin Water.
Celebrities have always attended fashion shows since, well, Yves Saint Laurent was popping those Xanax. Now we have random members of TOWIE. This season, as I took my seat I found myself whispering all too often to my accomplice, "Who the hell is that?" as paps wet their panties over Made In Chelsea rejects. Today's LFW 'frow' is peppered with indiscriminate, disposable variables of: celebuspawn (Geldofs) faux-reality nonsense (see above) and chart-bothering popstrels (Nicola Roberts, Pixie Lott). Dark times.
I like to think London Fashion Week serves as a kind of clothes-centric microcosm of the macrocosm of society. Its incarnations, evolution and attendees each season reflect the flighty preoccupations culture places on hierarchy, artifice and worth. Which, given the wealth of design talent showcased, is a real shame. Will the blogging phenomenon implode? Possibly. There are only so many 'look-what-I'm wearing-today-and-got-in-my-goodie-bag-at-this-party' blogs one can consume. As for the future of LFW? It will continue to magically bend and flex around the needs of those who consume it.