London’s Designers Are Marching Ahead, Despite a Third Lockdown

Samantha Conti
·3 min read

LONDON — Undaunted by a third national lockdown that has forced nonessential shops, schools, salons, bars and restaurants to shut until Feb. 15, at the earliest, designers are forging ahead with plans to show their fall 2021 collections during London Fashion Week, or in Paris and Milan.

They are making do, using vintage or deadstock fabrics, conferring with colleagues over Zoom, working from home or socially distancing in their studios, and forcing themselves to accept, and even embrace, the frustratingly slow pace of day-to-day work.

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It remains unclear whether they’ll be able to organize physical appointments, small shows or previews, so many are planning films or digital presentations, much like they did last June in the thick of the first lockdown.

Last summer, the British Fashion Council set up London Fashion Week Digital, a now-permanent website where designers can upload films and presentations, or stream Q&A sessions, concerts and parties. That site will roar into action once again come the next LFW showcase, which runs from Feb. 19 to 23.

London Men’s Fashion Week, which would normally be taking place right now, was canceled due to COVID-19 and Brexit no-deal fears, with men’s wear designers invited to take part in the February unisex showcase.

WWD has learned that Paul Smith is revving up early with plans to show his men’s collection during Paris Men’s Fashion Week on Jan. 22. Smith plans to show a pre-recorded film on the day.

In March, the designer will show his women’s collection during the Paris women’s showcase, which runs from March 1 to 9. It will be the first time since 2016 that Smith will show his men’s and women’s collections separately.

Smith isn’t the only one planning a film. Fellow designer Osman Yousefzada is putting together a 20-piece collection for the upcoming season, and will be making a film to mark the launch. Depending on government guidelines, he may also do a physical event.

Yousefzada said the hardest part in putting together fall 2021 has been the snail’s pace of work. “Everything is slower, because it has to be done remotely, or socially distanced in the studio. You’re working in first gear, rather than fifth,” he said.

On a more upbeat note, Brexit hasn’t been causing too many problems: The U.K.’s eleventh-hour trade deal with the European Union means that samples and products can move between the two regions without extra duties. There is more paperwork involved because the U.K. is now outside the EU, but goods are flowing back and forth across the Channel.

Other designers who plan to launch their fall collections during LFW next month include Simone Rocha, Molly Goddard and Harris Reed, who will debut a demi-couture collection, the first since they graduated from Central Saint Martins last year.

Reed wants the designs to be of the moment, with deadstock and strong statements about gender, diversity and individuality.

“I am creating a collection with messages centered around my world of fluidity and hope. Around 40 percent, or more, of the collection is made from vintage pieces, which I have deconstructed and totally reimagined. I’m working with deadstock fabrics sourced locally, whereby the colors and textures are either being hand painted or created,” Reed said.

Everything has been designed at Reed’s studio at The Standard hotel in London, which is currently closed due to lockdown.

“I have collaborated with friends who specialize in concept and material — all of these individuals are rare and uniquely skilled in what they do. It is a collection that truly speaks to these current times we find ourselves in, which has driven me to design in the most out-there ways — conveying my message of individuality and acceptance. All of this wouldn’t have been possible if we were living in a ‘normal world,’” Reed said.

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