Why The Show Must Go On At London Fashion Week

'We're very much known for the creativity of [our] independent businesses.'

London Fashion Week Caroline Rush The Queen Anna Wintour

by Natalie Hammond |
Updated on

The Queen once famously appeared on the front row at London Fashion Week. But last Thursday, it was unclear whether the biannual event would go ahead as planned, falling as it does within the national period of mourning.

Following the royal family's announcement of the Queen's death, Burberry emailed to say that it would be cancelling its show as a mark of respect. So, too, did Raf Simons. The British Fashion Council, however, released a statement earlier this week, outlining its plans for a scaled-back LFW, which is going ahead with significant alterations to the schedule. Non-core business events, such as parties and openings, have been cancelled for the moment and will be rescheduled to October, while the shows planned for Monday, the day of the state funeral, have been shifted to Tuesday.

Speaking to Caroline Rush, chief executive of the BFC, it's clear that it would have been almost impossible to cancel the whole schedule or move it to another month. 'LFW, at its heart, is a business-to-business event. We’re part of the global calendar so it’s not as if we can push it back by a few days. Milan starts immediately afterwards and then many of our designers go and sell their collections in Paris,' she told Grazia, emphasising how important the platform has become for smaller brands. 'At LFW, we’re very much known for the creativity of [our] independent businesses, who have committed significant spend already to their shows,' she says.

Caroline Rush Kate Middleton Stephanie Phair
Caroline Rush, Kate Middleton and Stephanie Phair at this year's Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design ©Getty

This isn't the first time that a major world event has shaped the proceedings at LFW. During the first year of the pandemic, it regrouped with an almost entirely digital schedule in September, with designers, many already anticipating the impacts of Brexit, having to pivot to an entirely new format. Emerging designers - who rely on the biannual showcase to 'bring in sales and brand awareness', according to designer Harris Reed, who posted on Instagram - will be relieved that plans have been put in place so that the show can go on.

According to Rush, cancellation would have been tantamount to, 'money lost without the benefit of showing their collections and being able to connect with not only the national audiences they have here but the international audiences.' It won't, however, be a regular LFW. 'We normally enjoy front-page news during LFW, with images from the shows and headline stats about how important British fashion is to our economy. We’re not expecting to see that, of course, because the media will be very much focussed on reflecting on the Queen’s life, on her impact and we’re mindful of that.'

In keeping with the national mood, a lot of time has been spent ensuring that the upcoming LFW, as well as the coverage of the shows, remains respectful of the fact that the country is still in a period of mourning. At Christopher Kane's show on Sunday, which coincides with the nationwide moment of reflection at 8pm, there will be a minute of silence for the Queen. The BFC has also provided several opportunities for members of the industry to write tributes to the late monarch - both online and at the NEWGEN Venue - which will then be collated into a condolence book for the royal family.

London Fashion Week Caroline Rush The Queen Anna Wintour

Rush has actually met most of the senior members - Camilla, Queen Consort, Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales, Princess Anne and Sophie, Countess of Wessex - as part of her role at the BFC. And the family as a whole has been very supportive of the fashion industry, including King Charles III. In 2012, he attended the launch of London Collections: Men's. And in 2019, his estate actually collaborated with a sustainable brand, Vin + Omi, who used nettles from Highgrove House, the royal residence in Gloucestershire, to make fabric.

'We’ve felt very supported by the royal family, from all of the different private offices,' says Rush. '[King Charles has been a fantastic supporter of our Institute for Positive Fashion, bringing together the industry to really focus on tackling climate change. We certainly will continue the legacy of the Queen, with the Queen Elizabeth II Award, and a good working relationship with the royal family in terms of sustainability, skills and manufacturing.'

Rush was part of what will surely go down in history as the most surreal front row moment of all time in 2018 - even by fashion standards. 'It was an incredible privilege to spend almost an hour with the Queen,' says Rush, adding that what most people didn't see was that she took the time to meet young designers, jewellers and milliners before and after the show. 'She was very curious about creativity, about inspiration around what’s made in the UK, about skills, about fabrics - and their stories, why they had gone into the industry.'

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