The coronavirus has come for Fashion Week, but Fashion Week is unbowed. With the 2020 edition of LFWM going all-digital, the event's key designers talk us through how they've adapted to showing clothes in a world where showing clothes is (almost) impossible.
What's been the biggest challenge with producing a lockdown fashion 'show'?
My circumstances are perhaps a bit different from many of the other designers showing in London, in that I have been "stranded" in Europe since my last show at LFWM while my studio and team are in Beijing. While many others might have found ways to get together at some point and create something as a team, of course while respecting all social distancing rules, I have had to rely solely on videoconferencing and other virtual ways to interact with my team and work on all my projects.
What's been the biggest opportunity?
I am not sure I would want to talk about opportunities under such circumstances, but if I try to look at things from a positive perspective, I would say the situation has forced us to pause and reflect. One could see it as a forced break, and breaks are very seldom because you're always in between shows, getting ready for the next one. These past months have forced us – or allowed us, if you want – to set our own pace.
What non-fashion skills have you picked up during lockdown?
I have definitely improved my Korean cooking skills. I might consider starting a restaurant if the fashion industry does not survive this crisis. People always have to eat at some point.
How have you seen London's fashion community come together in the past few months?
I haven't, really. Probably because I haven't been back in London since January, but also because as a non-British, non-London-based designer I have never really felt part of London's fashion community. Perhaps I am like my brand – from another planet.
Is this a watershed moment for the fashion industry?
I prefer to think so. Not only for the fashion industry, but for humanity as a whole. Let's hope we will all emerge from this saner and wiser. These past months there have been discussions about rewiring the fashion system. I am not sure that the system itself is the problem – it is the people and their preconceptions. Much of the tolerance on display in the fashion industry is not genuine, in my opinion.
Who's your favourite British designer at the moment?
I would say Craig Green or Fredrik Tjærandsen.
What advice would you give to fashion graduates who want to set up a fashion business?
That it is important to gather some experience before launching your own label. A pitfall for many designers is not the creative aspect but the business aspects of having your own label. If you say that you are not in it for the big bucks, the I respect you for that. But you should not underestimate the resources that go into each show.
Street style is impossible this year. That a good or a bad thing?
It is not necessarily a bad thing, but I believe that street style will always be with us. As with everything these months, we should regard it as a time out. It allows everybody to rethink their own style instead of wittingly or unwittingly getting dragged into whatever street style is the rage. No need to purposefully dress up for the street photographers.
What kind of role do you think a fashion show will play in five years?
I do not think the way that fashion is presented, with models wearing clothes, will radically change. But the reason that fashion shows might have lost some of their lustre these past years is that they are stuck in a grey area between being an exclusive and a public event. Fashion shows used to be rather exclusive events, targeting very specific communities that had symbiotic relationships with the brands. With the emergence of new media, fashion shows have become events that are being watched globally, even in real-time, and that development has given rise to a class of professionalised fashion-watchers who will attend every show and interpret it for the masses. Which means that fashion shows have never really managed to become events for the masses, as the masses never get anywhere near the show, and there is also no way for them to interact with the brand by participating in the experience. So I expect (or hope) that in five years' time, fashion shows will have either evolved into happenings that are truly for the masses, or will have gone back to their basics and be exciting by ignoring the world beyond the catwalk.
If your S/S'21 collection had a mantra, what would it be?
Holes, dots and stripes.
Can you pick one piece or look from S/S'21 that defines the collection?
Actually in what I am presenting right now, there are only two looks from my upcoming S/S'21 collection. Since they are the first ones I did for this collection, I think they are pretty defining. They both feature patterns of laser cut holes, which are an important feature in the collection. On the one hand, they add something machine-y to the people who wear these garments, but on the other hand they bring to mind very ancient traditional patterns.
In a money-and-physics-no-object world, talk us through your dream fashion show.
I like to browse through the pictures on National Geographic's Instagram account, and I often see beautiful places where I would love to do a show. But I think that would require a carbon-emissions-no-object world as well. So the best way would be a realistic experience of a show in such a dream location that can be somehow uploaded into peoples' consciousness, so that they can experience it without needing to travel.
Who makes it onto the perfect frow?
Deciding who should be on the front row (and who should not be there) is one of the things I dislike most about doing a fashion show. I prefer to do shows where everybody can be on the front row. Having said that, I would love to invite people to my show who do wonderful tech stuff, like Elon Musk, and young people who do surprising stuff on Instagram.
Who are your fashion heroes?
We live in an age without heroes.
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