London Fashion Week AW22 Just Didn’t Hit The Same, For Me

London Fashion Week

By Lynn Mongameli

February saw London Fashion Week back in full swing. After a cancelled January showing due to Omicron cases being a major concern, the UK capital returned for an Autumn/Winter Fashion Week that came right before restrictions were lifted. 

Home to plenty of names, London has always been a premier stop for the usual bevvy of editors, buyers and, of course, influencers. This season at first glance, felt no different, perhaps because it would be the first real-physical season back in action after what felt like a lifetime of digital presentations.

Fresh from an exciting and primarily physical season at Copenhagen’s Fashion Week, which had thrilling designers like di(vision), Henrik Vibskov, Soulland and Martin Asbjørn — I was excited to get back to London. Yet despite my excitement, I have to admit that this London Fashion Week just did not hit like it was supposed to and maybe, just maybe, Storm Eunice was the metaphor for the way my expectations would take a beating (kind of like the roof of the O2 did). 

Don’t get me wrong, London was good — spirits were high, and shows were packed. More than 50 brands were showing in person this season (a far cry from the almost fully digital season of 2021). We saw debuts from two of England’s very own: Savile Row’s first black tailor Ozwald Boateng returned to London’s Fashion Week calendar after a 12-year-hiatus, and Raf Simons even swapped his usual Paris slot to present his men’s and women’s video here. So, all in all, we were set for a successful fashion week. 

With all the good things out of the way, let’s talk about why I was a little underwhelmed this season:

1. The Weather

Not one but three storms would set the stage for what would be a whirlwind of a fashion week. Winds of change? Maybe, but change isn’t always good. Attendees, including myself, would battle what would be the highest winds recorded in England, trekking across London — from Greenwich to Knightsbridge all in the name of fashion. Bracing for red alert weather, the palpable desire for fashion seemed to diminish somewhat, fed up but dressed up. We all tried to make the best of it, but you could feel it in the air; we’d all rather be indoors instead of running the chance of being blown across the Thames. Unless you were one of the lucky ones who had a Mercedes Benz with a driver nearby ready to take you from show to show, you were most likely on buses or taking the tube. As we all know, London does not handle acts of nature well — rain and wind is the perfect recipe to create enough traffic that going from one show to another can seem like trying to thread a needle in the dark. 

2. Big names missing from the calendar

Paris has always been the Mecca of fashion, but designers used to be excited to show in London too. Whether January or February, the official Fashion Week calendar would be packed with heavyweight names, but as of recent, it is as if the glitter has worn off, and this season felt no different. 

Weighty names like Burberry, JW Anderson, Bethany Williams, and Victoria Beckham were absent from the official Fashion Week calendar – somewhere doing their own thing off schedule. Jonathan Anderson chose Milan for his ‘show-in-a-box’ presentation, and ANDAM Fashion Prize Winner Bianca Saunders took to Paris for her runway debut. The biggest brand in London, Burberry, continues to explore new formats and schedules for its shows. With all these ups and downs, I couldn’t help but wonder what it means for the future of London Fashion Week as a whole but what I do know is the absence of these designers was certainly felt – even if it were just by me. 

3. No more free popcorn & Evian water 

It would seem to me that the biggest challenge facing the British Fashion Council – the select group that’s tasked with evolving the fashion industry in the UK – is funding and sponsorship. This year, London Fashion Week was presented by ClearPay, who sit next to other sponsors like the Evening Standard and TikTok, but even with such names on the bill, it is hard not to notice that London Fashion Week has taken a hit when it comes to funding. No more central BFC space, no more press bus, and no more free ProperCorn packets or bottles of Evian (the travesty). Okay, we can do without the free popcorn and free water, but on a serious note, the majority of London’s brands are small businesses, and they’re increasingly reliant on direct to customer sales.

The BFC is doing all it can to offer funds and spaces to London’s emerging designers. Still, lack of sponsorship and funding for London Fashion Week means the professional audience needed by brands (we’re talking buyers and press) don’t see London as a must-stop in their fashion week calendar. Luckily this isn’t the case yet, but it does seem to be going that way. Staging a Fashion Week is no cheap feat. According to an industry insider, showing during London Fashion Week can cost a label at least £150,000. With what seems to be a dwindling global audience, some designers see presenting a show at London Fashion Week as effectively burning cash. 

But look, it’s not as bleak as it seems. London Fashion Week was far from squib – the big boys being away meant a mix of new talent got a chance to shine. Shows were big, and designers refused to play it safe. 

London has naturally become the breeding ground for emerging talent. South London native Priya Ahluwalia debuted her first runway show after a string of presentations and collaborations. The politically charged Labrum took us to church with a full choir. Powerful performances from designers like Reuben Selby, Fashion East, and the highly anticipated return of Ozwald Boateng proved that London still has unbridled imagination and an appreciation of craftsmanship when creating fashion experiences. 

However, we can’t deny the harsh reality that things aren’t as they were. As we look forward to June 2022 men’s shows, we can only hope (and pray) that the true spirit of London Fashion Week returns.

Discover more from GUAP’s Fashion section here

© 2020 GUAP International LTD. All rights reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement and Privacy Policy. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with prior written permission of GUAP.