How London Fashion Week Is Thinking Beyond the Catwalk

Rixo London AW18 campaign image
Rixo London AW18 campaign image | © Image courtesy of Rixo London

The accessibility to London Fashion Week has rapidly increased with the rise of social media. In response to this shift, designers are experimenting with new ideas to embrace the all-inclusive approach but still maintain a sense of exclusivity.

Since its inception in 1971, London Fashion Week (LFW) has been dominated by luxury labels showcasing their new collections to the industry via a series of runway shows.

Traditionally guest lists were small and featured an intimate selection of buyers, editors and VIP clients. Now, thanks to the birth of street style, the blogging industry and the rise of social media, guest lists have expanded, shows have become more theatrical and anyone can view a new collection within seconds of it stepping on the runway.

“Designers are finding new, interesting ways to present their collections in order to evolve,” says Anna Vitiello, ex-Harper’s Bazaar editor and one part of accessories blog and Instagram account And Finally. “LFW is ever changing and the way that designers are showing has become far more varied in recent seasons. It used to feel untouchable to most but now everyone can be a part of it.”

Prada’s immersive installation in the new MATCHESFASHION.COM 5-storey townhouse in London embodies this all-inclusive vision. 5 Carlos Place is a year-round destination for fashion, art and lifestyle events that can be viewed by a global audience via the retailer’s digital platforms.

Prada installation, 5 Carlos Place, 2018
Prada installation at MATCHESFASHION.COM townhouse, 5 Carlos Place

In time for the start of Fashion Month September 2018, Prada scattered neon-clad mannequins throughout the house and added pinball machines, supporting film footage and branded vending machines to offer a rounded experience.

It’s merely a complementary project for the fashion powerhouse, who will still present a new collection on the runway in Milan, but it allows it to showcase over a longer period of time and to a wider, more diverse audience. It marks a significant shift in how luxury brands showcase; Burberry’s spring/summer 2018 Maker’s House takeover is another such example. Immersive presentations are traditionally associated with small labels, but they offer a certain tangibility and interaction that a runway show or a photo on social media cannot.

Rixo London AW18 campaign imagery, 2018

LFW newcomer Rixo London – who burst onto the fashion scene in 2016 with its contemporary printed dress designs – has embraced the approach from the get-go. “It’s our first season at LFW,” says Henrietta Rix, one part of the duo behind the label. “We are hosting a fun and interactive presentation rather than a traditional catwalk. The set we have designed captures the ethos and spirit of our SS19 collection. Hopefully there will be a lot of Instagram moments.”

Instagram is also primary to the work that Vitiello and her business partner, Florrie Thomas, create for And Finally around Fashion Week. This season they will curate a showroom-style set up with LFW organisers, The British Fashion Council, to promote lesser known accessory and jewellery labels.

“Exhibitions at the BFC are usually just for stand-alone designers so we’re honoured to be invited to host our own space,” says Vitiello. “It’s our job to identify up-and-coming labels with the potential to succeed and it’s great to bring what we love together in one presentation. Our aim is to get our followers engaging with the brands as much as possible.”

Anna Vitiello and Florrie Thomas of And Finally, 2018

While a more interactive presentation approach is becoming increasingly common, Rix and her business partner, Orlagh McCloskey, still value the importance of maintaining exclusivity for editors, buyers and influencers. Their presentation follows on from the industry dinner that they hosted for Rixo’s capsule collection with celebrity style icon Laura Jackson. “There’s definitely a benefit to the intimacy of these kinds of events,” Rix says. “When people meet myself and Orlagh in person it gives them the chance to understand what the brand is about.”

5 Carlos Place, too, will play host to a series of intimate, designer-led Fashion Week events with an invite-only guestlist. It’s proof that exclusivity is still an important consideration for established luxury labels but with their younger counterparts taking a more digital-friendly approach, will they continue to shift further away from the traditional runway format in favour of something more inclusive?

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