London Fashion Week begins on Friday in a virtual format due to a coronavirus lockdown with mainstays like Victoria Beckham shunning the event, but others like Burberry embracing the online avatar.

Despite the absence of global celebrities and fashionistas, designers such as Turkey’s Bora Aksu, Britain’s Molly Goddard and Ireland’s Simone Rocha will stream their collections on the London Fashion Week website.

Most of the 94 designers participating in the show, which concludes on Tuesday, will broadcast video highlights of their collections showcasing menswear, womenswear or mixed fashions in an event that is now gender-neutral.

On Monday, the British brand Burberry — known for its tailored trenchcoats — will present its menswear Autumn/Winter collection for 2021, designed by Italian creative director Riccardo Tisci.

The Surprise “Drag Race UK” Contestants Who Walked for Art School

Courtesy of Art School

Eden Loweth of Art School said “Gay Rights!” this season by casting diverse, dystopian runway featuring the most fashionable contestants from Seaon 2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK : Bimini Bon-Boulash and A’Whora, who sport a power-shouldered leather blazer and a loose-fitting slashed coat, respectively. The inclusion of the drag stars relays the message of resistance and strength to London’s queer communities.

Riccardo Tisci’s First Standalone Burberry Men’s Show

Courtesy of Burberry

Riccardo Tisci’s first standalone menswear show for Burberry  was staged indoors at the brand’s flagship store on Regent’s Street complete with a maze of blocks in different heights. Models walked around carrying sleeping mats and umbrellas while dressed in utilitarian boots and animal-kingdom patterns. The collection featured mix-and-match faux furs, geometric shapes, pleated skirts, sweeping fringes and military-inspired details — all escapist references that call for an adventure in the wild, while paying homage to the brand’s British roots.

Molly Goddard’s Punk-Meets-Excess Opulence

Photography: Ben Broomfield/ Courtesy of Molly Goddard

Maximalism meets punk in Molly Goddard’s runway film that delivers a loud message: it’s time to get dressed up again. After spending a year working from home, Goddard’s signature tulles and exaggerated shapes got even more experimental: against the Baroque piano backdrop, oversized skirts in buoyant color palettes move in harmony, as viewers right away feel the collision of shapes and layers, patterns and textures.

Vivienne Westwood’s Pastoral Tribute to an Art Classic

Photography: Alice Dellal/ Courtesy of Vivienne Westwood

Dame Vivienne Westwood traverses the form-fitting aesthetics of the 18th century and designates the 1743 Greek painting “Daphnis and Chloe” — a tale of lovers raised by shepherds in nature — as the staple of her latest medley. With fabrics and colors emulating its pastoral sceneries, the artwork’s print is reflected through denim, dresses, suits, shirts and corsets. A sense of classicism pervades throughout while clashing with Westwood’s signature brushstrokes, drapes and tailoring.

Xander Zhou’s Cybernetic Humanoid Fantasy

Courtesy of Xander Zhou

Xander Zhous’s Fall 2021 collection this week might be the closest rendition to a real-life Black Mirror world. Winding his way into the cybernetic future of menswear defined by utilitarian, functional aesthetics, Zhou completes his ideas with unorthodox, high-tech materials. In his android-wear, he delivers acupuncture-point jumpers, 3D synthetic neon-leather helmets and a uniform suit that changes color based on the body’s temperature (named HUMANoidWEAR).

Ahluwalia’s Big Queen Elizabeth Award

Photography: Laurence Ellis/ Courtesy of Ahluwalia

This year’s recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design is Priya Ahluwalia, a Nigerian-Indian designer whose craftsmanship and sustainably-minded designs have been some of London’s most impactful. Her latest collection, titled “Traces,” is all about capturing the spirit of brotherhood and unity

Fashion East Breakout Star Maximilian Davis’ Future Nostalgia

Courtesy of Maximilian Davis

Maximilian Davis second season with design incubator Fashion East sees him evoking a sense of retro future nostalgia that elicits the sexed-up reading of swimwear and the poise of eveningwear: high-waisted clothes for disco-dancing fused with Swinging Sixties’ psychedelic graphics, seamlessly tailored wool coats and jackets in sculptural yet figure-hugging forms — another ode to his Black roots while reclaiming his heritage with couture signifiers and references.

Erdem’s Dark Ballet

Courtesy of Erdem

Ballet is the centerpiece of Erdem’s  Fall 2021 presentation, with actual ballerinas enlisted to model the luxury comfortwear. But through a subversive twist, knitted cardigans and leotards are transformed into essentials like body-con tops and pleated skirts, and ribbon-tied ballet slippers are reimagined as stiff platforms. While the color palette is more muted than usual, Erdem’s dressed-down ensemble is adorned with sparkling jewelry and all-over florals. The catwalk, on the other hand, mirrors an opera, and if you look closer, hints of Martha Graham can be spotted in secrecy.

Simone Rocha’s Creeping Roses and Secret Garden

Photography: Andrew Nuding/ Courtesy of Simone Rocha

Simone Rocha delivered a kind of punk femininity this season unlike we’ve ever seen from her before. Tapestry dresses, inflated sleeves and hand-embroidered silks are adorned with 3D creeping roses as seen in the gauze volumes of her sculptural, hourglass silhouettes, or the suite of tough leather punk-rock looks that includes a classic biker jacket and some platform boot-sneakers. A visceral narrative of a punk-rock princess who grew up in a thorny garden is told in Rocha’s virtuosic hands.

Daniel W. Fletcher’s Inaugural Womenswear Collection

Courtesy of Daniel W. Fletcher

Menswear designer Daniel W. Fletcher‘s debuted his first women’s collection this season after experimenting with it loosely for the past few seasons. His equestrian and militarian selection of monochromatic separates — in black and white only — seems risky, but he knows he’s got the right customer. After all, the collection is inspired by two faces of the British culture: Princess Di and Spice Girl Geri Halliwell; it is the product of the heightened ’90s. From the contrast stitching to slim-fit denims to double-breasted jackets, Fletcher seems to have grasped a hold on the future of his womenswear. (The lookbook stars TikTok twin sensations Maddie and Margot Whitley.)

Photos courtesy of brands

Impact of Brexit

Former Spice Girl and designer Victoria Beckham will present her creations a few days before London Fashion Week. Her collection, which mixes the seasons, aims to be “optimistic but realistic”, she explained.

During the pandemic, the former pop star said “people still want to dress up” but with “a need for comfort”. Her designs include military details that evoke a “sense of protection — a toughness,” she added. Her collection also exhibits a lighter, more delicate side with dresses made from Jersey fabric or with prints of flowers and goldfish.

The more joyful designs are in stark contrast to the grim outlook for the fashion industry in Britain, seriously impacted by the pandemic. The UK suffered more than 118,000 COVID-19 deaths and has been under national lockdown measures since January.

The fashion sector, which employs more than 890,000 people and contributed £35 billion ($48 million, 39 billion euros) to UK GDP in 2019, has also been hit by Brexit and the end of free movement between the EU and the island nation.

In early February, hundreds of fashion figures, including top former models like Twiggy and Yasmin Le Bon, signed an open letter, coordinated by the industry forum Fashion Roundtable, warning the sector risked being decimated because of Brexit.

To increase the visibility of young talent in the pandemic, the British Fashion Council, which represents the industry, has partnered with the social media giant TikTok. The umbrella organisation has also joined forces with Clearpay, a group allowing customers to “buy now pay later” to boost sales.

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