hen the British Fashion Council announced that London Fashion Week would be almost an entirely digital event this season due to the pandemic, no one knew quite what to expect.
From celebrity-lined front rows and big budget runway shows to swathes of street stylers and ostentatious attendees, the biannual event has always been a spectacle. Could it still be one online?
It transpired that it could. Aside from the odd one-on-one appointment, major British brands, including JW Anderson and Christopher Kane, have eschewed any form of physical presentation and have instead opted to showcase their collections through the prism of film. It’s a medium that has offered brands unbridled creativity. By making careful choices about setting, music, and camera angles, designers have taken the season’s limitations in their stride and maximised ways to present their vision for spring/summer 2021.
Burberry set the precedent with its stellar woodland film that saw models striding through a mythical-looking forest (located in a forest outside of London) to the haunting vocals of Eliza Douglas. Despite the fact that no one was there to watch it in-person, the production value was on par with, if not beyond, any other Burberry show. Erdem staged a similarly enchanting film set in Epping Forest while elsewhere we saw Halpern pay tribute to key workers and Fashion East celebrated the work of four emerging talents in a beautifully choreographed film.
In case you’ve missed any of it, here are the London Fashion Week films you need to catch up on, because they might be just as good – if not better than – the real-life runways themselves.
It makes sense that Burberry was the first brand to release a film this season. Usually reserved for the final full day of London Fashion Week, this season’s Burberry show took the much earlier Thursday afternoon slot-. Taking place deep somewhere deep in the British countryside, the film began with several panoramic shots of the perfectly pastoral setting. With gentle rays of sunlight glistening through the leaves and onto the quiet and peaceful clearing through which models were about to walk, it was a scene that no fashion show could possibly ever recreate.
As Douglas’ vocals rang out to the thrumming sounds of her electric guitar, the models began their descent down the sort-of-runway, assembling in the centre for an elaborate art-meets-fashion performance, forming part of designer Riccardo Tisci’s collaboration with German artist Anne Imhof. There was choreography, wrestling and asylum-like sculptures, which models gently clambered around in Tisci’s streetwear-inspired garb.
While there were no direct references to the pandemic – social distancing was abandoned in the choreography and there were no masks in sight – the setting paired with the overall performance (and the fact that, at one point, Douglas let out an almighty howl) created an apocalyptic mood, one that seemed fitting for the global crisis we are all currently grappling with.
You can watch Burberry’s spring/summer 2021 film on Twitch here.
This season, Halpern has decided to pay tribute to frontline workers, making the unlikely choice of casting eight of them in his film. The short film sees hospital cleaners, train managers, and gynaecologists all clad in Halpern’s fantastical garb.
The flamboyant designs – think fuzzy orb dresses and feather-trimmed plaid co-ords – are a far cry from the usual uniforms these women will wear. And that’s exactly the point. It’s a joy to see these women dance around our screens in Halpern’s Clueless-inspired collection. Least of all because it’s probably one of the first times they’ve been able to truly let their hair down in recent months.
Halpern knows these clothes are impractical. It’s not like anyone is going to start conducting Zoom calls in a feather-trimmed fuchsia dressing gown. Nonetheless, it’s an uplifting sentiment to think that someone might, somewhere. Or that we might have an opportunity to wear such ridiculous clothing outside of our homes, once the number of coronavirus cases lowers. In these dark times, all we can do is remain optimistic. And Halpern’s film delivered that message with aplomb.
Watch Halpern’s spring/summer 2021 film here.
This season marks 20 years since Lulu Kennedy established her esteemed talent incubator. Usually, Fashion East’s runway is one of the highlights at London Fashion Week, mostly thanks to the eclectic range of the designers’ work. Thankfully, we’re not missing out too much this time around, as Kennedy has chosen to highlight the work of four emerging talents in four separate – but equally brilliant – short films.
Before that, though, the scene is set with wide-lens shots of an east London rooftop that is packed with suave fashion types mingling over cocktails and canapes. It’s the kind of stock fashion week scene that many in the industry have become accustomed to at this time of year, and are undoubtedly pining after. First up it’s newcomer Maximilian Davis, whose cutout bodysuits and plunging dresses take somewhat of a backseat as lithe models dance across the screen to the throbbing bass of carnival music. The camera moves around them as their bodies move, resulting in a gloriously abstract and dynamic piece of film.
Next up it’s South Korean designer, Goom Heo, whose film celebrates his off-kilter sportswear through innovative camera shots taken from the ground up, which lends itself to the movement of loose flared trousers as the models in them dance gracefully. Albanian womenswear designer Nensi Dojaka takes a different approach with her portion of the film, setting models in still poses against moving backdrops of busy capital cities. The clip takes us from Paris to London to New York and back again within seconds, a pace that reflects the dynamism of the collection.
Finally it was left to British talent Saul Nash, who, as a choreographer, also championed the art of movement in his film. A group of dancers move with beautiful symmetry across a grassy hilltop with the sea in the background. Their performance is balletic, the music theatrical. It’s hard to take notice of the clothes, given the way the camera pans across them from a great height, but it doesn’t matter much. Clearly, this is more about art than it is about fashion, and that’s quite alright with us.
Watch Fashion East’s spring/summer 2021 film here.
Another woodland, another collection. This time, Erdem takes us deep into Epping Forest to marvel at his deeply romantic, Susan Sontag-inspired collection. Again, the lighting lends itself to a beautiful piece of film, with sunlight amplifying the delicacy of Erdem’s Victorian floral smocks and gowns.
As models walk through an avenue of impossibly tall trees, lightweight skirts billow out behind them, while the dramatic music provided by a string quartet brings an added sense of theatre to the short film. The intricate floral patterns on the clothing co-ordinate wonderfully with the wooded setting, while the curved barks of the trees frame every look with perfect symmetry.
Watch Erdem’s spring/summer 2021 film here.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies