My first experience at London Fashion Week’s womenswear shows reminded me how feminism is still a dirty word in fashion
So the tornado that is London Fashion Week has once again left a trail of trends, tweets and tired faces in its wake. This is the second season I’ve experienced the madness, and the first time I’ve attended any womenswear shows.
The first thing I have to say about this season is how generally unmoving it was. I was hoping for extremely creative collections designed to make us forget our current economic woes. What we were instead met with were designers playing it safe to produce clearly commercial collections.
Perhaps the problems on the high street have channelled further up into the realms of high-fashion, leading to far less risk-taking. Nevertheless, there were still a few strong collections that got me excited, and it will be interesting to see how some of the new trends translate onto the high street.
I noticed something else this time around at Somerset House, which struck a slightly deeper and ultimately more meaningful chord in me. Perhaps it was due to everyone’s lack of sleep and sheer exhaustion from the whole experience, but an overall feeling of despondency and desperation seemed to resonate throughout the crowds.
As I’ve written previously, my feelings towards fashion echo my feelings towards any art form. I enjoy the process of creation: the story that you unravel in the press release you find on your seat when you arrive at a show, or when the first item from the collection is revealed as a model glides down the runway.
Whether the clothes descend from dreams of ancient Russia, or if their shapes are inspired by insects and animals, the whole procedure is incredibly fascinating. It’s this evolution – from a tiny bug to a giant department store – that ultimately keeps my pen scribbling throughout each show.
I therefore find it deflating when the entire experience of Fashion Week becomes about being spotted and what row you’re sitting in. The desperation of hipsters wanting to be snapped for ‘street style’ blogs becomes so apparent that even Warhol would be turning in his grave.
Beyond this, there’s an even simpler and in some ways more primitive form of rivalry that exists at Fashion Week. It’s an unspoken truth that fundamentally, fashion is not always just a platform for us to express ourselves, but a way for us to impress one another.
So here’s where my problem lies. In supposedly one of the only industries that is not governed by patriarchy, I can’t help but wonder… where are all the feminists in fashion?
Firstly, you may be surprised to hear someone openly refer to themselves as a feminist in this day and age, let alone a male. The way I see it, feminism literally means women should have the same rights as men. What’s so shocking about that? In which case, I believe all men and women should call themselves feminists out of respect.
My issue is that women should be allies and not competitors. For something that is meant to be so liberating, fashion can often lead to situations that feel like a high school beauty pageant and London Fashion Week happens to be one of them. Wherever you look there are distressed women trying to look their best, all the while pretending they’re having the time of their lives.
Of course, the women who appear the saddest are the models. We’re so accustomed to seeing glossy pictures of them in magazines, that we forget entirely that they are actual people. Watching these atypical women move across the catwalk from up close is an entirely different story. Brittle bones poke out of their long slender necks and backs as clothes are draped over them like human coat hangers.
Going backstage after shows during Fashion Week gave me an even closer insight into the lives of these women. Behind their confident stride on the catwalk, many of the models look fragile and exhausted. As I fought my way through the crowds to get an interview with one designer, I couldn’t help but notice the solemn look in their eyes.
Of course it’s not all doom and gloom at Fashion Week and there are many happy and healthy models, designers and writers who attend the shows for all of the right reasons. I just think it’s important that we all realise that feminism does not have to be a dirty word in the fashion world.
Not everyone will agree with my viewpoint on these issues, but it’s important for me to always be honest in my writing. The response I’ve had from speaking to women about the concept of this piece, gave me reason enough to ensure I write it.
It’s important for me to find hope in whatever I’m commenting on, which is why it’s taken me a while to put together a conclusive final section for this article. I guess this subject is a work-in-progress in my mind and I’m sure I’ll go on to explore it further next season.
You never know, perhaps SS13 will see bra-burning make a huge, overdue comeback.