Tuesday 18th February

| BY Dino Bonacic

The Who, What, When & Where of Mapping Out A Sustainable London Fashion Week

As contradictory as it may sound to a sustainability purist, this season’s London Fashion Week has been the most advanced yet when it comes to having a positive impact on the world. To start with the internal changes, single-use plastic bottles have been banned from all of its premises, with British Fashion Council providing S’well reusable water bottles instead. A minor move in a grand scheme of catastrophic things going down in the world, you might think, but indeed a grand shift for everyone’s understanding of the importance of such changes. The conversations of fashion guilt and being part of such a big machine creep into the between-show small talk, all thanks to this little swap. For AW20 though, the sustainability aspect didn’t just stop there. In fact, it crept into more corners than you could even imagine. 

Phoebe English AW20

Of all designers that mapping a more sustainable approach to London Fashion Week, special credit must be paid to Phoebe English. A pioneer in the field who’s been continuously questioning her own purpose in this world as a fashion designer creating clothes, English has made quite a radical move. After growing the percentage of locally sourced, upcycled fabrics in her collection season after season, her AW20 presentation showcased a collection with 100% of the textiles used being leftovers from fellow London designers. Martine Rose, Charles Jeffrey, Preen, Simone Rocha, Lou Dalton and Katharine Hamnett all had their old-season favourite reinterpreted by English, who used this big change as an opportunity to create a patchwork of their personalities in garment form. And as it often happens, with such limitations come great outcomes. This was one of her most powerful collections yet, as the designer proved resourcefulness can indeed look sexy and forward-looking. Simplistic lines in a predominantly cold colour story of black, white and navy was enriched by the textile manipulations which totally transformed the existing fabrics into something new and fresh.

Matty Bovan AW20

In fact, resourcefulness could probably be the official tagline of LFW AW20. Making unwanted wanted, plenty of other designers turned to upcycling. Matty Bovan used deadstock Fiorucci denim in his kooky British interpretations of Americana, with jeans and trucker jackets collaged into skirts worn by his charmingly chaotic muses. Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi of Preen also used what’s already there, specifically using men’s tailoring fabrics from English mills which would otherwise end up in landfill. “Sometimes buyers can be a bit afraid of ordering something that might be a little different, but I somebody needs to take a leap, you know?” said Bregazzi to Sarah Mower backstage. Another one taking the leap is Roland Mouret whose show, artistically directed by our very own Sophia Neophitou, included jewellery made out of driftwood he found during his long walks on the beach. Embellishing the classy lines of draped frocks and soft tailoring were also broken pieces of ceramic sculptures made by his husband and artist James Webster. As part of his see-now, buy-now collaborative show with F1 superstar Lewis Hamilton and musician H.E.R. on Sunday evening, Tommy Hilfiger announced a more conscious approach to his brand. 75% of the styles from the TommyxLewis line were sourced more sustainably thanks to their fabric choices which included low-impact denim as well as recycled, animal-friendly and organic materials. Riccardo Tisci’s lastest show at Burberry was also certified as carbon neutral, thanks to the house taking measures to both reduce and offset the carbon emissions associated with their monumental shows.

Roland Mouret AW20

On the flip side, this London Fashion Week marked the launch of a new fabric donation scheme ran by Alexander McQueen. As a practical extension of the educational programmes previously introduced by the brand’s creative director Sarah Burton, unused luxury materials were given to University students across the UK. “The ethos at Alexander McQueen means that everything we use in researching and designing collections has always been archived and stored,” Burton stated, adding: “we’ve never thrown anything away.” Their surplus textiles from past seasons were used by students showcased in both the Central Saint Martins and University of Westminster graduate shows which took place on Friday, February 14th. 

Central Saint Martins MA for AW20

At last night’s International Woolmark Prize 2020 finals, another one of London’s sustainable trailblazers was announced as the winner of the main prize which includes year-long mentorship and a check for AU $200k. This year’s selection process was focused on transparency in sourcing Merino Wool, with all of the 10 finalists encouraged to create a sustainability roadmap to their collections. Richard Malone, who presented a new manifesto as part of his AW20 collection, felt like the right choice for the year which also saw the IWP teaming up with a digital platform dedicated to traceability called Provenance. For the inaugural winner of the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, the star-studded panel including the likes of Carine Roitfeld, Kim Jones and Edward Enninful chose Emily Adams Bode, whose brand has proven innovation and forward-thinking doesn’t always have to include hi-tech approaches. Instead, their focus is on nurturing and preserving craft from the past.

Richard Malone wins the International Woolmark Prize 2020

With plenty more room to grow and changes to make, we’re not calling this season’s London Fashion Week perfect. Some might even argue for reasons of its existence – and they do, by throwing protests and preventing access to creative, game-changing work these brilliant minds have been working on for the past six months. But instead of blocking their ideas, both physically and metaphorically, now is the time to listen carefully. You might even hear a genius solution you’d never think of yourself – that’s London for you…

Backstage photographs by Jason Lloyd-Evans.