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Student blog – London Fashion Week 2020, a digital and gender neutral catwalk

With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting events across the world, London Fashion Week is the latest to announce plans to hold their annual catwalk show digitally. They’ve also announced their plans to merge menswear and womenswear, showing a gender neutral catwalk for the first time. We asked second year BA (Hons) Fashion student Sasha Potgieter for her thoughts on this digital and gender neutral shift, and how the future of fashion can change and learn from it.

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London, playground for the daring. Since 1984 it’s crafted a dynamic dichotomy of extraordinary design; defined through rebellious cut and fearless imagination that throws caution to the wind.

Despite its youth in comparison to Milan and Paris, London Fashion Week has showcased a cornucopia of upcoming and revolutionary talent – from the likes of Richard Quinn to Alexander McQueen.

However, Somerset House lies dormant. The perpetual buzz located not within the streets but our screens before us, as COVID-19 alters our reality into a surreal complex, and London Fashion Week takes a digital stage.

Interestingly, we will watch how this digital era will weave alongside imperative sustainable actions, to reinvigorate a new decade within fashion.

Reducing the physical presence of shows, no doubt has had a positive effect upon the fashion industry’s environmental footprint so far. Nevertheless, with the ‘See Now, Buy Now’ wave seen across Shanghai’s digital fashion week; will this affect consumer consumption?

“Will technology replace people and craftsmanship within the fashion industry?”

Live steams and digital events will open a window of opportunities for designers to interact with wider audiences. Pivoting (especially emerging designers) towards a more direct-to-consumer model; as the public gains access to the same experience industry itself has.

The virtualisation of fashion week will provide a unique experience, propelling designers and brands to push the parameters in which they show, as they manipulate their visions or concepts through cyberspace.

I hope to still see storytelling at the heart of London Fashion Week.

Additionally, such redundancy of physical garments will alter how showrooms were once experienced; for example, perhaps individual samples will have to be shipped to buyers, providing visual merchandising, advertising and marketing. It’s a space to experiment further with ingenuity.

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Will these virtual worlds create fake realities? Sims, tweaked to ‘perfection’, could replace already unrepresentable models, setting unattainable and unrealistic beauty standards – ricocheting mental health problems further.

Will we see brands begin to feature plus size and underrepresented minority groups; rather than paying them?

What will happen to models, make-up artists and other roles that work behind the scenes? Will technology replace people and craftsmanship within the fashion industry?

Technology isn’t the only aspect reshaping the industry’s future. In a time when gender stereotypes now read as traditional, London Fashion week goes beyond gender and social conditions by fusing together both women’s and menswear.  

“Gender will always be an extension of human existence, to disregard that it lives amongst us would be naïve.”

It will form new ways of understanding fabrics in terms of cut and application, as designers now need to overcome the challenges, to allow clothing to seamlessly transition between not only both men and women, but that of any body type.

Gender neutral by far should not mean ill-fitted – just because a brand has brought oversized t-shirt into a collection, does not mean they’ve redefined a garments fluidity.

Femininity within menswear has recently propelled the fashion industry towards inclusivity, with help from celebrities Billy Porter, Jaden Smith and Ezra Miller who expand perception of how men and women can dress.

Gender will always be an extension of human existence, to disregard that it lives amongst us would be naïve. Yet it should be the way we respond to the concept of gender itself, embracing its alluring fluidity and infinite forms – expressing ourselves.

It’s the future, the lines will only continue to blur. And as new generations emerge, it’s our responsibility to rewrite the rules.

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