London Fashion Week has been changing. The capital has long been recognized as a crucible of new talent, built on the experience and expertise of its great art schools and fashion education system. However, too often those talented graduates would leave the UK for design houses overseas who could see how the originality of these young talents could be used to enhance and develop fashion businesses. What the UK dismissed as whacky, is harnessed by others into income generation.
This year feels very different. London is showcasing a range of designers at different stages of business development and success. Some have managed to develop strong international profiles, Vivienne Westwood, Margaret Howell, John Rocha. Others are more synonymous with a brand, such as Christopher Bailey for Burberry. We shall also be able to see those who are rapidly gaining a reputation for being at the heart of where fashion is headed, Christopher Kane or JW Anderson. The latest designers with a small turnover but enormous influence, Simone Rocha or Meadham Kerchoff. And those who are developing reputations like Thomas Tait for his striking womenswear or Ada Zanditon who integrates environmental and sustainable values with strong design.
Now London is more than the world fashion capital for new talent. Our talent are developing into designers who really understand the nature of building a brand into a successful company, which is not just about the clothes. Now they only need investment.
Christopher Bailey understands that the technology of shopping is as important to Burberry as the creation of desirable clothes. JW Anderson recognises the importance of brand building from the outset and how the emerging concept can be applied not just to a Topshop capsule collection but also across womenswear and menswear. Both these designers recognize that the 21st century consumer of fashion wants the dream. She wants the messaging around the brand the social media campaigns and the ability to buy it easily, swiftly and at a variety of price points. Designers who understand that, like Bailey with the Burberry perfume or Anderson the Topshop collection, will survive and have real influence.
Creative direction is the new fashion design. London is exceptionally well placed to produce this new breed of designer. Unlike many other fashion education systems, the UK has long produced courses and programmes about the business and communication of fashion, giving young designers access to a network of graduates who understand these aspects of the business. The BFC with its New Gen funding and Fashion Fund together with organisations such as CFE, London East or Vauxhall Fashion Scout spot, nurture and support the development of businesses. We challenge graduates to understand the nature of their brand, the mechanics of the business and production and manufacturing issues much earlier in their education. Emerging designers are encouraged to recognise that they do not have to do everything themselves, but they need to know how to access someone that does. We challenge them to understand how to control the focus and purpose of the brand when others are responsible for delivering aspects of it; how the fashion is applied across a range of services as much as how it is made. It is going to be fascinating to see just how this trend emerges over the coming years. As it is about developing talent, London Fashion Week will be the one to watch.