Ricardo Tisci’s Givenchy show during New York’s Fashion Week caught the popular attention – literally – as the show was opened up to public and industry alike. It was an eye-catching but inevitable innovation as public interest in the fashion and creative industries grows.
Quieter, but more far-reaching than this was the British Fashion Council’s move of London Fashion Week from Somerset House to Soho’s Brewer Street Car Park (literally, a car park) with nearby Golden Square offering public access on a big screen. On a golden autumn Saturday morning, Golden Square was fully living up to its billing, with a few early birds relaxing in deck chairs in front of the screen, steaming coffee nearby. Meanwhile, a few streets away in Brewer street itself, the road had been closed to accommodate the flood of fashion journalists migrating from one show to the next. As I walked against the tide, I came face-to-face with a couple of personal heroines: Suzy Menkes, closely followed by Lucinda Chambers, the latter looking particularly gorgeous in a simple white shirt and black trousers.
I’d initially wondered about whether holding fashion week in a car park could possibly measure up to the grandeur of the previous venue, Somerset House, a Royal Palace. In fact, the BFC has done more to reflect the growing popular appeal of the fashion industry with this move of venue than any star designer could do alone. It has enabled public and industry access to exist alongside each other for the whole event. The public can experience the buzz and the action without hampering the essential commercial business.
It has also brought flows of potential customers to an area of London that still houses small artisan shops and businesses. As I burrowed into the Soho backstreets, I came upon Atelier Millinery, already a hive of activity as ladies steamed and blocked cloche hats inside the tiny shop. Nearby, the floor of an empty shop had been requisitioned by a young designer for an impromptu display of goods.
In the space of an hour’s stroll around Soho, I had seen the fashion world end-to-end: the pzzazz of the catwalk; the buzz of the show crowd; the fashion press elite; the artisans at work and the resourcefulness of the start-up. It was a reminder of what makes London fashion so exceptional, vibrant and exciting. Long may it continue: bravo BFC.