By Jess Cartner-Morley
There’s plenty to admire in the digital version, but watching dresses on a laptop screen is no match for crowds and chaos
I have spent the past few days at London fashion week, while really missing London fashion week. Watching dresses glide past on my laptop screen, wishing I was squished on to a hard concrete bench up close and personal with the real thing. Pining for salacious front row gossip, for haughty models switching their skirts like crocodile tails, for tantrums and tiaras and fashion week in all its mayhem and madness.
The first ever all-digital London fashion week has had gorgeous clothes – and even glorious shows. Simone Rocha took her Bridgerton-adjacent leather bodices and punk ballgowns in crunchy tulle to St John’s Church in Paddington, London, and filmed them on eight models over the course of a day, to accommodate scrupulous Covid-safe protocol. (Look closely and you can see how the light through the stained-glass windows changes from morning to afternoon.) Joely Richardson, her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, and her daughter, Daisy Bevan, were filmed on an iPhone reciting Shakespeare while wearing Roksanda Ilincic’s new collection at their Surrey home. Emilia Wickstead built a set in lush, forced rhubarb pink for her Hitchcock-chic models to walk through; Molly Goddard painted a sunny yellow backdrop in her Bethnal Green studio.
But none of these shows had an audience. And without the front row, in all its absurd but compelling pomp and pageantry, shows lack theatre. Without the rumours and secrets and off-stage feuds, the plot loses momentum. The influencers and celebrities overdressed to the nines at 9am, the ridiculous miniature canapés, the drama, the ego, the impractical shoes: these are jokes essential to the story. They are also the very things that help make fashion week brilliant.