Activism, Protest, and London Fashion Week

I always can’t wait for London Fashion Week, and this season it definitely didn’t disappoint. However, I had expected the week to be focussed on all the new trends (beige, beige and more beige… is it just me that hates this?) and fashion statements, instead, Fashion Week was dominated by activism and rebellion. In the current political climate, with Brexit, Trump, #metoo, and the increasing momentum of Veganism, I should have expected nothing less.

image1-7Perhaps the main event of the week wasn’t on the runway, but outside, on the street. The environmental group Extinction Rebellion held protests against climate change throughout the week, disrupting various shows, including Victoria Beckham’s at the Tate Britain. The protest was calling out the fashion industry, during one of its biggest weeks, and it’s fast, disposable nature. The protestors were aiming to raise awareness for the huge amount of waste, and pollution, that the industry produces, a theme which continued throughout the week.

image2-4These protests weren’t confined to the streets though, as what would a Vivienne Westwood show be without a bit of rebellion or protest? Models were used of all various sizes and ethnicities, some carrying banners, and others sitting on the sides of the runway, all dressed in recycled and repurposed clothing, with political messages across all of them. The models also didn’t just walk, they talked as well, holding microphones and speaking to the audience about the problems with fast fashion and consumer culture.

image4-5.pngNot all the statements on sustainability were made in protest, with the winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Prize for Design this year Bethany Williams debuting a whole collection of social consciousness and inclusivity. I think this shows the move within the fashion industry towards positive change, showing it can be done, William’s materials all being sustainable, as well as workers and models from a whole range of backgrounds being included. The focus is no longer just on the pieces themselves, but the materials and the work that goes into them all, manufacturing and constructing.

unnamed-15.pngMother of Pearl, an ethical and sustainable fashion brand, similarly used their show to comment on these issues. In their show during LFW more than 300,000 pearl balls surrounded the models, representing the huge amount of microplastics which, from the washing of synthetic fibres, are deposited into the ocean everyday.

Like I said, I wasn’t expecting this to be the dominant message that came out of London Fashion Week this season. I could still tell you about all the new trends which were seen on the runways (again, beige, really?), and all my favourite collections and shows, Burberry, Victoria Beckham (how does she do it, every time?!) and Richard Quinn (I could write a whole post on how much I loved this one), but all this protesting has made me feel quite guilty just looking at it that way.

As a student, I find myself completely oblivious to issues like this. I don’t spend my time looking for natural fibres in my clothes, and avoiding synthetics. I also just don’t have the funds to be buying all these sustainable pieces, as much as I would like to. As guilty as it makes me feel to say this, I would rather buy 5 tops than 1 more expensive top, which may or may not be better for the environment. As much as I love food, the move towards Veganism, for example, is much easier, in my head, because of the amount of alternatives I can find in Tescos or Sainsburys. But I really love fashion, and the amount of sustainable, environmentally friendly alternatives available to me just isn’t really up to scratch. If Fashion Week left one thing hanging in the air of London, it is the need for change, and the move towards this.

Suzie Rawling




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