Written by Holly Patterson
London Fashion Week is undoubtedly the biggest highlight of the city’s fashion calendar, and an opportunity to experience some of the world’s best new collections. LFW is one of the ‘Big Four’ fashion weeks, along with Milan, Paris and New York City.
First launched in 1983, it was set up by The British Fashion Council (a non-profit trade organisation), with the aim of promoting British design in the UK and abroad.
The very first LFW was located in a West London car park, surrounded by tents outside of Kensington’s Commonwealth Institute. Designers that debuted here included David Fieldin, Betty Jackson and John Galliano – and it was his French Revolution inspired degree collection which caused one of the first a flurries of excitement.
During the early ’90s, the event began to suffer as a result of the recession, confining it to only a few rooms in the Ritz, and a handful of designers. It was an important year for fashion history, though, as 23-year-old Alexander McQueen showed here, going on to become of the most celebrated British fashion designers in history.
Naomi Campbell featured in a memorable show in 1993, walking topless for Philip Treacy. 1994 brought another venue change; the grounds of the Natural History Museum. That same year, LFW lost some of its best British designers; McQueen headed to New York, and others were headhunted abroad by the early 2000s.
With the departure of some key talent, other brands had their opportunity to flourish, including Matthew Williamson, John Rocha and Julien Macdonald, who capitalised on a cultural adoration for the Spice girls by sending Mel B down his catwalk in sparkling pink in 1999.
With the arrival of a new millennium, Huessein Chalayan, well adored for his avant-garde approach to cladding the body, put on a show in which furniture was transformed into wearable attire. Topping off 2009, Burberry returned from Milan, to an eager online audience. Many others also returned that year including Paul Smith, Matthew Williamson and Luella. 2009 also saw Somerset House hosting LFW for the first time.
Since then, LFW has had to relocate twice more. As a huge contributor to London and the wider economy, the event contributed £32.3 billion to the UK’s GDP in 2017. In 2018, London broke new ground when it became the first major fashion week to go fur-free. Fashion Week offers a fresh experience every year, showcasing heritage British design and helping upcoming graduate designers to flourish.