Back on the catwalk: live shows return at London Fashion Week

·3 min read

Catwalk shows resumed at London Fashion Week on Friday, after previous editions of the landmark industry event were forced online by the coronavirus pandemic.

The sight of models and audiences together again was a welcome sight for a country hoping to bounce back after lifting most restrictions in July.

A total of 28 shows are planned over five days, featuring 131 brands, including those from well-established designers such as Britain's Edward Crutchley and Serbia's Roksanda.

Irish designer Simone Rocha's brand is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

But there are two notable absentees: former Spice Girl turned fashion designer Victoria Beckham, and the luxury brand Burberry.

The designer Saul Nash, 28, opened proceedings on Friday morning with a sportswear collection exploring his adolescence in Hackney, northeast London.

Nash, who is also a dancer and choreographer, made freedom of movement at the centre of his fluid creations, with removable hoods and sleeves.

He revisited the staple of the British school uniform -- the short-sleeved shirt -- in breathable fabric with a zip for a chic, casual look.

On a tracksuit he used a distorted print of a childhood transport map.

In a different style, British designer Edward Crutchley's puffy dresses in aniseed green or floral prints showcased a touch of glamour in shimmering luxury fabrics.

- Emerging talent -

In February, London Fashion Week -- one of the big four international fashion weeks alongside Paris, New York and Milan -- was held entirely online, as the country was deep into a mid-winter virus lockdown.

The London Fashion Council said the September shows "mark the long-awaited cultural reopening of London and brings back the global fashion industry to the UK".

Some designers this time round are preferring to present their latest creations by appointment only, or via videos on the London Fashion Week platform.

US designer Michael Halpern unveiled a flamboyant collection of sequinned, feathered and draped gowns in a short film shot at the Royal Opera House, modelled by dancers who will be back before audiences next month after a break of over a year.

Canadian knitwear designer Mark Fast, who has been expanding in Asia, took over a car park in the bohemian district of Soho for a show featuring interlocked chains and pastel shades.

Among the emerging talents this year is London-based Albanian designer Nensi Dojaka, 27, who was presenting her debut show on Friday.

Like Fast, Dojaka studied at the prestigious Central Saint Martins fashion school in London, and she won the LVMH 2021 prize for young talent last week.

Her black babydoll dresses with graphic details won over the jury.

- Bounce back -

Following on from New York and preceding Milan, London Fashion Week is dedicated to spring-summer 2022 collections and is intended to be "gender neutral".

The British fashion industry, which employed around 890,000 people in 2019, is hoping to bounce back after suffering a slump during the global health crisis.

According to data from Oxford Economics for the Creative Industries Federation and Creative England, the sector could recover faster than the UK economy as a whole.

It estimated growth of more than 25 percent by 2025, which would contribute some £132.1 billion ($180 billion, 153 billion euros) to the UK economy -- over £28 billion more than in 2020.

In July, Burberry announced that its first-quarter sales had returned to pre-pandemic levels. However, sales in Europe continued to suffer from the lack of tourists.

Last week, the London-based French designer Roland Mouret told the Financial Times it could take his brand five years to fully recover from the impact of the pandemic.

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