A little fashion trivia before we delve into more details on what made and is still making London a distinct fashion capital, the city where “weird” is a creative compliment and something that no one seems to mind on that side of the English Channel.
London Fashion Week, as we know it, officially began in 1984 (in a West London car park, mind you) to great fanfare. But who was the first designer to receive the newly minted Designer of the Year Award, offered by the British Fashion Council? Answer: Katherine Hammet (when you see some of her ads, you get a feel for how different London’s creative perspective is from puritanical New York).
The following year, 1985, with some lobbying by a select group of established designers supported by Vogue UK, the British government agreed to sponsor London Fashion Week and create support programs for British designers. Designers, including Betty Jackson, David Fielden, Ghost and John Galliano, became highlights of the collection week.
In 1989, John Galliano selected the newly discovered Kate Moss for the presentation of his new collection, launching a career that would make her one of the most successful and recognized models today. She became the face of Givenchy and Christian Dior under his tenure.
In 1990, Princess Diana did the unthinkable, and actually attended a fashion show along with the public. Her attendance brought worldwide attention to London Fashion Week and the British fashion industry as a whole.
The sheer success of the initial shows forced the organizers to search for larger venues to accommodate the ever expending line-up (just look at what happened in New York with Bryant Park and now Lincoln Center?). The Museum of Natural History’s grounds were chosen to house the collections and became the ground zero for London Fashion Week by 1990.
In 1993 the British Fashion Council introduced a new fashion week initiative providing the opportunity for vetted students to show their designs in special presentations during the collections. The addition of these presentations gave London its unique personality within the Fashion calendar. Fashion Education in London has long fostered the kind of open and nurturing environment that encourages students to push the boundaries and allows them to realize over-the-top ideas, and, turn these creative eccentricities into lauded fashion creations. As history would have it, Alexander McQueen was one of the first students to benefit from the program… and rather well, don’t you think?
Next: The Golden Touch (the Punk education behind the creations)