To close London Fashion Week, the Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue, Alexandra Shulman gave a very perspicacious talk at the Playboy Club in Mayfair – a bizarre choice of location where the women tend to wear very little clothing (basque’s are so 2004).
Despite the bunnies, Ms Shulman lead the way unnerved, rounding up the trends for SS14 plus further insight into the colossal and daunting world of fashion:
On her humble beginnings at Vogue and LFW..
‘We had a team meeting early on in Vogue saying what can we do about London Fashion Week? To which was replied “There’s nothing we can do about it, London’s a disaster – there won’t be a London (fashion week) in a few years time, everyone will be showing in Paris.” So that wasn’t a very constructive or helpful meeting but here we are now – seeing how wrong they were about it. From 1992 to 2013 we’ve come a long way, it is definitely a long time coming but the whole fashion scene has completely changed and I think we are probably the most exciting fashion week that exists now.’
On how much revenue the fashion industry and LFW brings to the UK..
‘There are 58 on-schedule catwalk shows over the five days with 15 presentations by which can be quite substantial, there’s international press from over 50 countries and a curious figure of buyers from over 52 countries plus a projected revenue of one hundred million pounds generated from these five days.* The issue with London though has always been how do you marry the creativity that you’ve found in the city with a really meaningful commercial activity? The one thing I would say is that the British Fashion Council which has existed for years is doing an incredible job at the moment doing concrete things to help designers turning from being a wunderkind to being a full brand.’
*Sidenote – Our grandeur fashion industry brings in £21 BILLION to the UK alone, that’s more than the automobile industry! #jussayin
On the BFC and how fashion creatives should have a business partner in tow (something I’ve always had in the back of my mind)..
‘The BFC are good at finding financial partners for designers, because you can be a fantastic creative designer doesn’t mean to say you know anything at all about managing finances of a brand and because fashion is one of the few areas which is a total hybrid of art and commerce, you got to have the ability to deal with the commerce side. Partnership is proving to be a big key for success in the fashion industry – you’ve got to have someone else who you can trust and who is on your side to help a brand – if you look at Valentino with Giancarlo Giammetti, Christopher Kane and his sister Tammy – she’s so grounded and very focused and he will always listen to what she says, or Miuccia Prada and her husband Patrizio Bertelli – Miuccia is a visionary but Patrizio’s out there making sure the numbers work. So I think if any designer’s come to me for advice I always say – find if you can, a soulmate who can help you in business.’
On next season’s trends..
‘Onto the shows, I am very proud of the way Vogue support designers and we’re the only magazine who sends a huge team to all the shows. I personally went to 38 shows this season, coming in from NY – where everything is very slick and professional but there just isn’t that same buzz of excitement when you first sit down about what you might see – the way you do in London. We saw a a major trend forming from both fashion week’s for Spring/Summer ’14 which was monochrome, continuing from this season with hardly any colour at all. I was a bit ambivalent about it as I have to think about what people will actually wear and also what it will look like in the magazine -having already done a lot of black & white last summer.
Another continuing trend is florals (groundbreaking), which has been realised in a conceptual thought process such as Matthew Williamson’s lace daisies, Christopher Kane using the reproductive organs of flowers as his motif and of course Preen using floral patchworks. The good thing about florals is that they are easily duplicated and commercial hence the high street’s obsession with them.
Less commercial but easily present were these graphic block shapes – less bodycon, more trapeze shaped in a clean minimal look as an alternate to the mass of flowers.
I was pleased to see there were no 80’s trends, but a more modern ladylike trend that came through in London – there’s a whole new level of designers creating elegant sloping silhouettes for professional women. It’s quite interesting how designers don’t usually like the idea of being ladylike in anyway, for fear of looking dated. I know that Erdem has always had a fear of being seen as too prim and proper so this season, when everyone was doing an Erdem, he decided to go off in a completely different direction with a conceptual Japanese androgynous look.’
On print journalism vs online..
‘Everyone says print is dead and the future is digital, but it’s just not true – noone is making any money from their blogs or websites, but we’re still going strong. I still feel very evangelical about print journalism and I think it’s got a lot of life in it yet. Print is still the medium that designers trust to have their campaigns as well as products featured in.’
At this point, I had to ask her question (while quivering with fear);
Would you say print journalism is becoming almost elitist due to the endless amount of online writers and bloggers?
‘I think that what the internet allows, is that anybody can post what they want whether they can write or not so we do edit – we curate ideas and only use writers who we know to be good and when their copy comes in we edit – whereas what you’re seeing online is like the raw version. Some bloggers are really good, some online journalism is extremely well thought out and filled with information… I think there is a difference but not with the medium – more so the process, when someone does a properly edited online magazine, it won’t be that different from print.’
So there you have it – straight from the Shulman’s mouth, and yes I’m still shaking.