London Fashion Week Went Entirely Fur-Free
This year, for the first time, London Fashion Week went fur free. That’s major news in the designer world, which has seen consumer attitudes toward fur changing rapidly in recent years, led by the voices of a younger generation that opposes the use of animal skins on moral grounds. That’s also a major relief for guests attending the shows here, where protesters have employed increasingly menacing tactics in their mission to disrupt the runway shows of those who don’t necessarily share their beliefs.
Still, even after the London designers decided to wave the white flag, the protesters were out in force — hassling the guests at Mary Katrantzou’s show on Saturday night, and again at Victoria Beckham’s on Sunday morning. I know both designers fairly well and can attest that neither, despite having used fur in the past, deserves to be treated as a closet Cruella de Vil. And yet, they are caught up in a terribly complicated culture battle largely due to the fact that Beckham and Katrantzou each started their collections 10 years ago, a time when fur was considered fashionable. Now it’s not, and both have moved on. So, I would plead, with all due respect, should the protesters.
It says quite a lot about the status of London’s fashion scene that most designers here have risen above all that noise and are showing a remarkable degree of maturity in their work. The hot new things who revived the city’s style cred a decade ago are looking mighty fine as they enter their prime years, and their collective strength has been reflected in a bustling London Fashion Week that has been so jam-packed with great ideas and collections that it’s hard to find a few minutes to write about them.
Katrantzou’s anniversary collection offered a thoughtful demonstration of her skill as both a dressmaker and an innovative, whimsical mood-maker. The theme of her collection was, well, collections, as in those of stamps, postcards, insect specimen, and geodes. With fantastic structures and incredible detail, she stitched together fabric swatches, crystals, doo-dads, and lots of other things to create gowns that resembled a sheet of stamps, or a butterfly collector’s trophy wall with three-dimensional ornamentation (let’s just hope those butterflies weren’t real, or we’ll never hear the end of it). Her show was certainly a delight to watch.
Beckham, too, took a moment to reflect on her decade in business, a period during which she transformed her image from a celebrity designer to a designer celebrity with fierce tenacity, but then she moved forward. Her collection was terrific and fresh. Dresses were complexly constructed but looked easy to wear, particularly a red fit-and-flare number with a rope belt, and a prim prairie style in what looked like a scrambled Liberty floral print. They were tailored to fit neatly around the bum, and the legging-trousers were cut narrow with a split at the hem, so that only the toes of the shoes the models wore were left visible. You’d have to be exactly the right height to wear them, but, dang, they looked good.
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Surely by coincidence, there was a similarity in Beckham’s silhouette to that of one of London’s premier talents, Jonathan Anderson, whose JW Anderson collection the day before also included dresses that fit closely around the torso and loosely below with scarf-like, fringy hems. The fabrics offered echoes of ethnic textiles, hints of athletic jerseys, and literal accents of lace doilies, put together in dresses that resembled 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles. Luckily, these were more compelling than frustrating.