With London Fashion Week going genderless for the upcoming Autumn/Winter 2021 shows this February, the fully digital schedule will be one for the history books. Combining menswear and womenswear designers for five jam-packed days of fashion films, lookbooks and digital presentations, the provisional schedule released by the British Fashion Council promises some corkers, and let's be honest, we all could do with something to look forward to.
As the first fashion week to go digital in June 2020, the BFC have invited both womenswear and menswear designers to flick between the two gendered seasons. London has long been an epicentre for queer culture and genderless fashion, especially in recent years where it has birthed brands such as ART SCHOOL and Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY. With fashion incubator Fashion East switching to a co-ed format last February, the BFC's announcement in 2020 that they'd be tackling gendered distinctions within the structure of the schedule made perfect sense, not least because of the old January dates which were a killer, with London Men's kicking off just a couple of days after New Year. Still nursing a hangover, the week often struggled to pull in editors, and left designers with no Christmas break at all.
Although there won't be any IRL events this season because of the pandemic (London is currently categorised under the highest lockdown restrictions), there's still plenty of digital events worth marking in your calendar.
ART SCHOOL, Saturday 20 February 17:15 GMT
Picked up as one of the Matches Innovators in 2020, ART SCHOOL are one of London's hottest tickets, and they're wiping the slate clean for A/W 21. Last September, co-founder Eden Loweth made their debut as the unisex label's sole creative director with THERAPY. Loweth described the collection to SHOWstudio at the time as an in-between moment for the brand. Whilst the previous season drew a line in the sand for ART SCHOOL, S/S 21 saw Loweth step out on their own, taking forward more utilitarian silhouettes like artist's smocks, with none of the brand's familiar sequins in sight. The diverse ART SCHOOL community includes regulars Mimma Viglezio, Leanne Elliott Young and Nathalie Khan who took part in a pre-filmed runway show. Disabled people were also cast as Loweth engaged with ideas surrounding the physically abled body by taking the brand's notoriously brilliant tailoring oversized, cinching and belting at the waist as they thought specifically about the restriction of clothes, expanding upon a focus on the evolving trans body.
The upcoming A/W 21 collection Ascension promises 'a new dawn' as Loweth partners with art directors Anna Ahonen and Katariina Lamberg. The ART SCHOOL Instagram was recently cleaned out and a new logo unveiled, ready for the next chapter.
Ahluwalia, Saturday 20 February, 16:15 GMT
The LVMH 2020 joint prize-winner Priya Ahluwalia is another name not to be missed. Via her signature patchwork designs, Ahluwalia incorporates deadstock fabrics into her menswear, with 90% of her materials sourced in the U.K. She has examined what really happens to second-hand clothing, looking at Paripat in Nigeria which has become the global garment recycling capital of the world. Most recently she looked to her Punjabi roots and the beauty of immigrant communities with her photo book Jalebi, which launched with a virtual exhibition in June 2020. For Ahluwalia A/W 21, we're not expecting the London-based designer to shy away from the digital format.
Yuhan Wang, Saturday 20 February, 12:30 GMT
Stepping out from the shadows of Fashion East comes womenswear designer Yuhan Wang. Now in her third solo season, we're keen to see what Wang's hand-painted prints have to offer in the Chinese designer's on-going exploration of contemporary Asian and Western femininity.
Queen Elizabeth 11 Award for Design, Tuesday 23 February, 15:00 GMT
This year the award, which recognises an emerging British fashion designer who demonstrates value to the community and/or strong sustainable policies, couldn't be more pertinent. We're eager to see who will join previous winners Richard Quinn, Bethany Williams and Alighieri.
Fashion East, Tuesday 23 February, 17:30 GMT
Having kickstarted the careers of some of the biggest names in international fashion today, Fashion East is always the slot on the schedule where you can expect to find the next best thing. Joining Maximilian Davis, Nensi Dojaka and Goomheo are new additions Jawara Alleyne and HRH. You can find out more about the designers here.
In with the new means out with the old, and for now, that includes London Fashion Week Men's - one of the first dedicated menswear slots on the fashion circuit which allowed for some of the brightest talents to birth the menswear moment we've seen take hold over the past few years, with designers such as Craig Green and Jonathan Anderson leading the charge. Joining womenswear favourites Marques'Almeida, Victoria Beckham, Bethany Williams, Matty Bovan and Molly Goddard on the co-ed February schedule are menswear's Bianca Saunders, Nicholas Daley, Liam Hodges, JORDANLUCA, Saul Nash, Per Götesson and Xander Zhou. Whilst some of the standout menswear designers return, the next generation of London talent marches on.
Miles George Daniel, Monday 22 February, 16:00 GMT
The Middlesex University BA Knitwear graduate was one of the students who caught SHOWstudio's eye when he submitted to our Class of 2020 project, so much so that he took part in an exclusive portfolio review over video call with Martine Rose, Adam Andrascik and Nick Knight. Daniel spoke about his work in terms of wearable sculpture, whilst also explaining how he dedicates himself to a sustainable approach - his graduate collection was created from scrap and donated fabric meaning he spent not a single penny. Playing with materials is where the young designer gets his kicks- all garments are hand-stitched, and he builds garments directly onto the body. All of the structural and ever-changing designs are infused with Daniel's recognisable hand-drawn illustrations and graffiti tags. We can't wait to see what he's been up to.