How Political Can Fashion Be? Featured

As London Fashion Week comes to and end, we take a look at some of the most politically invested highlights, before moving on to Milan.

by Sara Kaufman

In the last editions London Fashion Week has been clearly gaining momentum. More and more brands are choosing to stage their shows shaded by the Big Ben and more and more influential international editors agree on London being – forgive me – the new Paris.

But it’s not just about the fashion. What’s happening in London is extremely political. Designers are choosing the catwalks to vehicle important social messages, reminding us all that it’s actually fashion mirroring society and not – as some might think - the other way round.

One name above all the others: Vivienne Westwood. The 77-years old designer has since long been working close to environmental groups, including Greenpeace, and shares anti-global warming information on her Climate Revolution platform. However, this season Dame Vivienne took to the stage several other issues besides climate change, from Brexit to capitalism and American foreign policy. #MeToo advocate Rose McGowan was joined by models of all ages and ethnicities who gave speeches and read poems as they walked down the catwalk, calling for freedom of speech, social security and quoting Assange on “globalism”.

The clothes were, naturally, just as avant guard as you’d expect: a joint presentation of men and womenswear which somehow brought the audience back to Westwood’s punk roots with a display of anti-establishment messages and lack of underwear. As Rose McGowan stated “We need more heroes”.

luxos vivienne westwood

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Powerful statements can also be made in other – more sartorial – ways. For the second time Victoria Beckham graced London fashion week. Which only makes sense, given the fact that everything in her, from her Chelsea apartment to her Man-U hero husband and her Posh Spice past literally scream Britain. Despite not having formally committed to moving from the New York schedule to the London one, her fall/winter 19 show was definitely more on the Londonese side. A lady who is not quite ladylike and likes to play with her “naughty side”, as Beckham puts it. Truth is that the “naughty side” could very simply be flaunting femininity without any kind of shame or modestly after years and years of forced silhouette flattering dresses and pencil skirts. Why be shy? Why conceal behind couture when you can shine bright in hot red dresses with plunging necklines, leopard prints and high heels? Why be good at all costs, when you can be yourself?

luxos victoria beckhamVictoria Beckham show, Courtesy of Press Office

If Molly Goddard’s approach to couture has seemingly nothing to do with Victoria Beckham’s – and in fact it hasn’t – this season there was some kind of shared value behind the two women’s collections. If Beckham decided to un-lady the ladies, Goddard went straight to ladying all those who – up till now – would have felt awkward on a red carpet or even just at a dinner party. Her response to formal fashion is contemporary ball gowns, this time taken to the extremes by a bright neon pink dress crafted from over 100 metres of tulle. An ironic take on celebrity dressing which manages to be both laid-back cool and front-page friendly. Exactly what people need nowadays, as anti – mainstream views place a huge spotlight on individual style.

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luxos molly goddardMolly Goddard, Courtesy of Press Office

A copy of a novel by the Parisian feminist writer Violette Leduc has accompanied Richard Malone over the past six months - The Lady and the Little Fox Fur. In it the protagonist views all events from a position of sentimentality. A particular passage has affixed itself to his imagination: “There is no such thing as eccentricity. There is what is.” An Irish immigrant, as Brexit looms large Malone has been forced to consider the next steps he may need to take as a UK resident – seeking Settlement Status. Arduous form-filling, unnecessary scrutiny are upon him, and countless more. One thinks back to the idea of badly-lit, uniquely charming community-centre gatherings, mums’ doors flung open for street parties... simpler times. Malone stages his show into an almost-uncomfortable, nearly-bleak living room in which a family birthday party sees ‘dressing up’ interpreted across generations. Ha speaks a language of bad taste, with words such as “fuzzy” and “cuddly”. Striped stoles are made from repurposed dog beds, frock coats are fashioned from school uniforms. Waste is limited - dresses are cut from precisely one metre of woven fabric and shaped through contouring by hand. Much of the colour palette takes cues from the tonal browns of ‘bad, mum lipstick’ and the optimistic brights of street party flags. The clothes are for adults (although perhaps, as the designer puts it, more specifically for those doing the school-run with bad hangover – but they speak to an un-self conscious childhood with a – somehow Westwoodian – punk attitude. The one of not remotely caring about whose watching you. A strong, political and rebellious vision, appropriate for the un-reassuring times we are living.

luxos richard maloneRichard Malone, Courtesy of Press Office

As the curtain is brought down on the London fashion days, we turn our attention to Milan, waiting to see if Alessandro Michele, Miuccia Prada, Francesco Risso and Giorgio Armani will also take political views to the stage. 


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