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British Designers to Stage Consumer-Facing Shows at End of London Fashion Week

London Fashion Weekend gaining momentum as consumers take charge.

London Fashion Weekend

LONDON — In an effort to cozy up to the end consumer, several British designers are staging runway shows during London Fashion Weekend, which takes place on Feb. 25, two days after the end of London Fashion Week.

The move comes at a time when the fashion show system is being rethought by numerous designers and brands, especially in New York. As reported, the Council of Fashion Designers of America has commissioned Boston Consulting Group to explore the viability and logistics of consumer-oriented fashion weeks.

This story first appeared in the January 15, 2016 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The London event, to be held at the Saatchi Gallery near Sloane Square, will feature Emilia Wickstead, Holly Fulton, Mary Katrantzou and Temperley London. The BFC plans to showcase one designer per day, with the runway show repeated about two to four times throughout the day.

“It is a great initiative and as a British fashion brand I want to give all my support,” Alice Temperley told WWD. “It is a very good way to connect with consumers and for them to see the clothes worn and moving. Other very talented designers will also be showing so it is a good experience for those interested in British fashion.”

Holly Fulton will be showing her fall 2016 collection alongside Temperley during London Fashion Weekend.

“To be able to engage and assess reaction first hand is always the best case scenario and we can gain valuable feedback on how the market receives our work and also how they perceive the brand, which can in turn affect our commercial output and collaborative projects,” Fulton said. “I am hoping for an enthusiastic response and an eager crowd.”

According to a BFC spokesman, the event has “seen an increase in interest from both global and British brands to be involved with London Fashion Weekend, as the event offers the opportunity to reach a targeted and focused consumer audience of more than 16,000 people.”

While the British Fashion Council has received requests from designers to participate, they have limited themselves to highlighting one designer per day. This allows the brand to “own the day, and it ensures maximum eyeballs on the collection,” he added. Last season’s edition saw Christopher Raeburn, House of Holland, Issa London and Peter Pilotto showcase their collections.

Raeburn, who presented his fall 2015 collection, said  it was a prime opportunity to test the waters directly with consumers. “It was a very positive and professional experience,” Raeburn told WWD. “I was able to do an interview beforehand discussing the brand, which delivered a more informed approach and generated a stronger reaction from the public. Staging the catwalk show enabled us to open up opportunities to expand our visibility and presence as a brand, and it worked well as it continued to showcase the fall collection as it was dropping into store.”

This was Raeburn’s first consumer catwalk show and the designer noted he would be open to participating again.

Henry Holland also joined Raeburn, showing his line the same year. 

“We decided to take part, as I’m interested in refocusing catwalk presentations to be a more consumer facing event. London Fashion Weekend is the only event of its kind that is working on this,” said Holland. “I personally feel like fashion shows are no longer a closed industry event exclusively for buyers and the press,” he told WWD. “Social media means that images from the shows appear in your customers’ time line the minute they happen in real time. As such, showcasing collections that are immediately available seem to me to be the future of the fashion show.

Our experience was great, we definitely felt an uplift in social media traction around the weekend — and also afterward. It is hard to collect clear sales data, but last season we launched men’s wear on the LC:M schedule with the collection made available in store and online, alongside the presentation. I feel like from a business proposition this time line makes sense.”

Holland believes consumer shows are the future of fashion. “We saw Marc Jacobs and Givenchy both involve their consumers last fashion week. House of Holland also invited 100 of our best consumers to our show in September, as I feel like ultimately the marketing and money spent on these events is ultimately to generate consumer interest and interaction — and sales!”

Recently, London Fashion Week has seen designers including Tom Ford, Thomas Tait and Hunter explore new ways of reaching their customers. Tom Ford has experimented with different formats, including a fashion film featuring Lady Gaga directed by Nick Knight. Thomas Tait plans to renounce his London catwalk show in favor of one-on-one presentations in Paris, while Hunter’s plans include reaching its audience through music festivals and retail stores.

“Over recent years, there have been many conversations about how we blur lines between London Fashion Week and London Fashion Weekend, as designers increase consumer engagement in shows through social, live-streaming and, for a select few, the show experience,” Caroline Rush told WWD last year.

“There is no doubt in future seasons these lines will blur even more as designers opt to do in-season shows. However, we need to ensure those businesses that rely on platforms such as fashion weeks to reach new wholesale partners and media continue to have the opportunity to do so.”

The biannual, four-day consumer event, held at the Saatchi Gallery, will host runway shows, designer talks, shopping galleries and trends presentations. The shopping area will see 150 brands on sale, including Fyodor Golan, J. JS Lee, Linda Farrow, Mawi, Paper London, Pringle of Scotland and Osman.

RELATED STORY: Fashion Shows for Consumers: For It or Against It? >>

The event will host a series of designer talks with fashion industry figures, including Charlotte Olympia’s Charlotte Dellal, Emilia Wickstead, Katharine Hamnett, Nicholas Kirkwood, Pam Hogg and Premier Models founder Carole White.

Launched in 1998, the event was created to help designers clear their merchandise. Recently, the British Fashion Council has curated the initiative with a consumer focus. Ticket prices range from 20 pounds, or $28, for a bronze ticket to 145 pounds, or $208, for a luxe ticket.

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