London fashion will be a moveable feast in the first half of 2022, with designers showing off-schedule, on-schedule, and in Milan and Paris as they duck and dive their way around winter COVID-19 restrictions and the growing Omicron wave.
There will be no January men’s shows, and the February edition of London Fashion Week is taking place once again as a unisex showcase. While many designers are on board with those changes, others are opting to do their own thing and stage events that speak to the trade and consumers alike.
John Alexander Skelton, who is known for his nostalgic approach to men’s tailoring, is for now set to showcase the brand’s fall 2022 collection on Jan. 8 with “a ceremonial kind of performance” in the crypt of St. Pancras Church in central London.
“I’ve never wanted to be part of the whole rigmarole of fashion week and its circus-like presence,” Skelton told WWD. “My first two shows were not in fashion week and the rest have never been on the schedule, but had to be during fashion week since I started having a showroom in Paris for sales. There’s nothing subversive or interesting about fashion week: it’s about as emblematic of the establishment as you can get, which just doesn’t pique my interest.”
Also expected to present off-schedule will be men’s designer Craig Green. He plans to return to London and present his fall 2022 collection on Feb. 9.
After staging several “show-in-a-box” presentations, Jonathan Anderson is taking his JW Anderson men’s and women’s pre-fall collections to Milan as part of the official schedule organized by Italy’s Camera della Moda.
Bianca Saunders, who took home the ANDAM Fashion Prize last year, is set to present her new collection in Paris in cooperation with the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode on Jan. 19.
In an earlier interview with WWD, Saunders said: “I want to become a household name. Being in Paris is what really gives you more international credibility.”
For the February edition of London Fashion Week, a slew of buzzy emerging designers are scheduled to stage physical shows, including Asai, Bethany Williams, Conner Ives, Feng Chen Wang, Nicholas Daley, Paolo Carzana, S.S. Daley, Saul Nash, Stefan Cooke, and Yuhan Wang.
London anchor brands including Erdem, Simone Rocha, David Koma, Emilia Wickstead, Roksanda, and Temperley, as well as rising stars such as Halpern, Nensi Dojaka, Knwls, and Rejina Pyo, are also expected to return.
It’s still unclear whether Burberry, the biggest brand in London, will show during London Fashion Week, which runs from Feb. 18 to 22.
Over the past few seasons the brand has been experimenting with new formats and timings. Burberry released its spring 2022 men’s collection digitally during Paris Men’s Fashion Week, while the women’s collection was a runway film that aired in late September just as Milan Fashion Week was winding down and Paris was getting started.
Due to COVID-19, Brexit and the designers’ usual ups and downs, London Fashion Week has always been forced to adapt — and to strategize.
The British Fashion Council canceled the January 2022 men’s wear showcase due chiefly to uncertainties around the pandemic, which only increased during the holidays due to the Omicron variant. Admittedly, the early date of the showcase — just after New Year’s Day — had long been problematic for designers, press and buyers, and it remains unclear whether those early January shows will ever return.
The June 2022 men’s shows, however, are set to go ahead, COVID-19 permitting.
The BFC also said it decided not to go ahead in January after evaluating the challenges around the movement of goods, samples and people between the U.K. and Continental Europe post-Brexit, and following surveys and roundtables with designers, as well as conversations with sales showrooms. All goods from the European Union into the U.K. have needed a customs declaration since Jan. 1.
London Fashion Week faces wider challenges beyond COVID-19 and Brexit, too.
The majority of London brands are small businesses relying increasingly on direct-to-consumer channels rather than wholesale. In addition, staging shows is expensive: the bare minimum required to stage a proper show during London Fashion Week is at least 150,000 pounds.
While the BFC is doing what it can to offer funds and free spaces to some designers by partnering with sponsors like Clearpay and TikTok, it often doesn’t make financial sense for some brands to spend that kind of money on a show.
One London-based fashion designer who has shown in multiple cities told WWD that, “The professional audience is not here. Doing a show here doesn’t generate the same amount of buzz. Instead of burning all that cash, I can allocate the budget elsewhere to improve my direct-to-consumer business.”