To be fair, Brewer Street is an admired Soho landmark, which English Heritage advised listing in 2002. (It is, apparently, the third-oldest multistorey car park to feature ramps.) The new venue brings the shows “closer to retail”, as the British Fashion Council chief, Caroline Rush, says. Not just literally and geographically closer, but closer in spirit.
While the courtyards and fountains of Somerset House were undeniably picturesque, the new location – handy for Oxford Street – reflects how the character of London fashion week has changed over the past decade, from being a place where oddly dressed folk applauded largely theoretical suggestions about what people might wear if all societal norms were to be suspended, to a showcase aimed squarely at the business of selling clothes.
As a result, modish midi skirts and sleeveless coats were almost outnumbered by business suits at the opening celebration. Culture minister Ed Vaizey was accompanied by the paymaster general, Matthew Hancock, who said he was there because “London fashion week is such an important part of the future of Britain. It symbolises everything we want to be, as a country”.
Retail grandees Marc Bolland, chief executive of Marks and Spencer, and Johnnie Boden were also there. It was a first fashion week visit for Boden, who said he had been “rather terrified of it, but in fact it’s rather nice. The people are surprisingly friendly.”
The traditional opening speech was jettisoned, in favour of a movie-style trailer for fashion week emailed to attendees by BFC chair Natalie Massenet in advance. The key message trendspotters took from the morning event was that avocado on toast, recently derided as over in some quarters, was still an officially fashionable breakfast, as evidenced by the canapes.
Highlights of London fashion week
The clothes will have been all over Snapchat already, but the catwalk extravaganza at Burberry will have a sweetener in the form of a celebrity-studded front row seldom rivalled at London fashion week. This week, Burberry became the first global brand to curate a dedicated channel on Apple Music, a launch that will be marked at the show by a live performance by Alison Moyet.
Donatella Versace loves London’s youthful energy so much that she has moved her diffusion line to show in the city. Any Versace event is a party in spirit, and the Saturday-night slot promises high jinks. Versus is designed by Anthony Vaccarello, a 32-year-old Belgian-Italian designer fond of high splits and daring slashes. One to dress up for.
House of Holland
Henry Holland was one of the first designers to use the Brewer Street car park as a show venue back in 2010. This season, he moves his show to the site of what was once Collins Music Hall, in Islington. Holland’s Instagram-friendly friends – Alexa Chung, Pixie Geldof, Daisy Lowe et al – will no doubt be in full effect.