Are Corporate Fashion-Show Sponsors Stifling Creativity in London?

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Meadham Kirchoff Photo: Imaxtree

When New York is wearable (almost to a fault), Milan dials back the cleavage, Paris is gorge but recession-friendly, and the season ends with a depleted sigh, at least there's London … right? London is known for being the most risk-taking of the fashion capitals, design-wise, and has born talents like Gareth Pugh, Alexander McQueen, and Hussein Chalayan. But some of the magic was lost this spring 2011 season with a fashion week that just wasn't as outlandish or shocking or creative as it has historically felt. Part of the problem is that London is a bastion of young talent, and young talent needs help pulling together resources for the kinds of fashion shows that get attention. So they vie for the aid of big-name sponsors like Topshop — a far different avenue than McQueen took in his early career.


Waiting to go into [McQueen's memorial] service, Mr. Chalayan said that that type of conceptual fashion may one day return but that, for now, young designers “are concerned about what the City thinks” — meaning potential backers and sponsors.

Louise Wilson, the director of the master’s program at Saint Martins, said: “There is this omnipresent support here in England, and I’ll tell you what it’s done. There’s no risk. I think this generation has never chosen how they want to show.”

Young designers rely on spaces financed by sponsors like Topshop. As a result, Ms. Wilson said, they are not “looking for solutions to their own problems.” That almost childish refusal to take full responsibility for how their work is presented — as Mr. McQueen and Mr. Chalayan did — also seems to retard their creative powers.

But could the Internet also be to blame? Could the personal-style blogs that seem to be spreading like a bad rash over the Internet be messing with designers' heads?

“There’s a lack of gravitas now in London,” Andrew Lamb, a runway photographer for the past 25 years, said outside Somerset House. Mr. Lamb recalled the great street fashion in the era of Katharine Hamnett. Today, of course, there isn’t a dominant look, but there is a voracious interest in the minutiae of people’s style that spills into solipsism. It’s as though everyone is Facebooking someone with a camera.


London’s Bright Idea Is Color [NYT]