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07 December 2023

Front-row access for all at London Fashion Week

British singer Pixie Lott, centre, attends the PPQ fashion show during London Fashion Week on Saturday. (GETTY IMAGES)

By Charlotte Turner

There is still a dash for tickets, the best seats are kept for A-listers and the clothes haven't got any cheaper, but the doors of the fashion world were opened a little wider in London this weekend.

Members of the public were given front-row access to the latest collections from some of the top names on the high street.

Meanwhile, London Fashion Week catwalk shows were streamed live online across the world.

At the Saatchi Gallery in west London on Saturday, several hundred followers of fashion gathered for an unprecedented catwalk show involving clothes from 14 high street labels, including Marks and Spencer, Asos.com, H and M, Reiss and Mango.

Offered champagne and goodie bags, they were treated to the full glamour of a show – separate from the six-day London Fashion Week itself.

"There's too much of a divide between high fashion and the high street – that's why an event like this is so important," said Carla Benstead, 20, whose fashion blog won her a ticket to the event, organised by Look magazine.

"It makes the fashion world feel more accessible, especially for young people who are increasingly interested in fashion," she said.

Unlike the designs at fashion week, which look ahead to next autumn/winter, the pieces here were available to buy immediately after the show.

"Usually you have to wait for fashion people to tell you what's good and what you should buy, so this is a really exciting opportunity to come and judge for yourself," said Carrie Birnie, 28.

The trend of opening up fashion began with the internet, from the early days of Vogue online through to editors using Twitter from the front row.

And under a new initiative by the British Fashion Council (BFC), every show at the official London Fashion Week venue this season will be streamed live online. Fashionistas will no longer have to beg, borrow or steal a ticket to their favourite designers' shows – it's all there at the click of a mouse.

Live internet streaming is not new – Burberry fans around the world watched the spring/summer 2010 Prorsum collection in London via the internet, getting as good a view as singer Victoria Beckham and actress Gwyneth Paltrow seated on the front row.

This season the label will go one better and stream its show tomorrow in 3D at screenings in New York, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo and Los Angeles.

But the BFC's initiative brings the technology to a new group of designers.

"In London only a few designers can afford the budget to do streaming, so by us being able to bring the technology to our own venue it means that the designers are... able to do it to such a high quality," BFC Joint Chief Executive Caroline Rush said.

Although it is too early for hard numbers on who is watching the shows, Rush says the response from the media and the industry has been good, and sees the initiative as a way for young designers to enter new markets.

"If you can demonstrate that you have got great audience in Japan or the US or Russia, then there's a good reason for you to start stocking these designers," she said.

British chain Topshop has been at the forefront of moves to open up fashion, turning around catwalk trends for the high street within weeks.

Its higher-priced Unique line – designed by the same team but sold through its boutique range – has also been on the official schedule here since 2005.

This season's show focused on the great outdoors, with fake fur coats and variations of boy scout uniforms – including a pair of scout green hotpants, which reflect the current high street trend for big knickers and shorts.

Karen Bonser, head of the Unique design team, said it was "brilliant" that fashion was becoming so accessible, adding of live streaming: "It's so instant and everyone can see it, I think it's wonderful." (AFP)


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