Capital or Culture?

The old adage: be true to yourself and you can't go too wrong is never truer than when in fashion.

Feature by Lucia Van Der Bast | 16 Apr 2006

London Fashion Week (LFW) took place this February showcasing the latest looks for Autumn/Winter 2006. With ever increasing numbers of designers the hardest thing for everyone involved is seeking out pieces that really shine through with design, integrity and commercial viability. Get it wrong and you risk your career. If you create the look of the next season you are made, with most going on to design for major fashion houses a la John Galliano for Dior, it's the golden handshake at the end of the rainbow.

However, if the clothes aren't wearable then they won't make money as primarily LFW is about selling to the boutiques across the UK and their customers, with a few major foreign buyers and houses peeking at the more established designers here and there.

Taking part costs a fortune so designers often tie in with corporate sponsors, sometimes with horrendous results; It is all too obvious when designers make commercial decisions that may lose them existing fans. One example was milliner Philip Treacy's Umbro collection, where bizarre hats were mixed with tracksuits and lycra. Very edgy? Yes. Wearable? No. This from the man who achieved the impossible, creating Camilla Parker-Bowles' chic headgear for her wedding to HRH Prince Charles.

The old adage: be true to yourself and you can't go too wrong is never truer than when in fashion. Martyn Roberts of Embassy HQ in London has specialised in sourcing sponsorship for shows and campaigns for emerging fashion talent for years, "With so many people graduating these days it's impossible for corporates to provide cash for all, the knack is recognising and retaining young talent and forging a relationship that will go the distance. Too many designers don't take into account the marketing strategies of companies they approach. If however, clients with a fashion brief are sealed in a deal with a fashion industry favourite then both benefit."

There are many examples of successful affiliations, the closest to home being VisitScotland's sponsorship of Glaswegian Jonathan Saunders. A few seasons ago Saunders was a darling in denims not long off his Central St Martins MA course that you would bump into in the East End pub. Now he is an A-lister who's designs grace magazines like US Vogue. In return for their support VisitScotland gain heaps of coverage, including watching US Vogue's infamous Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour reading their brochures at his latest show, alongside every other international front row journo. Everybody benefits.

New catwalk trends included colour palettes, silhouettes and all the usual that affects the hemline. The key next season will be to wear grey and deep, dusky burgundy or darkest blue which I think relates to the current sociological and political climate. Amongst all this war, famine, pestilence and plague the industry is self-conscious. Fabrics are natural and authentic, note the recent Fair Trade expansion into a famously sweat-shop focused High Street. The silks, cashmere and cottons seen on the best catwalks are next season put together in an exquisite way that caress the body and reassure the buyer.

Scotland is embracing this by becoming a global epicentre of all things authentic, and cashmere companies like Johnstons of Elgin already employ locals to run their mills and create products that are genuinely seen on the catwalks of London, Milan, Paris and New York, outwith their own collections. These intensely credible companies are currently the talk of the industry as everyone scrabbles to embrace brands standing the test of saleability vs. creativity, and within an industry plagued by capitalist accusations it's can only be good to support your own. That's the major trend for next season.

Next issue? The revival of the once world renowned British lace industry and how it's back, not just in the UK, but on Parisian Couture Catwalks – big style.