On the final day of London Fashion Week, usually the pace slows a little, you can start to relax, maybe even venture outside of the BFC and shop a little. Definitely not the case for the past two seasons, in fact these past two seasons I think the final day has been one of my favourites. I’ve been in great company, seen some awesome shows with some powerful messages, and had fun. See in the past London Fashion Week was frantic, it lost the fun, and in the last two seasons, it got a little bit of that fun vibe back.
So often when it gets to final day you’ve overdone what’s known as the ‘treadmill’, it’s when you schlep in and out of the BFC via the same entrance and exit on a loop over and over again for shows. There’s only so much time you can spend in the showrooms, on Day 1 they’re shiny and new and everything is amazing, but by Day 3 you know it all off by heart. So, when the opportunity arises to go offsite, quite often you just grab it, regardless of what it is, because you want off that damn treadmill.
Day 5 provided me with such an opportunity, a fashion designer and I guess, sort of a friend of mine, Chanel Joan Elkayam was holding an on schedule, but off site runway show in Camden on a February day that could have easily been mistaken for June. Counting Victoria Beckham and Cheryl Tweedy amongst her personal Fash Pack despite her mere 21 years, I was intrigued.
There’s so much to observe about this particular show and designer and none of it is about the clothes. First of all the show ran so late, we sat on the front row waiting for an hour for the show to start and in that time we watched as we waited, Chanel is a really interesting character. Yes she’s a fashion designer and a huge amount of money and preparation went into what was undeniably a huge show for her, her first on schedule show at London Fashion Week and rounding off the big four for her making her the youngest ever designer to show on schedule at New York, London, Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks – a huge achievement for a woman of her age. But here’s the thing, she wants you to notice the woman, not necessarily the clothes, and that’s unlike any fashion designer I have ever come across, ever. I mean sure, they might say it, but this one means it.
Trust me, we had the time to watch, to observe and to listen to what was going on around us in that unintentionally long break before the show. Chanel Joan Elkayam as a brand has always been about female empowerment, from her first collection La Sola Rosa, through to this I Don’t Follow I Lead collection. Elkayam believes in the power of an independent woman with a sovereign mind, her press statement reads that she believes strongly in the empowerment of women, that the Chanel Joan Elkayam woman is fearless and unstoppable, powerful and completely comfortable within her own body.
It’s not often you get the chance to play sleuth at a show, or really dig into exactly what the message or methodology is when it comes to fashion because designers are so very different and relatively inaccessible. With Chanel, you get the impression that the message is the driving force, not the collection, rather that the collection is the tool in which to deliver the message. Her campaign for FW19, I Don’t Follow I Lead, is borne out of a need to shed conformation and constraint and to lead, as we were meant to. Listening and watching, I genuinely get the impression that Chanel Joan Elkayam wants the world to sit up and take notice of women; all women, no matter what colour, shape, size or origin story.
Her choice of models for the show is inspired and reads like a roster for representation and diversity; transgender model and activist Munroe Bergdorf opened the show, followed by Kate Grant and a full line up of black, Asian and white models including a child model paired up in a matching outfit for the final walk. There were older models represented on the Chanel Joan Elkayam runway and it definitely felt that representation was the strongest message of all. Could this be a pivotal moment for London Fashion Week? Probably not, but something tells me that this woman knows that her message is every bit as important as her product, maybe even more so in this particular case, and that’s exactly her point here.