It was only a mere few days ago when Natalie Massenet, who accepted her Damehood at Buckingham Palace this week, was quoted describing London as a world “capital for fashion and technology”. On hearing this I thought, is it? Sure, London should definitely get 5 stars for trying to keep up with the Jones’ when it comes to progression, but for the BFC Chairman to also describe London as “well ahead of the competition”, I am sorry Ms Massenet, I must strongly disagree.
If we take a step back and take a look at fashion technology on a whole we will come to the realise that global cities are all currently at various stages of opening up to the world of Fashion Technology. Some cities are more ahead than others, but I would not, at this moment in time, put London in the box of the “most progressive” city when it comes to how it is embracing Fashion Technology. That being said, I am happy to put my hands up and admit that London is definitely making its mark in Retail Technology, especially with brands like Burberry and Farfetch leading the way. However allow me to take this moment to educate you, Fashion Technology and Retail Technology might be part of the same family but they are not the same thing.
To continue, as a Brit who has been in the fashion industry for many years, I am happy to say that London is a capital with a lot of talent to be proud off, it is just unfortunate that its adoption of technology has been a slow and hesitant one. We can all acknowledge that there are many areas of fashion that London naturally excels in but fashion technology seems not to be one of them. In order to align ourselves with cities achieving greatness we need to keep an ‘open mind’ and support designers. The support I am talking about goes beyond occasionally throwing an innovative designer a bone, I want to see the same support given to the Emilia Wickstead‘s of the fashion world also bestowed upon the fashion designers of the tech world.
Going forward, as an observer, I think that for London to be considered a global leader in smart fashion, it needs to re-evaluate its relationship with technology, when it comes to design. How can we go from labeling fashion tech as ‘a trend’, ‘a buzzword’, ‘a thing’ to actually introducing it to the mainstream consumer as ‘the norm’? With 140 designers scheduled to show at LFW, how many of them will be inspiring us with the use of technology innovation on the runway? Will it be an everyday dress that reacts to its environment or a sustainable jacket designed with social responsibility? In order to answer these questions, I think we need to step away from the gadgetry and ask ourselves is it Convenient? Is it about the Consumer? Is it Current?
This season LFW will be installing 60 screens across the country during London Fashion Week. A lovely idea by LFW and BFC to take the initiative to broadcast footage and highlights to fashion enthusiasts, but that unfortunately does not quite qualify London as the “capital of fashion technology”. Instead lets also show the world our technology achievements through support for the new upcoming designers who think outside the box. They are the ones who are either integrating technology into their designs or using technology to create their collection because its not the selling of the idea that needs the support its the artistry.
For an industry worth 26 billion, I think now is the time we show the world how a multi-fashion city functions. Wouldn’t it be great to see the BFC taking on the role of nurturing cheerleader and fiercely support UK talent in all areas of fashion? Wouldn’t it be the icing on the cake if fashion publications like Elle, Grazia, Cosmopolitan, took it upon themselves to give innovators, startups, fashion tech labels and sustainable fashion brands a voice and some valuable column inches on a more regular basis? The answer is yes it would be.
With those words in mind, Massenet, Rush and the head honchos at the BFC need to take a leaf out of cities like Amsterdam, Berlin and even New York. These are cities that have come to realise that just dipping their toe into the pool of technology would not keep them ahead of the competition. If London wants to be labelled as such, it needs to take a deep breath and dive straight in. It is no longer enough for London to simply be seen as the first capital to live stream its shows (which the began back in 2009), people are now wondering what else has London’s fashion industry done to support the vision of its talent. Because living and breathing the digital world is great, but let’s give the global audience something to talk about, let’s give them variety, only then could London be truly considered the world’s capital for fashion and technology.