Is high fashion more accessible than ever?

Chloe Dootson-Graube writes that her experience at London Fashion Week shows that fashion is becoming more accessible

As it is said, fashion weeks come and fashion weeks go, but LFW SS18 was marked by a certain revelation; Burberry produced its second ever collection to deliver the product straight from the runway to the consumer, with clothing seen on the models available to the regular buyer instantly, in-store and online. When this scheme was launched it was predicted that it would cause a shake-up within haute couture, as the fashion industry is a delicate equilibrium sustained through its seasonal schedule and demand-supply based enterprise.

As SS18 didn’t end in flaming carnage run through with mobs of the masses, one can only assume that these fears were misplaced. Together with the rise of livestreamed shows and collections becoming viewable online, could this signify a movement to a fashion industry that is less elitist in its approach to both its creators and buyers? The fashion editors decided to take ourselves out of the office to investigate. After a couple of weeks of planning, we arrived at Covent Garden bedecked in fashion week appropriate attire (read: looking very extra). We entitled this venture ‘Budget Fashion Week’, as it turns out the likes of Burberry, Shrimps and their other reasonably large compatriots aren’t willing to dole out tickets to student journalists with a week’s notice.

This is fine, and indeed the question is already partly answered: no, haute couture is not particularly accessible to student journalists, not even such illustrious ones as ourselves. We decided that Christopher Kane probably did not issue an invitation on account of some bitterness towards Cherwell Fashion’s recent Croc exposé. As we have said, this is fine. Haute couture hates student journalism, but it is fine. So we find ourselves at Fashion Scout at Covent Garden’s Freemason’s Hall to watch Leaf XIA and Irynvigre. Fashion Scout, to the uninitiated, is a venue that seeks to showcase lesser known and upcoming designers, and is subsequently one of the most accessible spots in London Fashion Week.

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For Leaf XIA, we were ushered to a standing spot in the back, which provided an optimal view of the the audience; for Irynvigre we were landed with whopping second row seats.
In terms of looks, Leaf XIA seemed to encapsulate the term ‘kawaii’ with lurid fabrics and dolly shapes. MIA played in the background. For a moment, I was truly happy. Irynvigre was certainly a brand, as it was termed, ‘for rich bitches’ – floaty and sheer garments glided down the runway on ethereal models.

Never in my life, I remarked, had I ever seen anyone nearly as tall as the barefoot models on that runway. Sizing of models and subsequently, collections remains a staple criticism in the accessibility debate, and with good reason, too, as neither of us could physically envisage ourselves in these clothes without looking like some kind of textile based art installation.

However, Fashion Week is just as much about fashion as a culture as it is about the clothing, and despite the various efforts to livestream and show collections remotely, some- thing is lost in translation. You won’t be told about the various orgies that have occurred in the venue and the conspiracy theories of its founder by means of livestream.

Notable front rowers across the event included someone who was wearing an inflatable costume who is apparently semi-famous, members of what could equally be a cult or a Russian boyband wearing matching jackets emblazoned with the logo ‘the Fourth Kingdom,’ somebody who we thought was in JLS but was probably not, and many other gorgeous people. Fashion Scout, we conferred, is truly the promised land.

We even spotted Molly Goddard, dresser to Rihanna, in a very puffy creation of her own design. I think it is therefore fair to say that Fashion Week is therefore a place where the fantastical is realised. That which only exists in the collective unconscious, and by extension, Instagram is projected onto the streets before us.

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In this respect, we certainly got the fashion week experience, budget or not. While we certainly weren’t doing bumps of coke off Mr Burberry’s Chest (the true fashion week experience?) the fact that we had the opportunity to take a seat at the showcasing of new British talent is a compelling argument for the idea that high fashion is finally becoming accessible to a new audience.

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