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London Fashion Week began on Friday with its most public schedule to date. Following its move from Somerset House, where it has been staged for the past five years, to a multistorey car park in London’s Soho, organiser the British Fashion Council has renewed efforts to establish a citywide programme.
Increasingly, the reach of shows extends beyond the industry’s 5,000 guests, with live events offering a more direct way for brands to connect with consumers. This season, 78 designers will show in the official programme: a mix of 52 shows and 26 presentations that will be seen by approximately 5,000 members of the press, representing 71 countries. And this year, as part of the British Fashion Council’s Golden Square plans, catwalk shows, fashion films and presentations will be screened live at an outdoor cinema in the square in Soho.
Alasdhair Willis, creative director of Hunter, one of the labels whose show will be screened in Golden Square, sees the commercial opportunity in connecting LFW with the public — the brand has live-streamed its own shows since 2014.
“Democratising the show through live-streaming has been key to communicating our brand message,” he said ahead of the Hunter show at 2pm on Saturday. “Immediately following the live stream, we’ll be launching a competition exclusively for those watching at Golden Square, giving us an unparalleled commercial opportunity to speak to an engaged audience and then drive them into our nearby Regent Street store.”
A stalwart of the London schedule — and arguably the biggest spectacle of the British season — Burberry will offer Snapchat’s 100m daily users exclusive previews of its spring/summer 2016 collection on Sunday, ahead of its live show on Monday at 1pm. Last season, millions tuned in for the live screening of the show in Perk’s Field, Hyde Park. The Snapchat show will preview the SS16 looks in their last stages of production to offer an alternative glimpse of unfinished items in the collection that even members of the fashion press are unlikely to have seen at their previews.
As well as design houses, the British high street also plays a big part in the London schedule — a point of difference between LFW and its counterparts in New York, Milan and Paris. Among the BFC’s Brewer Street car park events are screenings, sponsored by River Island, featuring films from veteran British designers Zandra Rhodes and emerging talent Mary Benson.
Topshop Unique, the second-largest event in the schedule after Burberry, and a big driver of social media traffic, has teamed up with Pinterest to create a shoppable colour palette to engage customers.
“We recognise that the power of colour on our consumer is huge; it has the ability to inspire, excite and drive purchases while engaging our customers in the excitement of London Fashion Week,” said Sheena Sauvaire, Topshop’s global marketing and communications director.