London Fashion Week | Creativity in a time of crisis

Beth Ditto magazine cover, courtesy of LOVE

LONDON, United Kingdom — With the economy in the doldrums and the raging debate about “how long this will last” in full throttle, we have been distracted from the creative heart that is the fashion industry.

Thank goodness for Katie Grand, Todd Lynn and Christopher Kane.

In a recent interview with Ponystep about the launch of LOVE magazine, Grand reveals herself to be true to her creative sensibilities, especially given the emotional depth with which she approaches her magazine projects. She’s candid about her widely-publicised departure from POP, a magazine she created more than eight years ago, billed as “the world’s first superglossy.”

Last year, in a move which was actively speculated upon in the press during the months prior, Grand announced her new magazine project with CondeNast. The timing of such a launch by the world’s most famous magazine publisher might seem questionable to some — in case you hadn’t heard, the economy is in freefall and ad spending has plummeted at major titles like Vogue.

But open up LOVE magazine and you will find pages and pages of ads that must make the editors of other fashion tomes downright red with envy. Creatively, Grand has organised the magazine by A to Z and, she says, scaled back the retouching to make things structurally and aesthetically different from her POP days.

The response to the LOVE magazine itself, predictably, has been mixed. There is a pretty unanimous view, however, that the photography is stunning, especially the Mert and Marcus shoot of Beth Ditto. But while some critics are hailing Grand’s choice of Ditto for the cover as a genius decision, others have called it hypocritical when compared to the other subjects in the rest of the magazine. Some have noted that NME, the music magazine, had already put Ditto on their cover 2 years ago, albeit with a very different outcome.

By the way, I know all of this despite the fact that I haven’t even been able to see LOVE for myself. There is extensive coverage of the launch in major British newspapers, trade magazines, fashion websites and blogs around the world. And the magazine was sold out in the shops I checked in between shows today in London.

Clearly, this is a magazine that has got people talking. Regardless of where people stand, it’s nice to hear some real debate on the creative output of the fashion business, in addition to the discussion about the current economic crisis. And, if two outstanding shows in London today are any indication, creativity might be the salve that helps get us through it.

Half-way through Todd Lynn’s show, Net-a-Porter’s Natalie Massenet whispered to me that Lynn had “leaped”, in a way that saw his nascent talent soar. In his best collection to date, he showed a series of lean tailored looks with a modern edge, juxtaposed against a background of religious music and models who carried stylised rosaries-cum-jewelry.

A few hours later, Christopher Kane also impressed with a stunning show of lightness, iridescent colours, and geometric lines. That this focused collection comes from a 26 year-old, still only in his sixth season at London Fashion Week, never ceases to amaze. Kane continues to show he has a vision of his own.

For savvy buyers like Natalie Massenet who still actively attend the London shows, spotting and supporting this kind of creativity is paying off. The online retail segment is the last bastion of rapid growth in the fashion business, and when paired with creativity, its power is undeniable. Earlier this month, Christopher Kane’s Spring/Summer 2009 collection, ‘Pre-Historic,’ sold out completely on its first day on Net-a-Porter.

If that’s not an endorsement for creativity in a time of crisis, I don’t know what is.

Imran Amed is Editor of The Business of Fashion