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Heading Into London Fashion Week, Brands Have Some Tough Calls to Make

This week, Britain’s fashion industry is weighing its options as the nation mourns the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Tributes to Queen Elizabeth II are placed outside Buckingham Palace.
Tributes to Queen Elizabeth II are placed outside Buckingham Palace. (Gareth Copley)
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This week, Britain’s fashion industry has some tough calls to make. The country is in mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the only monarch most UK citizens have ever known.

Last week, following the announcement of her death, some British retailers closed their stores and added banners to their websites offering tributes to the Queen. It should be back to business as usual on high streets this week, even as the nation continues its period of official mourning. Fashion week is another matter. Designers face the delicate question of whether to cancel catwalks and events, adjust their plans or simply forge ahead. Burberry and Raf Simons, two of the biggest names on the schedule, have already cancelled their shows. But some brands, who can’t as easily pivot their plans, including Simone Rocha, Harris Reed, Molly Goddard, Erdem and Huishan Zhang, say they’ll be moving forward.

In a statement, The British Fashion Council made the case that London Fashion Week is a “business-to-business event,” implying that brands could stage their shows with a clear conscience. “We recognise that there is an extraordinary hard work that goes into preparing for London Fashion Week with many new developing businesses that need access to international trade,” the organisation said.

But the organizing body has suggested that designers delay sharing more consumer-facing post-show content and cancel their parties (the BFC is planning a “celebration of London Fashion Week” in October). That would be practical guidance in another era, but fashion week hasn’t been a purely B2B affair since the advent of social media and many brands measure the return on their shows in Instagram engagement and key press coverage as well as orders from buyers. A key reason fashion weeks bounced back so quickly after 2020 is that brands discovered that runway shows are irreplaceable as marketing events. In other words, the post-show content is often the point.

Many brands likely have little choice but to proceed with muted versions of their original plans; smaller labels in particular can’t afford to cancel their shows at this late date, though they must take care not to be seen as trying to compete for attention with the Queen’s funeral, now set for Monday the 19th. It’s an about-face from the outlook prior to last week. Burberry’s return to the schedule, along with a handful of other big names, including JW Anderson and Raf Simons, was meant to pump up an industry that’s facing steep inflation, a stagnant economy and a generally dour national mood.

What Else to Watch This Week

Sunday

New York Fashion Week continues; the day’s highlights include Sandy Liang, Puppets & Puppets, Khaite, Ulla Johnson, Luar, Tommy Hilfiger

Monday

Emmy Awards

NYFW Day 4: Carolina Herrera, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Dennis Basso (40th anniversary), Interior, Area, Priscavera, Coach, Laquan Smith

Tuesday

NYFW Day 5: Rentrayage, Brandon Maxwell, Aknvas, Maise Wilen, Peter Do, Tory Burch, Puma

The Ethereum blockchain “merge” begins sometime between Sept. 13 and Sept. 15

US inflation data for August released

Wednesday

NYFW Day 6: Batsheva, Michael Kors, Theophilio, Tom Ford

Inditex quarterly results

Thursday

London Fashion Week begins, runs through Sept. 20

Mytheresa, H&M results

US retail sales for August

Friday

Shein opens London pop-up

European Union inflation data for August

The Week Ahead wants to hear from you! Send tips, suggestions, complaints and compliments to brian.baskin@businessoffashion.com.

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