London Fashion Week opens with online focus
London Fashion Week opens with online focus Twitter

London Fashion Week kicks off on Thursday with a livestreamed show from Burberry but without the hordes of industry insiders, A-listers and journalists who usually flock to it from around the world.

The twice-annual event aims to be both more intimate and open, organisers say, with the coronavirus pandemic meaning only a handful of "physical" shows will be staged.

Around 80 designers will present their latest collections during the six days of showings, some in catwalk presentations but most via videos posted on the Fashion Week's official website.

Among the designers daring to hold public parades -- with plenty of social distancing -- are London-based Turkish creator Bora Aksu, luxury knitwear pioneer Mark Fast and the Chinese brand PRONOUNCE.

Their shows will be broadcast live online, "an essential tool for our brand to express our seasonal message on a global scale," Fast told Vogue Business.

"An online streaming of a fashion show will reach tens of thousands on the day, and hundreds of thousands, if not more, throughout the season."

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First on Twitch

Britain's Burberry will kick off the week with a show broadcast online at 12:00 GMT.

For the spring-summer 2021 collection, Riccardo Tisci, its Italian designer, collaborated with the German artist Anne Imhof for a "radical meeting of fashion and art".

This uninhabited wilderness show will be streamed live for the first time on Amazon-owned Twitch, a platform that popularised communal video gaming by including comments from players and spectators.

"Twitch unlocks an exciting new space where our Burberry community can be digitally transported to feel like they have a virtual seat at our live show," said Rod Manley, the company's chief marketing officer.

"It is an interactive experience where guests can connect with both our brand and each other whilst personalising their viewing journey," he added in a statement.

Other highlights of the week include the collections of former Spice Girl turned designer Victoria Beckham, London-based South Korean creator Eudon Choi and Briton Molly Goddard.

In normal times, fashion labels typically compete to stage their shows in the most extravagant settings, hoping to attract VIPs and influencers posting photos from the event.

But amid ongoing restrictions due to the virus, which has claimed more than 41,600 lives in Britain and where cases are climbing again, fashion has moved firmly to the internet.

Elle UK editor-in-chief Farrah Storr said she is preparing to watch the week's opening shows from her kitchen table "in my cashmere joggers".

"In the front row, it will just be me and my two dogs looking at clothes that I hope people can wear in six months," she told the Daily Mail.

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Emergency fund

Despite the new reality, London Fashion Week organisers have hailed the fact that the event is being held.

"(It) is one of the few international events to still be going ahead in London, proving the industry's resilience, creativity, and innovation in difficult times," the British Fashion Council (BFC) said in a statement.

The fashion industry, which employs over 890,000 people in Britain, contributed £35 billion ($45 billion, 38 billion euros) to the country's GDP last year.

But the BFC warned it "faces enormous challenges due to the impact of COVID-19" and has set up a £1-million emergency fund to help designers.

Traditionally devoted to women's fashion, this September Fashion Week is the first to switch to a new-normal "gender neutral" format, showcasing men's, women's and mixed collections.