With London Fashion Week fast approaching, we won’t only be paying close attention to the clothes, but also the inevitable drama which will unfold.
Fashion week is an excuse for designers to really be experimental and performative; with the models they choose, the sets they create as well as the clothes they send down the runway.
London Fashion Week is traditionally seen as younger and more daring than the following events in Milan and Paris. This means there’s a bit more scope for controversy on the London catwalks, which might be frowned upon on the continent.
This season is already set to be a dramatic one, what with Extinction Rebellion wanting to shut down shows and the horrors of Brexit rumbling on in the background, so there certainly will be a lot for designers to comment on. But in the meantime, let’s have a look back at some of the most shocking and controversial moments in London Fashion Week’s history, as we gear up for another season full of drama to begin on Thursday.
Hussein Chalayan’s most scandalous LFW show involved models in various stages of nudity wearing headscarves, but the one he will really be remembered for when he turned a table into a skirt on the runway.
Chalayan's work has always been on the architectural, experimental side of fashion, and he really took this to a new level for AW00. The stage was set up simply, with four chairs and a wooden coffee table. The models came in and four them took off the chair covers and put them on as dresses, and another model stepped into the table and lifted it up to create a crisp tiered skirt.
It’s a show which has gone down in history, showing how unexpected fashion can be. It was a play on minimalism and blurred the lines between architecture and fashion, setting the tone for Chalayan’s experimental and boundary-pushing career.
Where to begin with Alexander McQueen? The designer was both the enfant terrible and darling of the fashion world, producing groundbreaking shows and outfits which aimed to shock. Just take the AW95 show which was called ‘Highland Rape’.
According to McQueen, this was about the historical treatment of the Scottish by the English, which the designer wanted to focus on as he was descended from Scots. The show’s content was shocking: models ran down the catwalk in various states of disarray with their clothes ripped and falling off them.
The item of clothing which really scandalised the fashion world was McQueen’s now-notorious ‘bumsters’ – trousers slung so low they revealed models’ hip bones.
Or what about the show McQueen put on in September 1998, where model Shalom Harlow wore a beautiful white dress only to be spray painted by robots. It was a startling destruction of expensive clothing right in front of a live audience, and was a commentary on the rising power of technology.
Vivienne Westwood’s shows always stir up controversy because of their political messages. Whether it’s discussing Guantanamo Bay in 2008, the climate emergency in 2012, or an anti-fracking demonstration in 2016, Westwood isn’t afraid to make a statement.
She’s more than happy to skewer those in power with her fashion, with clothes featuring slogans like "politicians are criminals" and "austerity is a crime".
When politics isn’t on the menu, Westwood’s shows hit headlines when models inevitably take a tumble in her notoriously sky-high heels.
You wouldn’t expect much drama or outrage at a milliner’s show, would you? Even though you might associate milliners with prim and proper affairs like royal weddings or Ascot, Irish designer Philip Treacy knows how to buck a trend – as well as making hats for traditional events.
None other than Grace Jones entered Treacy’s SS01 show on top of a black stretch limousine, wearing a gold hat and dancing for all to see. What could be more rockstar than that?
Now, high fashion Crocs have become part of the fabric of our society. But back in 2016, the fashion world was aghast when Christopher Kane bejewelled some Crocs and sent them down the runway.
Mixing the high and the low and indulging in ‘ugly’ shoes is the norm now, but it certainly was shocking when Kane first collaborated with the shoe brand.