Best in show

| 4th December 2019
Pam Hogg
Simon Armstrong
'British fashion is an artistic industry comprised of anarchy, progressive talent, influential retail, arts and crafts.'

-

The annual British Fashion Council (BFC) industry awards and fundraiser held this week concludes an uneasy yet persistently buoyant year in fashion.

This autumn the London Design Festival (LDF) - a behemoth of all things design - clashed with London Fashion Week (LFW), another monster of events, which in turn overlapped with the legendary Goodwood Vintage Revival Festival.

Trying to attend everything  mammoth task.

Latest innovations

Several shows at LFW took a less prominent role than usual, which felt odd. LFW acts as a barometer of future fashion, not only in terms of style, but in signalling sources of inspiration for designers. 

The event platformed the latest innovations and hosted independent discussions that explored the ways in which current political and social issues are affecting fashion and design. There was a notable emphasis on ethics, an area only recently a focus for fashion.

These discussions asked, what will be translated from show to High Street store as 'retail for the people?' How will fashion editors, bloggers, buyers, students and stylists utilise catwalk finds - for example, at the Paul Costelloe show, with its beautifully, arduously tailored collections, bursting with colour. 

This show consciously utilised Irish and Italian heritage materials noted for their quality. Such gaiety may be read as a response to these politically unstable times, where Costelloe's futuristic, oversized sculpted shapes brimmed with optimism not to mention escapism. 

Access

All this is LFW in the normal scheme of things. But fashion week is never 'normal', given its often ludicrous expectations and implications, for designers and associates alike. And its hierarchy. Oh yes, attendees best 'dress to impress' and 'know their place', as reflected by exclusive-access areas and seating allocation. Over the seasons I've witnessed several spats between attendees coveting the front row or 'frow'.

Reportage from LFW is changing too, as social media continues to snowball and shake things up. Plus, this season's move by the British Fashion Council to sell tickets to the public to some shows significantly opens upon up what has traditionally been a trade-only event.

There is also greater pressure annually from environmental protesters at LFW, particularly from PETA, which played a part in changing policies at LFW - and rightly so. 

Brexit 

Added to this, lest we forget, Brexit! Fashion is facing much uncertainty. So this September especially, normality was an anomaly. What will LFW morph into post-Brexit? Deal or no deal? A no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for the fashion industry, which employs over 10,000 European staff and where freedom of movement is key. It is estimated that switching to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules would cost the industry around £900million, according to the BFC.

With designers keen to achieve high artistry, adopting a global approach to business - from sourcing fabric, through to finding quality pattern cutters - fashion's component parts traverse borders multiple times before arriving as a finished product. 

Samples are also taken to a variety of international markets and shows during selling season. This adds a level of complexity not dissimilar to other component goods industries such as the automotive industry.

British fashion is an artistic industry comprised of anarchy, progressive talent, influential retail, arts and crafts. This attracts tourists and attendees from overseas.

Pam Hogg

High priestess of punk, Pam Hogg is one such designer who not only champions diversity and anarchy but frequently works on a budget.

Here couture and ready to wear (RTW) garments are often decidedly niche and resultantly 'artistic anarchy in motion'. Her cult following is loyal and includes many musicians and celebrities. 

This season's show is one of her best. And just as well, given the oppressively hot venue with bright lights, rammed with Pam-devotees, but with little air and nowhere to get water-without losing one's coveted space. Folk began wilting.

Photographers in the 'pit' proved particularly irate, intensely uncomfortable and glued to each other in their own tiered hierarchy. They began shouting at an audience member seated in the front row whose feet protrude onto part of the runway. The 'offender' moved them to cheers all round. For a freelance photographer, space is money.

Best in show

Suddenly the lights were lowered then raised again, beaming the brightest rays and loudest music. 'Rrrruuuuf',  a dog barks on a soundtrack that opened the show and immediately there are 'people pooches' on parade.

There is often an element of an underworld of unashamed stylish seediness to Hogg's work, referencing club-land and 'outsiders'.  But this show is far more 'chic flounce' and, as ever, a welcome relief from the conventional 'pretty' in mainstream fashion.

Entitled 'Best in Show' its all pomp and 'poodle-ness' akin to the often ostentation of a dog show. The clothes look fantastic, fitting skin tightly in their shiny gold, gaudy glam.

One t-shirt reads 'Pam's poodle parlour' and I want it. Heart-warmingly, the model walks nonchalantly out as though his wholly eye-catching outfit is everyday wear. Followed by confident women of all shapes, skin colour and age.

Men are in make-up. Each model beautiful, uniquely individual and enhancing the designs. Pinks and patterned prints depicting dogs are writ loud on frilly full-skirted dresses. High hats that would be at home in 'Alice in Wonderland' add to the impact.

Two young men in high heels emerge, one leading the other on a dog leash, referencing S&M, drag queens and the music scene. All signify self expression and freedom through fashion. The marvellous misfits strut as though made for modelling and confident in their outfits. This is the stuff which makes LFW.

Proudly different

As well as championing diversity, Hogg channels contemporary new wave and its spirit of DIY crossed with couture.

Every show has something recycled. She's been doing this for years with her own clothes since aged 6, with 'hand-me-downs'. All the Hogg handmade couture pieces are made from leftover and found fabrics from way back.

Hogg explained: "The gold fabric I've re-used over and over, utilising the last in this show and purchased fifteen years ago. Some fabrics are 30 years old. The print I designed is new and for the 'selling collection'. The commercial element enables me to maintain studio rent. I've not sold to shops for years.”

In this respect Hogg has always done it 'her way'. Not the easiest path but persistently hedonist and realist in the sense of better enabling and encouraging people to 'be who they are'. Or in Hogg's couture, who they want to be.

This Author

Wendyrosie Scott is an anthropologist, journalist & stylist focusing on design & creative communities. She looks at positive partnerships between lifestyle trends & the natural world.

Image: ⓒ Simon Armstrong.

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