The strangest London fashion week yet continued on Sunday with a show that brought drones, explosions and military garb to an idyllic spot in the Buckinghamshire countryside.
The show was produced by Paria Farzaneh, a rising British star who has described her work in fashion as “merely a platform for something bigger”. It was the latest and most unusual fashion week attempt to reflect current, discombobulating times, while also sticking to social-distancing guidelines.
In what felt like a scene from an apocalyptic movie, a handful of editors and buyers arrived at a sunny farm in Little Missenden, near Amersham, and sat on the grass looking out over rolling hills. Ominous music began, and frightening pyrotechnics in which firecrackers popped like gunshots amid plumes of fire and billowing smoke. Models appeared, wearing camouflage and utility-influenced clothing – including a large-skirted chartreuse gown with cargo-pant style pockets, worn with a bomber jacket.
“There are troubles in America,” said Farzaneh in notes distributed at the show, which sought to explain how US-based members of her team had been affected during the creation of the collection. One had had to evacuate her home owing to wildfires. Another was pepper-sprayed by police in Chicago. “We all share the common goal, creativity runs strong in our blood, and we can’t let it go, especially not now.” The notes also urged a push for change: “we can plant the seed for a new perspective.”
Farzaneh, who grew up in rural Yorkshire, has Iranian parents. She often refers to this heritage in her collections, which are frequently produced using plant-based dyes and traditional, handmade Iranian textiles. Her previous show, in January, was staged in east London and recreated the traditions of an Iranian wedding complete with bride, groom and full ceremony, delivered in Farsi.
This unsettling presentation felt fitting for a London fashion week in which the usual gloss and fanfare has been replaced by a much-reduced schedule of films, digital events and just a couple of shows with limited guests, as the fashion industry grapples with falling sales, as well as its cultural relevance, in an age of crisis.
Some designers have veered towards mood-lifting statements, such as Michael Halpern, whose presentations on Friday starred not models but key workers in exuberant feather bubble-dresses.