London fashion week is really in the entertainment business these days. The livestreaming of Burberryâs upcoming catwalk show on Monday evening is being trailed with the kind of full-page magazine advertising that would befit the pilot of a buzzy new TV drama.
The extra-wide pavement outside the new Aldwych catwalk venue has been commandeered as a stage on which street style stars parade for their insatiable Instagram audience.
Zayn Malik, the former One Direction singer recently tapped by Donatella Versace as a guest designer, is expected to watch his girlfriend Gigi Hadid open the Versus â Versaceâs younger line â show on Saturday night.
Versace, who has taken over the first floor of the nearby Hilton hotel as a pop-up atelier in the run-up to Saturdayâs show, took inspiration this season from new generation supermodels Hadid and her sister Bella (âthey always like to show their absâ) and from the Lady Gaga fans she saw at this yearâs Super Bowl (âI was watching them and I love how each one celebrates her but in their own way, not by imitating her look.â)
New for both men and women on the Versus runway will be scuba fabric biker-style boots. Versace, dressed for fittings in a colourful parachute-silk parka over a curvy purple cocktail dress, described them as âsuper comfortable â but not for me. For Versus, I think about how the young people get dressed.â
But this is also an industry which has been politicised by the sharp impact of Brexit and tuition fees.
While the average heel height (10cm/4in) and earring length (ditto) at the breakfast launch event seemed to signal cocktail chat, anyone looking for light relief from the worldâs political, economic and moral issues would have been disappointed.
After the shock and panic that hung over Septemberâs shows, the industryâs ideological opposition to Brexit now comes with a side order of pragmatic spirit.
Dame Natalie Massenetâs speech at Fridayâs launch event began with how âinclusivity is at the heart of British fashion, and London fashion week is a brilliant example of the diversity of this cityâ, but challenged designers to be bold in business in times of upheaval.
Tariffs and the international nature of the fashion workforce are the most pressing concerns.
Designer Anya Hindmarch, who attended the launch, said: âTalent is the key issue. The tariffs we will find a way to cope with. Around 20% of my team are not British, so that is what feels most important to us.â
John Davidson, co-founder of British luxury leather goods company J&M Davidson, said: âWe should have stayed in. But now, to be honest, Iâm feeling pretty confident.
âWeâre in business, we have to move on, and a trade agreement with America could be a good thing.â
The fashion industry also faces a threat from hefty university tuition fees. The British Fashion Councilâs education spokeswoman, Sarah Mower, described a âcreative gene pool being erodedâ by a system which now leaves MA graduates with Â£50,000 of debt.
After Fridayâs breakfast launch, the political baton was taken up by the first designer to show, Teatum Jones.
To a soundtrack of Meryl Streep lambasting Donald Trump for his mockery of a disabled reporter, the diverse casting included two disabled models.
Kelly Knox, born without the lower part of her left arm, wore a bronze shirt over orange trousers while Jack Eyers, who had a leg amputated when he was 16, modelled a chalk-daubed trouser suit.
Designer Roland Mouretâs return from Paris to the London catwalk on Sunday, 12 years after his smash hit Galaxy dress, promises to be a celebratory highlight.
And designer Richard Nicoll, who died suddenly aged 39 last October, is being honoured by a tribute wall at the catwalk venue painted in âNicoll blueâ, created by colour authority Pantone in tribute to him.