London Fashion Week kicked off with a twist on Thursday night: in a beautifully distressed Oxo Tower venue, super stylist Bay Garnett assembled a collection of outstanding outfits – using only secondhand stock from Oxfam.
Fashion Fighting Poverty was Oxfam’s first ever fashion show on the London Fashion Week schedule, showcasing a precise selection clothes from the charity’s massive Milton Keynes and Batley warehouses.
Supermodels Erin O’Connor, Stella Tennant and Cecilia Chancellor opened the show, sleek in androgynous suiting; designer Bella Freud and actress Clara Paget followed, in fluttering silk and a figure-hugging puff-sleeved dress.
All profits from Oxfam’s fashion sales go to fund the charity’s vital overseas projects – but the show contained a second reminder: by buying secondhand, shoppers avoid contributing to the vicious circle of fast fashion that feeds off low workers wages and the use of precious resources.
Using all the tropes associated with traditional trend-led fashion – the catwalk, the quirky venue, stunning models – Fashion Fighting Poverty was a moment of joyous anarchy that invited the fashion consumer to do something positive with their purchasing.
‘Digging around in charity shops and putting stuff together to make looks is what I do – and love doing,’ says Garnett, who is also Vogue contributing editor, consultant to Louis Vuitton and co-founder of cult magazine Cheap Date. ‘This show gave me something extra. It’s a really constructive project because Oxfam’s clothes make money for the greater good.’
The show encourages us to use our own creativity when we dress. Of course, we are not all Erin, Stella and Cecilia – all of whom could patently make 1960s polyester look stunning – and we’re not all Bay, with her unerring eye for contrast and piquancy. But the fun, surely, is in finding out how close we can get.
All of the clothes worn at the show were previously owned and will be for sale on Oxfam’s online shop next week.