The catwalk shows may have moved from New York to London, but the trends are being set in Silicon Valley. London fashion week's welcome speech, customarily given at Somerset House by Samantha Cameron or Boris Johnson, was instead beamed live from the Mountain View office of Google director Peter Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald may not have the star power of Cara Delevingne, but the British Fashion Council (BFC) believe he is just as key to the profile and success of this week's shows.
Fitzgerald revealed that his team had held pre-fashion week “digital bootcamps” with London's designers, at which “they were each challenged to do one thing digitally, this fashion week, that they had never done before”. He was introduced by Natalie Massenet, the BFC chair – who had just returned to London, not from New York fashion week but from Cupertino, having prioritised attending the unveiling of the Apple Watch over the Manhattan catwalk shows.
The carrot with which Fitzgerald and his team are tempting designers online is that “the designers who are digitally engaged are doing two to four times better than those who aren't,” he said. When the BFC launched their digital campaign within the industry a year ago, 33% of designers had e-commerce websites. That figure has grown to 43%. “Our target is 100%. And I believe we will get there,” said Massenet. After all, she has more than a decade of experience in how a partnership between fashion and the digital world can be mutually advantageous. The founder of Net-a-Porter, she sold the online fashion retailer in 2010 for an estimated £50m. She retains the role of executive chairman at the company.