London Fashion Week Had Its Own Designer Exodus 15 Years Ago—Here’s How the City Turned Things Around

by MR Magazine Staff

London remembers exactly what it’s like to lose its youngbloods to Paris. Those of us who had a view of the apocalypse of 2002 are never likely to forget the backs-against-the-wall feeling when Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, and Hussein Chalayan all announced they were leaving. Every single one of the magnet designers of London’s edgy ’90s reputation, the jeunesse dorée, all upped to show in Paris, and it was horrible. There was fear, criticism, back-biting, blaming. Small designers were screaming at the authorities and going out of business. The press was full of derision about the hopelessness and disgrace of London Fashion Week. Its commercial uselessness. The abandonment of a creaking infrastructure. Let the last one out switch off the lights! Now that Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, Thom Browne, and Joseph Altuzarra have decided to leave New York to show in Paris, those awkward memories are rolling back. There’s no sense of schadenfreude. Londoners like me can only empathize with the feelings that must be stirring on the brink of New York Fashion Week, because it is emotional for a city to see its young, homegrown talent leave. Internally, there will be hurt, anger, affronted patriotism, resentment, exasperation. Externally, there’s the question of how it could be interpreted abroad: Are New York’s young designers bailing because of Donald Trump? In London, we know all about the ambivalence: “How dare they bite the hands that fed them” is the thinking one minute, and “We proudly wish them well in their endeavor” the next. Back then, no amount of pleading from the British Fashion Council, cajoling about national loyalty, arm twisting, promises, bossiness—none of it did any good to bring those stars back. But if there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s to leverage those feelings and act on them. London regrouped in those darkest hours. There was a point when some of us looked at ourselves and said, “We’re not going to let this happen to the next generation.” Read more at Vogue.