To add more to the plates of busy designers this season, the general election fell just a day before London Fashion Week Men’s began, causing designers to cast their votes in the midst of the fashion show frenzy. Although the result was surprising, with a diminished Conservative Party, a hung parliament, and a humiliated prime minister, many designers opted to focus on the positives. “The youth turnout was awesome. We have hope, we are engaging in politics, and voting for a 68-year-old man, a great guy,” designer Phoebe English said of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labor Party, which obtained thirty-two seats in the election.
As she spoke during her show on Friday while models in workwear clothing played with clay beside her, English zoned in on the fact that her generation is not interested in “robots, spin doctors, or politicians. We want human beings, I must have cried four times this morning, because people are using their voices to say they want change.” Despite official numbers not being available until later this week, an estimated 72 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted, according to an ITV poll. That is a significant increase from the 43 percent in the 2015 general election.
Designer Matthew Miller also acknowledged the youth surge saying, “I’m feeling positive that the younger generation has gone out and voted. It’s a politicized generation now that can express themselves and get involved in politics. It’s about time that they changed politicians’ attitudes. Politicians are essentially employed by us, the people, so it’s about time they started working for us.” Calling his collection “degenerate,” Miller’s models were dressed in punkish-appearing attire with blue or purple lipstick smeared across their mouths. The designer said it was his response to “this young generation which is now politicized, and their carefree, unadulterated freedom.”
Another designer, Daniel W. Fletcher, promised to dye his colorful, bright collection black if Prime Minister Theresa May won. However, he changed his mind since the result wasn’t particularly a victory for Conservatives. Instead, the designer opted to make a baseball cap with the word “OUT” stitched into the side in relation to his political protest. “I designed the cap pre-election, but now it has taken on a whole different meaning,” Fletcher said. “The Tories have formed a government with the Democratic Unionist Party, described by the LGBT community as ‘an abomination.’ As a gay man, I’m disgusted by it. So now, for me, the cap means out and proud.” From E. Tautz, Patrick Grant likes to define himself as a “centrist and progressive,” finding the concept of a hung parliament intriguing. “There is a lot of polarization in politics at the moment and a lot of posturing,” Grant said. “The fact that we’ve got a hung parliament is going to be interesting. I don’t mind it. It means that politicians actually have to debate, and it’s not about one big party sweeping through all sorts of whatever they want. It’s going to have to be about discussion and agreement and finding a consensus—and I think that’s good.”
Meanwhile, Brexit hangs in the back of many designers minds, who are concerned about what it will do to their business. During Graduate Fashion Week, many young designers were seen with printed slogans on their clothing on the runway. Martyn Roberts, the event’s creative and managing director, said, “It’s not something that we used to see in the past, but students now realize that you can’t ignore what’s going on around you. At the same time, they are all young and creative so the atmosphere is still very positive.”