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Are Sponsorships Ruining Creativity at London Fashion Week?

>> When Alexander McQueen was showing in the mid-'90s, he had Trino Verkade telephone three florists to wrangle heather and thistles for his Highland Rape show and then convince Liberty to mail the invitations for another one of his shows. “Honestly, I was trashy in the way I got money,” Ms. Verkade says. “It was also a time in London when everything was depressed. We were young.”

Now, however, sponsorships and corporate awards are more prevalent in London than anywhere else, and "most young designers, the thinking goes," writes Cathy Horyn, "couldn’t afford the costs of exposure without them." But, she continues, "the new generation of designers, while not exactly having it easy, has certainly been exposed to the system of sponsorships. And you wonder if it’s good for creativity . . . That almost childish refusal to take full responsibility for how their work is presented — as Mr. McQueen and [Hussein] Chalayan did [in the '90s and early '00s] — also seems to retard their creative powers."

Louise Wilson, the influential director of Central Saint Martins's master's program, says: “There is this omnipresent support here in England, and I’ll tell you what it’s done. There’s no risk. I think this generation has never chosen how they want to show.” Instead, the young designers rely on spaces financed by the likes of Topshop, and Wilson thinks they are not “looking for solutions to their own problems.” Chalayan agrees: "[Young designers] “are concerned about what the City thinks” — meaning potential backers and sponsors.

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