London Fashion Week will become gender neutral for 12 months as the British Fashion Council abandons binary shows starting this June.

The move, announced by the council in a news statement, effectively presses pause on London Fashion Week Men’s, which started in 2012 to give designers a distinct platform to grow the industry.

The combined menswear and womenswear format come as the global fashion industry contends with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut stores worldwide, forcing retailers to cancel orders and find other savings as sales fall.

The first combined London Fashion Week starts on June 12 and will be digital-only due to strict UK lockdown rules that prevent public gatherings of more than two people. The UK has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, recording more than 16,000 deaths.

In the statement, the British Fashion Council said the combined London Fashion Week would give designers more flexibility and reflect the event’s role as a platform for the city’s “influence on society, identity and culture.”

“The current pandemic is leading us all to reflect more poignantly on the society we live in and how we want to live our lives and build businesses when we get through this,” said Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council.

“The other side of this crisis, we hope will be about sustainability, creativity and product that you value, respect, cherish.”

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