Creative Sensemaker

A model in a peach yellow dress on the catwalk in a large arched building

A rundown of the week’s cultural moments, books, films, music and more by Tortoise Media, the slow news agency

By Matt d’Ancona    Above image: London Fashion Week (Getty)    Friday 11 September, 2020    Long read

Welcome to the latest Creative Sensemaker from Tortoise Media. This is fast becoming the Age of the Hybrid: split your working week between home and office; go to college, but tune in to lectures online; socialise, but only with six people.

In the same spirit – albeit more glamorously – this year’s autumn London Fashion Week will mix it up with an audacious combination of physical and digital events, films and livestreaming, and interviews and interactions. Kicking off with Burberry’s live, no-audience event in a rural setting on Thursday 17 September, LFW wraps up with a film by Richard Quinn on Tuesday 22 September.

Along the way, there are the latest offers from designers including Vivienne Westwood, Matty Bovan and Bethany Williams, as well as Erdem Moralıoğlu, Feng Chen Wang, and Bora Aksu. You can check out the full schedule here.

This is more than digital playtime for designers waiting for footfall to return to Bond Street. The UK fashion industry is worth £26bn and supports 800,000 jobs. Its world-renowned colleges will be reopening soon, presenting huge challenges for teachers and students alike – not least the question of how to make a COVID-19-secure studio work.

So, LFW is more than a celebration (though it is certainly that). It is also intended to be an act of collective defiance, signalling that even as the luxury goods sector struggles with the new realities of corona-world, it will not hoist the white flag. Far from it. The word used time and again is ‘reset’. This is an opportunity for fashion, as a key expression of the zeitgeist, to consider afresh its values, priorities and objectives.

To get you in the mood, the British Fashion Council has a series of podcasts that are well worth a listen – such as this one featuring Dylan Jones, BFC Menswear Chair and Editor-in-Chief of British GQ, talking to musician and BFC ambassador Tinie Tempah.

Gender neutral; URL and IRL; COVID-19-conscious, but undaunted: welcome to the culture of autumn 2020.

Here are our weekly recommendations:
A female astronaut sits in a spaceship


The Roads Not Taken (cinemas)
Any film directed by Sally Potter and starring Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning, Salma Hayek and Laura Linney is bound to be – at the very least – intriguing. And this study of a man suffering from dementia, splintering into an often-bewildering series of timelines and personalities, is a tour de force. Bardem, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2008, deserves to be nominated for the main award this year.

Memories Of Murder (cinemas and Curzon Home Cinema)
Seventeen years after its release, this is a welcome return for Bong Joon-ho’s second feature film. Inspired by South Korea’s first recorded serial murders, this police thriller is worth seeing in its own right (not least for the performance of Song Kang-ho, Bong’s actor alter ego), but also as an early portent of what was to come in the world-conquering Parasite.

Away (Netflix)
If, like me, you were disappointed that Hulu cancelled its mission-to-Mars series, The First (starring Sean Penn and Natascha McElhone) after only one season, then seek comfort in this enjoyable alternative version of the same basic concept. Hilary Swank is the commander of an international crew on a three-year mission to the red planet. She and her fellow astronauts seem to have been mostly selected because of their difficult home lives on Earth, which is formulaic but makes for superior space soap.

The Devil All The Time (Netflix)
Spiderman versus Batman? Not quite, but many will stream this psychological thriller to see how Tom Holland fares as a screen presence up against Robert Pattinson in a slice of American Gothic, set in small-town Ohio after the war. And the answer is: pretty well. Sidenote: Antonio Campos is a director to watch.

The Contender (Amazon Prime)
There should be a category of films that could have been classics with just a slight turn of the dial – better pacing, editing, a touch more nuance. Famously disowned by Gary Oldman, who plays the Republican congressman determined to prevent Joan Allen becoming Vice President, Rod Lurie’s political thriller still feels contemporary 20 years on. The hounding of Allen’s character over her alleged sexual past provides the spine of the tale, alongside which the alpha-male sparring between Oldman and Jeff Bridges as President Lebowski (Evans, actually) is both gripping and queasy to behold. A masterpiece of political cinema – almost.
Two books on a grey background
A book on a grey background


The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Enjoying their retirement, Elizabeth, Ibrahim, Joyce and Ron gather weekly to chew over unsolved murders, until they find themselves investigating a horrible killing that has taken place in their midst. A genuine page-turner by the co-host of the quiz show Pointless.

Rage by Bob Woodward
Woodward has been chronicling