The British Fashion Council (BFC) emphasised fashion’s importance to the UK economy as it kicked off the spring/summer 2019 London Fashion Week, as well as its ‘positive fashion’ message, focusing on sustainability, equality and diversity and craftsmanship and community.
Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council said at the opening: “There is no better city in the world for fashion and no better place to see the breadth of British and global fashion talent than here, at London Fashion Week.
“We have new data, we are worth 32 billion pounds in GDP to the British economy, that’s 5.4 percent growth against the economy’s 1.7 percent, representing 890,000 jobs, again an increase of 1.8 percent, again outstripping national growth figures – so some really good news stories for our industry.”
New chair of the BFC, Stephanie Phair, reiterated fashion’s success, adding: “The story I am keen to tell this fashion week, is that behind the creativity we will see on the catwalks, there are strong business stories, that London is the global fashion capital and that the businesses here and talent that studies here fuels creativity and innovation around the world.
“Since my appointment back in May I have been in listening mode, I’ve met with a great many stakeholders and what I have learnt is that there is great pride in our industry, our businesses, our talents and that there is a willingness to collaborate to support more talent, open more doors and see more growth. Harnessing the collective power of the industry to enable that growth is the mission of the BFC quite simply.”
Phair, the chief strategy officer of Farfetch and former chief of Net-A-Porter’s The Outnet, stated that her background in digital marketing will play a role in re-shaping the BFC’s focus, with digital innovation being placed “front and centre”.
“I really believe that in times of change that there are the most opportunities,” said Phair. “My experience has taught me that success comes from embracing and harnessing change, not running away from it.”
She added that to drive forward with digital innovations that the business pillar of the BFC’s strategic plan would be re-vamped to “embrace new thinking and prepare ourselves for a challenging and exciting future” and that the business pillar would offer a programme for more businesses and their teams to access support, expertise and information needed to grow their businesses.
Phair added: “Digital will play a key part, no longer a pillar for the organisation on its own, instead as part of this new way of thinking, we now consider it a transversal muscle flexed in everything we do; to do this Google have offered dedicated leads on all pillars to challenge and support us on our initiatives.
“We are appointing high level mentors, to help inspire designers, create a team on mentors in their area of expertise and create toolkits relevant for designer businesses. We will bring together CEOs from broader businesses to identify challenges, share knowledge to overcome these and set high standards for businesses to operate through our Positive Fashion stream of work.”
The new chair also added that the BFC was creating a “constructive dialogue” with the Government to ahead of Brexit to identify the risks to ensure that fashion businesses are prepared.
Margot James, Minister of State for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who Rush called the new Minister for Fashion, stated: “The UK is a global fashion capital and home to world-renowned brands such as Alexander McQueen, Erdem and Sophia Webster as well as up-and-coming labels like Alexa Chung and Matty Bovan.
“The wool trade once accounted for over 80 percent of our exports and powered the industrial revolution. Now the UK's fashion industry is worth over 32 billion pounds and has created 890,000 jobs and is powering the government's new industrial strategy. That’s nearly a million people buying, selling, marketing. British businesses depend on the creativity, talent and sheer hardwork of this iconic industry.”
To help further the fashion industry, James added that the Government was committed to giving creative firms across the country the support they need to compete on the global stage, and that it had recently announced 4 million pounds for the new Creative Industries Trade Board, which funds projects like the BFC’s London show Rooms in Paris.
London Fashion Week SS19 runs until Tuesday, September 18.
Image: by Danielle Wightman-Stone