Friday 14 September 2018

Dedicated Followers of Fashion

Ah, it's London Fashion Week again. Previously that meant lots of BBC reporting about industry fears over Brexit. This year, well, it looks like more of the same...

Here's a Twitter conversation I overheard on the subject this morning:
Felix Randal: Radio 4 Today editorial line: any good news story is temporary because of Brexit, any bad news story is because of Brexit.
Darren Grimes: The Chair of the British Fashion Council on Radio 4 Today and the presenter is desperate to have her say the Brexit could spell the end for British fashion, which she refuses to do more than once. These people are incorrigible.
Andy Keech: Chanel have moved global HQ to London have they? I don’t recall that having been featured on BBC News before. Funny that. 
Jo Hugh: Yes. Radio 4 Today is systematically anti-Brexit. It just comes naturally to them.
See what you think. Here's a transcript of the report and the following interview:

Alexa Chung and Dharshini David

Mishal Husain: When the first shows of London Fashion Week begin this morning they do so at a time of somewhat mixed messages about the industry. It employs close to a million people, comparable to financial services, and the British Fashion Council has been warning that despite Brexit it needs ways to bring models into the UK with ease and to keep its supply chains frictionless. At the same time Chanel is setting up its global headquarters in London. Dharshini David reports.
Alexa Chung: This is my atelier, which is actually on the roof in glorious Hackney. Come on in.
Dharshini David: At a buzzing London warehouse Alexa Chung, model and designer, is preparing for her first ever London Fashion Week show at a time of heightened uncertainty.
Alexa Chung: I think this Fashion Week will be kind of a big moment for us. It's whether we can stand shoulder to shoulder with those other brands and hold our own in that context. I'm hopeful we can but we shall see.
Alexa, who has moved from New York, is a newcomer competing with established giants like 110 year-old Chanel, but they are united in the view that the UK is the creative commercial global centre. The UK's long punched above its weight in an industry often dismissed as frivolous. Justine Picardie is editor-in-chief of the fashion bible Harper's Bazaar and Coco Chanel's biographer.
Justine Picardie: Given its massive contribution to the British economy, which is now over £32 billion, I don't think we do take it seriously. I mean, the most recent figures released this week by the British Fashion Council shows that it employs almost as many people as the finance sector. We're seeing a growth in sales for those designers - and that includes the big famous global fashion brands like Chanel. Chanel is a very interesting case because it has moved, very recently, its global headquarters to London, and I think that tells us a lot about how a global powerhouse is seeing London in the long term. Luxury spending in affluent British households is now second only to Hong Kong in terms of the rise in spending. It's up 18% - which is extraordinary. 
Chanel Ltd has told this programme it's based its global holding company here because of location, language and the UK's strong regulations - factors that have long attracted corporations, from banks to manufacturers, to these shores. But the reality is that a no deal Brexit could mean import charges, delays at the border and more shifts in the exchange rate. Paul Alger is from the Fabric and Textiles Association.
Paul Alger: A lot of companies found that on the 24th of June with a weak pound their costs, dyes and raw materials went up. If we're manufacturing products here and there is no deal then we are looking at tariffs to get merchandise into Europe of 15-20%, depending on the product, and that will have a knock-on effect.
It's unsettling for designers like Alexa Chung, who gets her material from Italy, manufactures in Portugal and employs staff from around the globe.
Alexa Chung: This is something that I have fears about but, yeah, I mean, our warehouse is in the Netherlands. I mean, there's British people in here but we also have loads of talented people from all over the world. So that worries me. I think it takes that kind of melting pot of cultures and perspectives to make something creatively interesting, so if that was limited then I'm sure it would have an impact on what we're making here, yeah.
Paul Alger: The European Union is our largest export market by far. Orders taken in September at London Fashion Week will be delivered in January, February, March of next year, so buyers will be thinking 'Am I going to buy from this British designer or this British brand?' and not know whether they're going to have to pay duty, not know whether there are going to be queues at Dover. It creates an element of doubt which, to put it mildly, is unhelpful.
Alexa Chung: As the get up and running every season is critical to us. So we can't really try any harder than we already are. I don't know what's going to happen. I do have concerns for my business and how that's going to fare. 
From Erdem  to Clare Waight Keller, the woman behind Meghan Markle's wedding dress, the UK has long excelled in fashion that makes global waves. The challenge is in ensuring we retain that crown.
Mishal Husain: Dharshini David reporting.

Stephanie Phair

And we're joined from our radio car by Stephanie Phair, the new chair of the British Fashion Council. Good morning.
Stephanie Phair: Good morning. Thank you for having me. 
Mishal Husain: It's a pleasure. Thanks for coming on. Would you say the industry is in a good position to weather uncertainty over Brexit?
Stephanie Phair: Uncertainty is difficult for all industries. I would say that what makes British fashion so strong - and has made British fashion so strong for a very long time - will hold it in good stead during these uncertain times. The fact that the UK is a global centre for creativity, for innovation... It has harnessed...of all the six global fashion cities in the world it has probably harnessed technology the best. And it really is a cultural melting pot, which encourages that creativity. So we have a lot of good foundational building blocks to be able to weather this storm. But, as I said, it's the uncertainty that makes it difficult for the industry to figure out how to plan for Brexit in their the strategies.
Mishal Husain: What will be the impact on the industry if there's a no deal Brexit?
Stephanie Phair: We don't know, in so far as...We don't know what that no deal Brexit would look like exactly but, as the report said, it's an industry that's complex. It requires manufacturing abroad, designing here, re-shipping abroad. It's a mix of goods and services and talents. So what we are talking to government about it is really frictionless borders, tariff-free access to the EU and the ability for talent to move - the free movement of peoples. So we continue to have those conversations
Mishal Husain: And that free movement of people? I mean, that would mean models, that would mean designers, buyers, all sorts of people who work in the industry?
Stephanie Phair: Exactly. It really is, The fashion industry, perhaps more than any other industry, is truly global and connected to. And if you think about how Fashion Weeks work - they start in New York, move to London, Milan. And models, for example, have to move from one to the other. And if you think about this Fashion Week, we have over 80 shows, presentations, showrooms, and those clothes need to be worn. So we've seen some progress. Te British Fashion Council has worked with the Arts Council and DCMS to work on securing tier one visas, and the British Fashion Modelling Association. So we're optimistic.
Mishal Husain: Yeah, but, I mean, overall it seems like there are different messages coming through which are conflicting messages. You've got the growth in the industry as a whole, particularly in the market for women's clothing, and at the same time you have a major retailer like John Lewis making clear yesterday how much it believes its profits have been affected by the impact of the weaker pound, that that has pushed up its costs and hit its profit margins.
Stephanie Phair: Retail as a whole, it is true, is challenged and it's something that all of retail is looking at. Brexit uncertainty is being one of the, but also the disruption brought on by digital. But at the British Fashion Council we focus on the designer sector...
Mishal Husain: But, but, but, a lot of that...
Stephanie Phair: ...and the numbers there are encouraging.
Mishal Husain: But those manufacturers must also be...and often they're importing, aren't they,  components and supplies from around the world. Are you seeing evidence of them being affected by the weaker pound as well?
Stephanie Phair: We are not yet seeing evidence of that. I mean, the numbers that we have just released regarding the designer fashion industry is that really it is in a good position. It's £32 billion, up from last year, and it really contributes a huge amount to the British economy, on par with the telecoms industry and larger than the car manufacturing industry. So luxury industry has traditionally been resilient. It has not yet completely felt the effects of these conversations. It has grown at 5.4%. so in real terms faster than the growth... 
Mishal Husain: Stephanie Phair,...
Stephanie Phair: ...of the economy on average.
Mishal Husain: ...chair of the British Fashion Council, thank you. 


  1. There's that allegedly rare bird "Despito Brexitus" (well rare according to David Dimbleby on Question Time, who claimed never to have seen one, even though they are to be found flocking all over Radio 4 and BBC News). Out in the open for all to see. :)

    So basically Mishal was, like Carney, trying to talk down the UK economy. Fashion could continue to grow. British design is popular around the world and the rest of the world is becoming richer by the day, so able to spend more on clothes. We have always had the design flair. We used to have the textile industry here. Increasingly it's coming back as automation eliminates the competitive edge of low wage economies.

  2. Always worrying away at things, seeking out some shadows and negatives to cast doubt on success and find something to moan about. She forced in a 'despite Brexit' but am I wrong to see that as a misuse of the word there when the sense is that it's because of Brexit or following Brexit, not despite it that it needs ways to bring in models etc? 'It employs close to a million people, comparable to financial services, and the British Fashion Council has been warning that despite Brexit it needs ways to bring models into the UK with ease and to keep its supply chains frictionless.'

    1. Well spotted - Yes you're right - it was a false sighting! It was really the "Cozza Brexit" bird! lol I think Mishal said "despite" because that was what was worrying her..."OMG! Despite Brexit the UK fashion industry is doing really well and looks set to do really well after Brexit!!! I don't think I'm up to the job of spinning this into an anti-Brexit story!!! Help!!!!!"


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