British fashion professionals including Christopher Bailey from Burberry and Caroline Rush, the CEO of the British Fashion Council give their take on how Brexit might impact the UK fashion industry.
LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (SEPTEMBER 19, 2016) (REUTERS) – London wrapped up its seasonal fashion week on Tuesday after five days of luxury and highstreet labels unveiling colorful and eclectic collections amid Brexit uncertainty. Holding its leg of the spring/summer 2017 shows after New York, London staged its first fashion week since Britain shocked the world by voting in June to leave the European Union.
As well as runway trends, the uncertainty of how Britain’s exit from the EU (Brexit) will affect the industry was also a hot topic among fashionistas. “There have been a lot of questions about post-Brexit. Is this going to change? For us it’s really important that it doesn’t,” Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council (BFC), said. “If anything, we use this as an opportunity to reaffirm partnerships, to create new partnerships and to be able to build businesses not only with Europe but also with the rest of the world.”
According to a BFC pre-referendum survey, more than 90 percent of 290 designers said they wanted to stay in the EU. The fashion industry contributes some 28 billion pounds ($36 billion) to the UK economy, according to figures cited by the BFC, and many brands operatr stores across Europe. Last year, the value of British fashion exports was 5.8 billion pounds, driven by markets like the U.S., Japan, Italy and France.
“If I would have had my way it would have gone the other way (remain in EU) but it didn’t and we have got to make the best of what we have,” Burberry chief creative and chief executive officer Christopher Bailey said of the vote. “I am remaining incredibly positive. We have got a very global business.” Despite economic uncertainty, there was no shortage of bold creations on London’s runways. Flashes of bright colors were seen across collections as were short hemlines and quirky asymmetric designs.
Asked if Brexit had made an impact so far, PPQ designer Amy Molyneaux said: “In terms of creativity, no, which is what this is about.”
On the front rows, international buyers sat beside fashion editors and bloggers for business as usual. “There are still so many uncertainties as to what Brexit actually entails for designers specifically and how they work and function as businesses,” British fashion blogger Susanna Lau said. “I think the message and the sentiment is that London is open for business but what that really entails further down the line, we have to see.”