The Brexit factor appears to be counting in the fashion industry’s favour, with the fall in sterling prompting a sales bounce that has dissipated the impact of rising costs overseas, according to one of the biggest names at London Fashion Week.
Anya Hindmarch, the accessories designer and UK trade ambassador, said that her biggest post-Brexit challenge was reassuring her Italian suppliers, who are “very nervous” that British businesses will no longer be able to afford to manufacture in Italy. “They are scared,” she said. “The fear is there, but we absolutely want to stay.”
Despite backing the Remain campaign, Ms Hindmarch, speaking yesterday at a British Fashion Council event to mark the start of London Fashion Week, said: “The mathematics will not be a big net problem. We’re 10 per cent cheaper, so there is quite an upside for the tourists coming to London. There is a buzz around the stores, a buzz around London. I’m not being complacent, but I don’t think [Brexit] is going to be the end of the world. At the BFC, we are cautiously pretty excited.”
Caroline Rush, the BFC’s chief executive, said that the industry had enjoyed a strong summer. “Over the past few months, luxury and retail have seen a bounce in terms of sales in the UK that not only benefits our British businesses but also many international businesses that have a footprint here as well.”
She added that designers who relied on manufacturing their products abroad would have to “focus on their margins and their prices” as well as think about currency hedging if they were not doing so already.
The biggest potential post-Brexit problems were retaining access to foreign-born talent and the single market, Ms Rush warned. “Many of our younger designers came here to study,” she said. “They wanted to stay and build businesses here and they’re now employing hundreds of people.
“We will be campaigning that we continue to stay in and have access to the single market, which makes sense because 70 per cent of the industry’s exports go to the European market.”
Ms Rush said that London Fashion Week, which opened with shows from Teatum Jones, Bora Aksu and Daks, was an opportunity to demonstrate that Britain’s reputation in the fashion world for innovation was unchanged. “We are absolutely not isolationist and we are very much open for business,” she said.
The fashion industry directly contributes £28 billion a year to the British economy and employs 880,000 people in roles from manufacturing to retail.
The five-day event will feature 83 designers showing their collections for spring 2017. Visitors from 58 countries are expected to attend.
Soho setting may fall out of fashion
London Fashion Week’s decision last year to set up home in a Soho car park after the luxurious confines of Somerset House raised plenty of eyebrows.
Fast-forward 12 months, however, and this week could mark the last time that the great and glamorous of the international fashion world head to that particular multistorey facility.
Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, said yesterday that the location was “under review” in advance of next season’s shows in February.
“We love being in Soho,” she said. “We love our car park but we have recognised through being able to move around from Somerset House to Soho that we have a role to play in terms of place-making in the city, of really putting a focus on a new area.”
She added that “a couple of opportunities have come up that might allow us to do that again”, promising an announcement at the beginning of next month.
For now, the Brewer Street venue is the only NCP site that is vaunting Tony & Guy and Maybelline New York pop-ups to deal with visitors’ hair or makeup concerns, not to mention what must be the only car park in Britain promising a selection of “fine, ethically sourced food and drinks” instead of vending machines.