“When the government was formed we discussed how we could re-balance the British economy with new industries, and reduce our reliance on banks. We needed ones which create lots of jobs, which export and don’t come asking the government for lots of money; and we came up with fashion,” said business secretary Vince Cable yesterday at the “Value of The UK Fashion Industry” report in the House of Commons. “The figures are very striking, it generates £21bn (€25bn) directly and hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
The British government is taking its nation’s rag trade seriously, and that was certainly the British Fashion Council’s (BFC) intention when it commissioned Oxford Economics to come up with figures for just how much its industry is worth. The BFC depends partly on funding from UK Trade & Investment, as well as from the London Development Agency – itself reliant on pubic money – and the coalition government certainly knows how to make cuts. The UK Film Council, which distributed lottery money to fund over 900 films in the last decade, was axed with no notice this summer, as were other similar quangos. The BFC showed canny prescience in commissioning the report in 2008, and now has a solid £37bn (€44bn) “total economic impact” reasons why it should not go the way of other funded bodies in the creative industries.
The BFC wants to put London Fashion Week, which begins today, at the heart of plans to develop British fashion at home and abroad. The event (which brings in a cool £20m/€23.8 to London during the five days it runs) promotes Brand Britain at home and abroad.
A lot has been done to turn London Fashion Week (LFW) around from an event considered as an eccentric parade of unwearable clothes, with designers unable to meet international buyers’ demands of quality and volume, to one where people can do business. Moving LFW HQ to central London’s Somerset House from its former home of a tent outside The Natural History Museum last September has made the event slicker and more professional.
There has also been an emphasis by the BFC and PR mentors to get young designers to think about themselves as a business with a plan. Daniel Marks, director of PR firm The Communications Store, which looks after some of the most high-profile brands at London Fashion Week, including Christopher Kane and Peter Pilotto, talked about the importance of having a balance between commerciality and creativity. “It’s about brand building and not just getting them coverage in magazines or online coverage, but to give them business advice. And if we don’t know the answers then we find people who do.”