Few industries are more worried about the threat of Brexit than fashion – which depends on worldwide sourcing, global retail chains and multinational designers. Yet, in her three-minute speech, May never once mentioned the ‘B’ word.
However, she did discuss the ‘C’ word, before a decidedly international audience that included Anna Wintour, François-Henri Pinault and London-based designers Christopher Kane (Scottish), Erdem Moralioglu (Turkish-Canadian) Sandra Choi (Hong Kong-raised), Molly Goddard and Alice Temperley (both British).
“I am delighted to hear that Chanel – one of the grand dames in the fashion business – has announced it is relocating its global headquarters to London. I want to see us continue this success,” said May, dressed in a slimly cut chalk stripe double-breasted pants suit by Daniel Blake. She wore a black coat by the same designer to meet Donald Trump in January.
“For years, London Fashion Week has showcased not just the big well-known names in British fashion, but also the – often brilliant – up and coming talent. That is what has always made London stand out. That is what has always given this city’s fashion business the leading edge,” added May, speaking after Stephanie Phair, the new Chair of the British Fashion Council, who co-hosted the event.
May praised fashion as a £32 billion industry, employing some 890,000 people, praising everyone from “Malene Oddershede Bach to Victoria Beckham showing in London for the first time.”
Bach comes from Denmark, by the way, Beckham from Essex.
“We are home to some of the world’s finest fashion colleges. Our designers sit at the helm of global brands. And we lead the world in design and digital innovation – with names such as Matchesfashion, Net-a-Porter, ASOS and Farfetch launched in the UK,” continued May, causing a ripple of laughter, as Phair’s day job is as an executive at Farfetch.
May added that an “exceptional talent visa will ensure that the world’s leading fashion designers can live and work here.”
And she revealed that her government’s ‘Creative Industries Sector Deal’ would be “investing £150 million in creative businesses, including design and fashion,” without being more specific in either cases.
Phair spoke first, after being introduced by the Caroline Rush CEO of the BFC, and stressed that during its five-day season, London Fashion Week welcomed guests from over 50 countries and five continents.
She noted that the British Fashion Council brought 150 top-level international media and retailers to the capital, while the Government will also support the British Fashion Council’s London Show Rooms showcase of emerging British designers during this month’s Paris Fashion Week.
“London is the ‘Global Fashion Capital’,” insisted Phair, an opinion perhaps not shared by many Parisians.
“This week London Fashion Week has played host to over 120 runway shows, presentations and events from 80 global fashion designers, to an international audience from over 50 countries. Our mission at the British Fashion Council is to cement the international reputation of British fashion,” added Phair.
“Fashion is a serious business and in employment terms is ranked almost as large as financial services. In this time of change, when digital is disrupting the old order and borders seem to be closing, let’s remember that fashion unites – that fashion is a cultural signifier and that the UK has an opportunity to champion the creativity of ‘Brand Britain’ with fashion at its cultural epicentre,” concluded Phair, as guests sipped on ‘English Champagne’, a sparkling wine called Nyetimber grown in West Sussex.
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