Achilleas Constantinou, chief executive of eveningwear brand Ariella, has resigned as a director of the British Fashion Council (BFC) after 25 years. He is the final founder member to step down.
Constantinou, the longest serving member of the BFC, attended his final BFC meeting on July 13. He is now focusing on expanding Ariella, which is expanding its exports and reviving its retail arm through an online offer, and he remains a board member at the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT).
Speaking to Drapers, Constantinou said that the BFC had achieved everything he hoped it would over this tenure. He said: “We intended the BFC to represent all sectors of our industry especially our designer segment, which was intended to become a showcase for the British fashion to the world and a shop window from which our mainstream fashion companies and our fashion industry as a whole could build on and benefit from.”
He said that the BFC had been responsible for helping to create some “stars”, including Ben De Lisi and the late Lee Alexander McQueen, by giving them catwalk shows at London Fashion Week (LFW) during their early days; but he added he was pleased that mainstream retailers, such as Jaeger and Topshop, were now also showing at the event. “It is really a demonstration that high street fashion is just as important as designer talent. It is giving a new edge to LFW,” he said.
Constantinou has a number of proud moments from his time at the BFC including hosting the inaugural Fashion Rocks charity event at the Royal Albert Hall in 2003, and his stance against the use of size zero models, of which he has always been an outspoken critic.
He also fondly remembers the day the BFC secured its original funding from the then Chancellor, Norman Lamont. “His eyes lit up when we told him what we wanted to do and showed his pictures of the catwalks. We got £100,000 in about 20 minutes. On our way out, we kicked ourselves for not asking for £1m.”
Constantinou will now shift his focus to the UKFT, which is currently working on a new structure, funding and objectives that will be confirmed at a meeting on January 23. It will focus on developing exhibition opportunities overseas and working with colleges to ensure the right training in place to create skilled industry technicians, such as pattern cutters. “The skills that can be overlooked,” he added.
Meanwhile, he is a year into a new five year business plan for Ariella, of which he remains chief executive. The brand and supplier, which has its eponymous mainline, its top-end Ariella Couture collection and manufactures own label products for 10 UK retailers, is hoping to revive its retail division with an online offering, which will be created by designer Kyri Kyriacou.
The brand increased turnover by £2.2m in its financial year, ended March 31, by increasing exports, and is already £1m ahead of that for this year. Constantinou added that China is a big opportunity for the brand and the wider industry.