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Editor’s Comment: Brexit déjà vu at London Fashion Week

Kirsty McGregor

Yet again we find ourselves in the strange position of celebrating London as an international stage for British design talent, less than two months before the UK leaves the European Union.

Back in February, when the UK was preparing for a March exit, British Fashion Council (BFC) chief executive Caroline Rush kicked off London Fashion Week by stressing that the city is still open for global business, and calling for government support for designers to weather the Brexit storm. 

This season, BFC chair Stephanie Phair made a similar speech as our impending departure from the EU continued to cast its shadow over proceedings. She pointed to research by the UK Fashion and Textile Association, which showed that a no-deal Brexit and subsequent move to World Trade Organization rules could cost the fashion industry £870m.

However, on the catwalks, the anti-Brexit rhetoric was noticeably dialled down this season. With the possible exception of Richard Malone, who wore a “Fuck Boris” T-shirt, designers appear to have Brexit fatigue – preferring instead to focus on political issues within the industry, such as sustainability, diversity and inclusion.


Caroline rush, stephanie phair and adwoa aboah photo credit bfc and shaun james cox

Caroline rush, stephanie phair and adwoa aboah photo credit bfc and shaun james cox


This is understandable given the months of Brexit delay, and perplexing prorogation of parliament. And as climate change protesters gathered outside 180 The Strand, underlining the serious damage this industry does to the environment, the emphasis on “positive fashion” inside the main LFW venue was welcome.

But designers and other business leaders must not take their collective eye off Brexit.

Last week, the government’s Yellowhammer dossier revealed the “worst-case assumptions” for a no-deal Brexit. While the retailers and suppliers we spoke to dismissed it as scaremongering, the document underlined the necessity of keeping up the lobbying pressure on MPs over Brexit – and specifically the vital importance to business of securing a deal.

Brexit and sustainability will be hot topics at this year’s Drapers Fashion Forum, which takes place in London on 10 October. To see the latest speaker line-up and buy tickets, go to

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