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'Fashion’s passion should earn it the respect it deserves'

Caroline Nodder

When I moved into the fashion sector a year ago, a lot of my friends and contacts in other industries greeted
the news not with congratulations or even surprise - they instead laughed. True story.

They seem to think that fashion is in some way a less serious subject for a business magazine than other sectors, and the worrying thing is they are not alone.

Having spent a year immersed in the fashion sector as a journalist, I can see how hard it is to run a successful business in today’s tough market and I can see the passion those within the sector have for what they do and for the businesses they run. But I can also see how the sector is viewed by outsiders.

For an industry that employs so many people and pays so much in taxes, drives Brand Britain abroad and stands for creativity like no other, the fashion business is undervalued and belittled by just about everyone from the Government to other areas of business.

It makes me quite angry to see how little value is placed on fashion by those in power and this was underlined this week when Drapers deputy editor Ana Santi met business secretary Vince Cable (see News, p2). He agreed that the sector is often seen as an “incidental luxury” rather than a serious business.

This kind of frivolous image can be easily shrugged off when times are good. After all, who cares what people say about you when you are making easy money. But now that fashion businesses are having to fight for every penny they put through their tills, this lack of support is becoming a real issue.

Ministers have already publicly pledged to support businesses in the UK to help them through the recession, but when they are also categorising some of those businesses as less important than others, I think we have a right to ask for more from them.

Many of them are failing to see beyond some of the catwalks of London Fashion Week to the heart of the industry they represent. We need the catwalks to inspire and promote UK fashion, but there is so much more to the business than high-end design.

When I attended Drapers’ Next Generation event two weeks ago, I was taken aback by the drive of the 20-year-old first-jobber attendees. These are the cream of the

new generation of workers and have chosen the fashion business over other industries as their future. The business therefore deserves the support and respect of government and other business sectors. Few other sectors have the power to generate for the UK as much revenue as fashion. In fact, far from its fluffy reputation, fashion is about as substantial as it gets.

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