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LFW promotes diversity and strengthens ties with China

London Fashion Week kicked off this morning with a focus on international co-operation, promoting emerging talent and celebrating diversity.

The British Fashion Council (BFC), organiser of LFW, announced a new partnership with Chinese etailer VIP.com, which aims to help emerging UK brands tap into this market.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to introduce British businesses to Chinese shoppers and raise awareness for VIP in the UK,” BFC chief executive Caroline Rush (pictured second from left) told Drapers.

“The challenge for a lot of emerging British brands in the UK market is about awareness, and VIP has 300 million users. It also gives brands the chance to learn what Chinese consumers want in terms of prices and styles. It’ll be a very proactive partnership.”

Under the sponsorship deal, VIP will launch a capsule collection featuring pieces from several London designers on its site in September.

Jenny Jioe, managing director of fashion at VIP, said: “London has always been about up-and-coming designers and emerging talent, and there is a real appetite for that from young Chinese consumers.”

In her opening speech, Rush highlighted that the fashion industry now contributes £29.7bn to the British economy. She said the “depth and breadth” of British talent was what continued to attract international buyers and press to London. 

Rush acknowledged that she was likely to be asked about Brexit “a great deal” over the course of LFW, which runs until 20 February, but added: “I’m sorry to say that we don’t have an update. We are, like all other industries, in limbo until we know more about the detail of terms of exiting the European Union.

“I was disappointed to hear reported that it is unlikely we will stay within the Customs Union, but hope that there will be a way to ensure that both goods and talent will continue to flow between our European counterparts, without untimely delays to access either.”

Following the speech, she told Drapers the BFC would continue to lobby the government over the Customs Union and other Brexit priorities.

“We need to ensure the free movement of talent but also of goods and products,” she explained.

A more diverse, caring LFW

This season’s LFW is also focused on diversity and caring for those working in the fashion industry. Model Adwoa Aboah (second from right) was unveiled as the BFC’s new ambassador for positive fashion, diversity and model health.

Aboah said:Our objective is to become the most diverse fashion week – we are currently second behind New York. In September 2017 London had 31% representation of non-white models on the runway, which is above the national UK average representation of 15%, but we’d like it to be closer to London’s population average of 40%.

“I also want to be clear that this representation should also look beyond race and include those of all body types, religion, sexuality and gender identification.”

As well as promoting diversity, Aboah stressed the importance of caring for models, particularly in the wake of recent scandals around sexual exploitation in the entertainment industry.

“We still operate within a system where far too many young models – both women and men – are mistreated and put at risk,” she said.

In December, the British Fashion Council joined forces with the British Fashion Model Association (BFMA) to launch the Models First initiative, which will set best practice standards for the industry.

The BFC will take a secretariat role in the BFMA and will chair an independent committee comprising individuals from the fashion industry to develop a charter that will protect and give a voice to models.

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