Designers at London Fashion Week will be bold and show the world that the industry stands for “inclusivity, unity and humanity”, said Natalie Massenet, chairman of the British Fashion Council (BFC), in a rousing speech at the launch of the event.
She referenced the “seismic political changes” in the UK, in the US and throughout Europe, as well as the industry changes of “see now, buy now” and men’s and women’s collections coming together.
“Over the course of the next few days our designers will make style proclamations that will fuel consumer desire,” she said. “But in times of uncertainty, creativity is also channelled into fashion statements of a different kind.”
BFC chief executive Caroline Rush reinforced the organisation’s stance on the Brexit negotiations, urging the government to listen to the organisation’s concerns about visas, talent, tariffs and intellectual property.
“This is incredibly important to sustain this amazing industry,” she said. “We are worth £28bn to the British economy each year, 880,000 jobs and are an industry that repeatedly exceeds the figures for national average growth.”
Next month the BFC will launch a best practice database of manufacturers that work with London Fashion Week designers to champion skills and craftsmanship, as well as encourage other brands to do more in the UK.
Sarah Mower, trustee of the BFC Education Foundation, meanwhile, underlined efforts to support the next generation of design talent in the UK and grow the pipeline of future leaders.
She explained how the foundation aims to “keep the door to fashion education open” in the face of rising fees and living expenses, by raising money to support students on BA and MA fashion design courses in the UK.
Since September 2016, the fund has given more than £100,000 to 12 students. It raised £700,000 at The Fashion Awards last December to support Newgen and the BFC Colleges Council.
“2017 will focus on education and supporting the pipeline of talent into this industry which can be seen at the helm of fashion businesses around the world,” she said. “This is a call to arms and we will be shining a light on this all year, reaching out to colleges throughout the country, and asking many more people within this industry to join us in the pleasure of giving back.”
London Fashion Week moved from Brewer Street Car Park to 180 The Strand’s Store Studios for this season, which is also home to its menswear shows and consumer facing counterpart London Fashion Weekend, in a bid to create one fashion hub in the capital. The new home was praised by the majority of the brands showing at the designer showrooms, who said bringing the showrooms and presentation space into one venue made sense.
”The Store Studio feels very fluid, and because of the walkway down the middle, people going to see shows in the presentation space will have to come past us, which is great,” said Emma Charles, creative director of her eponymous womenswear brand. ”It’s also good to get everyone in the same space.”
Sarah Felice, creative director of outerwear brand Storycoat added: ”The new space is nice- it’s incredibly well organised and people here have been helpful. I think the building fits the concept of London, and it’s very edgy and young.”