The British Fashion Council chief executive tells Marie Davies about the rapid changes at London Fashion Week and why butterflies in her stomach is a good sign
Where did your British Fashion Council (BFC) story begin?
When I went to work for Annette Worsley-Taylor, who at the time was creative director for London Fashion Week. Anna Orsini [now strategic consultant at the BFC] and I worked together at the time; it was a very small team and we actually put together the first-ever website for London Fashion Week.
And then you started your own PR company?
Yes, I located to the North for my daughter’s schooling, and set up a PR firm with my friend.
How did you find your way back to London?
We had a call from the BFC, which had heard our company was looking to set up a London office. We met with Hilary [Riva], who was chief executive at the time, and started running the press office for LFW and the BFC, working closely with Hilary, who is an amazing talent.
What excited you most about being offered the role as chief executive alongside Simon Ward in 2009?
Simon and I were the first full-time management team at the BFC. LFW had been on a roller coaster few years and it was good to have an opportunity to bring some stability to it. The first thing we did was relocate, and after seeing the recently refurbished Somerset House it seemed a natural progression to be there. We have a team that is plugged in, aiming to stay on the curve – if not ahead of it. It is also exciting for the BFC to have a key role in supporting retailers.
What have been the biggest changes over the past two years?
The rate of change has been incredible. The BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund [which awards one designer £200,000 and mentoring support] has been brilliant, meaning designers can have a business plan for growth, which is particularly important in a challenging environment. The amount of successful designer collaborations and designers opening up into international markets is really heartening. Buyers now not only see London designers as offering great fashion but are able to buy into them in-depth and have them sit [in their own right] alongside other luxury brands.
Is UK manufacturing something the BFC is still keen to address?
Absolutely. We’ve just commissioned a London Business School student to come in over the summer and compile data on how much designers manufacture in the UK. We’ve also worked with the Manufacturing Alliance to look at groups of manufacturers and what their needs are to develop and grow.
What’s your proudest moment at the BFC so far?
Every Fashion Week I get butterflies, not out of nervousness but out of excitement and pride at seeing the designers showcasing such fantastic collections. It’s also wonderful when buyers talk with such enthusiasm about the event; it’s the ultimate thumbs up and a sign that we are heading in the right direction.
- Caroline Rush is chief executive officer of the British Fashion Council, which organises London Fashion Week
What’s in your London Fashion Week wardrobe?
It consists of a bit of Jaeger, Pringle, Mulberry and pieces from young designers as well.
What was the first piece you owned by a British designer label?
A fabulous John Richmond (pictured) body and black skirt combination.
How do you unwind?
My daughter is an avid tennis player so I watch her play. Other than that, films and friends.
Where do you like to shop?
Well of course I shop anywhere in the UK and London. But I’ve just moved to Wimbledon so I have Matches on my doorstep, which is great.