Article: Fashion Worked
On the 23rd of June Britain went to the polls for a defining moment in both the history of and future of the nation. Just sixteen words would shape the way we are for generations . . .
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
The polls had shut at 10pm and by the time I switched of the television in the early hours of that warm Friday it had become clear that the Leave campaign had won. The nation had narrowly chosen to exit the European Union. But the question then emerged of what did this really mean, and from a fashion perspective what was the situation going to be?
“I think that Brexit will neither be as good as people hope nor will it be as bad as some predict. Unfortunately, areas that voted "leave" are likely to be hit the hardest economically. Political uncertainty can affect willingness to invest and consumer confidence which in return slows the economy. That slowdown will be felt the most in economically weaker regions in the United Kingdom. In terms of Sports Philosophy and the fashion business in general the real impact remains to be seen. I do not believe that this will become obvious overnight and will take years to develop. In any case, Brexit underlines that political risk is real and should always be considered by business. Perhaps it should motivate local business leaders to be less regionally concentrated and seek opportunities abroad. After all, the stamp "made in Britain" enjoys great recognition in the world.”
Matthias Tietze – Founder & CEO Of Sports Philosophy & The Freedom For Children Foundation
It’s fair to say that actually we don’t know, and we may not know some of the outcomes for many years while the changes manifest but some questions are immediately thrown up. This country is a hub for creative talent, designers and people wanting careers in fashion, and while the change will most likely not be felt for those from outside the EU in terms of visa rules those who have come to the UK from within the union there will be a nervous wait. Will this affect the amount of people coming to our country to chase dreams, will it stem the flow of diversity and creativity that has emboldened and driven this most hallowed of fashion nations and what lays ahead for those who are already resident in the UK, will they leave rather than await outcomes that could be two years away even when Article 50 is finally triggered?
It won’t be the established labels that feel the fullest effects of any barriers put in place, they will be able to get travel permits and cover the legality of coming to work in the UK or show at London Fashion Week and will have the resources to change, but for the young hopefuls and small labels who want to be here in this hot house environment the question of right to work must be resolved quickly, uncertainly will stifle that diversity as potential stars look for more stable and certain locations to start up and grow in.
“As a magazine that is all about breaking down borders and cultural misunderstanding, we're very concerned by the result of the EU Referendum and the implications for the fashion industry. The UK is home to some of the best fashion institutions in the world and through their relationship with the EU they have been able to nurture talent from countries who don't have access to the same level of fashion education. Many of these people have stayed in the UK and contributed to the UK's £26bn fashion industry, such as Mary Katrantzou. Another major concern for fashion colleges is research funding, much of which comes from the EU, and means that not only have they been cut off from Europe's talent pool of designers but the UK also risks falling behind in being a leader in fashion innovation which has advanced the global fashion industry too. Fashion is a forward-looking industry and breaking away from the EU is regressive for the entire of the UK. However, the UK must learn to go on and defend its reputation as one of the world's major fashion cities that has contributed so much to the world in the past.”
Olivia Pinnock, Editor, Creative Artists Foundation Magazine
For our own young designers and labels there will be more of the currency fluctuations we’ve seen so far, exchange rates could wipe out profit margins over night and in the long term trade agreements may require more administration and more expense in access to markets. Remember that even a tiny drop in the exchange rate can hammer a margin for those producing lower cost items. Don’t believe me, ask the family that run High St chain 99p Stores in competition with Poundland etc, in a recent TV show they stated that the 1p difference in price point cost their business around £4 million pounds a year in lost margin to their competitors. Currency fluctuation drives up costs on all parts of the production, cost of raw materials, cost of international shipping, cost of international marketing and PR.
“For emerging fashion brands the Brexit vote has caused panic and unease as the designers have no idea what the impact will be on their brands at the moment. Unfortunately no-one is able to advise them yet on what the effects will be, as this is an unprecedented situation and no-one including government agencies know what will happen. The only advice I can give to the brands I work with is to stay calm and carry on as normal at the moment til things start to become clearer – but as the industry itself was changing anyway, this is just another area that the brands need to consider and find their own ways of working. As long as they remain aware and flexible in their approach, then they have every opportunity to succeed still.”
Alison Lowe, Owner Felicities & Start Your Own Fashion Label; keynote speaker, lecturer/mentor in Entrepreneurship and Fashion Marketing
But it will also affect creativity, how can designers fully focus on the creative process when they have to deal with so many changes and uncertainties? How can they let their minds fly when they are weighted down with the business stresses and strains uncertainty brings. How can they find fresh faces and new talents if the door is closing on 27 nations that may have had the next star?
Fashion isn’t immune to politics, it finds itself tied to the outcomes of that night and the triggering of Article 50 as much as any other industry. What is needed now more than ever is leadership, calm reflection and definitive answers. To leave these questions out and unanswered is dangerous to both businesses and our position as one of the most creative fashion nations in the world. While it’s reasonable to say it most likely won’t be as amazing as some claim, or as doom and gloom as some predict there are many waves to ride in the next few months and years.
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