London Fashion Week à la Brexit uncertainty

By Tahmina Begum

Sep 18, 2018

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Before the vote on the EU referendum became final, the fashion industry in London was buzzing. As the fashion industry was worth £66 billion and directly contributed £28 billion to the U.K. economy in 2017, this influential hub of design, press and retail is built on an international process. From the factories to the shops to the magazines that write about the latest emerging designer and what’s in season, fashion is not local. Therefore, it’s no wonder that 90 percent of those who worked in fashion voted remain. There’s even a popular T-shirt being sold stating “Fashion Hates Brexit” that you can expect your favourite politically charged influencer to be wearing at London Fashion Week.

But it’s now been over a year since the U.K. decided to leave the European Union and in fashion terms, it’s been two complete seasons and not long until we all get our blue passports. With spring/summer 2019 currently underway this September, there are high tensions in the air this fashion month. As fashion is so global, there are concerns on how Brexit will affect the industry but also London as a fashion capital.

Universities such as Central St. Martins and London College of Fashion are homes to generations of iconic fashion alumni; umbrella university UAL is also made up of 19,000 students from over 130 countries. Cultures that not only enrich London and by consequence, the rest of the U.K., as these students end up in the pages of British Vogue and go on to impact how fashion is shaped and what the rest of the world will end up wearing. Therefore, Stephanie Phair, chair of the British Fashion Council believes that thinking about the pipeline of home-grown talent is a post-Brexit priority. “It’s extremely important that we remain open and accessible to international talent.” The question remains, without these transatlantic relationships, what would fashion be?

It seems apparent through this London Fashion Week that the industry has already started preparations before the U.K. officially leaves the EU next year. With designers having to think about exchange rates, how much stock to order and shipping dates, as importing clothes will become more inflexible, hiring staff is also high on the list of problems.

“Brexit has affected me in terms of having my usual freelancers around less because they are trying to create a sturdier client relationships in other parts of Europe in case it becomes harder to work here,” says Weruzochi Chinasa, founder and designer of luxury and sustainable womenswear brand Weruzo. The fashion label is based both in London and Nigeria, however producing one artefact of clothing takes the effort of many hands, with the final product finishing in the U.K. Yet with Brexit, Chinasa further explains, “holding down a pattern cutter [for example] becomes more difficult”.

Similarly, co-founder of Birdsong London, Sophie Avalon, spoke to Screen Shot about how Brexit has already affected the sustainable clothing and accessories brand. “We stopped buying from abroad because the pound got weak overnight. There were lots of American brands we used to buy from but with shipping being so expensive now, all our cut and sewn garments and knitwear are made here. The T-shirts are still bought by an ethical retailer in Bangladesh and our fabric handwoven in India”. Ironically but on the plus side, Avalon states her clientele have widened in Europe yet there is this sense of what will happen once the U.K., i.e. British fashion, leaves the EU?

As the future of the U.K.’s relationship with the EU remains murky, one thing that is clear is how those who work in fashion are already trying to think ahead by working around what could go wrong in order to continue being able to create and put out collections of work consistently. Oh and also keep their fashion jobs. That would be nice too.

London Fashion Week à la Brexit uncertainty


By Tahmina Begum

Sep 18, 2018

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Opinion

Digitalisation is the future of fashion and it is fast

By Maddy White

Sep 5, 2018

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Fashion

Sep 5, 2018

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Social media is an extremely influential part of our everyday lives. From Instagram to Snapchat and more, today’s fashion retailers are using these online spheres to encourage ‘fast fashion’: the quickest possible turnaround from design to manufacturer to consumer. And that’s really detrimental to our waste issue, isn’t it? Actually, not necessarily. Digitalising fashion is probably a crucial step to the survival of the sector, particularly in Britain.

The British high street is in peril; more shops are closing and many brands have gone into liquidation. This is due to several reasons, one being consumer spending has decreased and another is the rise of digital giants—like Amazon—who have entirely dominated the market. This trend aligns with the fashion industry too. Founded in 2006, online fashion retailer Boohoo claimed in their 2018 financial report to have 6.4 million users, up 22 percent from the previous year. The entire company had a pre-tax profit of £43.3 million for the year leading to February, which represented a 40 percent increase on 2017 figures, with revenue hitting £580 million, almost double last year’s £295 million.

The British high street is in peril; more shops are closing and many brands have gone into liquidation. This is due to several reasons, one being consumer spending has decreased and another is the rise of digital giants—like Amazon—who have entirely dominated the market. This trend aligns with the fashion industry too. Founded in 2006, online fashion retailer Boohoo claimed in their 2018 financial report to have 6.4 million users, up 22 percent from the previous year. The entire company had a pre-tax profit of £43.3 million for the year leading to February, which represented a 40 percent increase on 2017 figures, with revenue hitting £580 million, almost double last year’s £295 million.

The increased speed of fashion because of a digitalised process has enabled companies like Boohoo to reap massive benefits as proven in their financial report. Hundreds of styles are uploaded every day to the website, with likely just as many discontinued and sent to the sales page. The company reportedly sources 50 percent of its production from U.K. factories—a very high proportion, as for example ASOS produce around 3 percent of products in the U.K.—and distribute these garments from a central warehouse in Burnley. This is impressive as less than half a century ago, the clothing manufacturing industry in the U.K. employed 900,000 people, by 1999 this was down to 130,000 and now it is less than half. Companies like Boohoo are bringing textile manufacture back to the U.K. in a more innovative way.

Fast fashion also doesn’t have to mean cheap, however with examples like ASOS and Boohoo, the two seem to work in tandem. Fast fashion needs to be locally produced in order to make the production ethical, reduce air miles and at face value, be the fastest method. The process cannot be completed so quickly halfway across the globe; it is just not viable.

Despite the rise of fast fashion, this is an industry that produces waste, a lot of it, and consumers are more aware of this than ever. According to EDGE, a company that connects and supports emerging designers, about 15 percent of fabric intended for clothing ends up on the cutting room floor and it takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just one t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Surely though, creating products via fast fashion would only act as an antidote to the above? Retailers do not have to order products in large amounts, they can instead order smaller numbers, see how they are received and then purchase more. This is a more ethical approach to a potential overproduction problem. Yet, this doesn’t counter the idea that consumers could be ordering more clothing, therefore likely throwing them away more regularly.

Fast fashion that it ethically sourced and produced could be the U.K.’s chance to revive the textiles sector, which has been in decline for decades. There are many constraints however on implementing an ethical version of fast fashion and it is not what consumers might initially think. Fast fashion is reacting to trends, increasing production line speed, and not overproducing. ‘Fast’ could certainly be the future of fashion, as it offers huge opportunities like garments to be locally produced rather than being created and shipped from offshore sites. Utilising the internet, social media and collecting data enables a digitalisation of the fashion industry, which will only continue to grow as the high street fades and online giants soar.

Digitalisation is the future of fashion and it is fast


By Maddy White

Sep 5, 2018

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