Talk of Brexit has been a dominant theme throughout London Fashion Week (LFW), and the issue is weighing heavily on the industry.
Forget colour, trends and celebrity models.
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In complete contrast to previous bi-annual shows where all the talk and interest automatically focuses on the clothes, Brexit was dominating the chat on the catwalk bleachers and among exhibitors at the LFW headquarters on the Strand.
The line-up has been strong, with 83 designers on this year’s schedule across 52 shows and 31 presentations, but with 40 days to go, Brexit casts a long shadow.
Like many other parts of the British economy, the fashion industry particularly fears the prospect of leaving the EU with no agreement.
There is so much to lose.
The fashion industry is worth an estimated £32bn (€36bn) to the UK economy.
There’s so much to consider from loss of orders and talent to tariffs, gridlock at ports, delays in deliveries, and what about production headaches? It is reported some labels have decided or are planning to relocate to EU countries in order to maintain the advantages of being in a single market and customs union.
A study by consultants Fashion Roundtable found 96pc of business leaders in the British industry voted to stay in the EU.
Several brands have nailed their colours to the mast. Burberry has warned crashing out with a no deal will inevitably damage business.
The British Fashion Council (BFC), which runs LFW, is backing a second referendum – the so-called People’s Vote.
Caroline Rush, head of the BFC, was putting her best foot forward yesterday, insisting LFW represented a “big opportunity” to show off the capital amid the Brexit turmoil.
Her priority is to prove that London fashion is open to business. However, she concedes that “the uncertainty is a big problem. It means we just cannot plan. Even if we try and work out what we’ll do in the event of a no-deal or a hard Brexit, we can’t be certain”.
A talented raft of Irish designers has been showing at LFW. Talented newbie Katie Ann McGuigan and the hugely respected Simone Rocha led the way over the weekend, along with Natalie B Coleman. Richard Malone, Paul Costelloe, Sharon Wauchob and JW Anderson were showing yesterday, with the Richard Quinn collection today.
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