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What makes a global fashion city and will London suffer as a result of Brexit?

Amy Elliott 14040848 Project Research DE0929 BA (Hons) Fashion Communication Northumbria University


Contents 2

Introduction

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Methodology

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Chapter 1: What is a ‘global fashion city’?

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Chapter 2: Brexit & potential consequences for London’s fashion industry

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Chapter 3: Moving forward

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Conclusion

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References

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Image references

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Bibliography


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In 2009, the UK fashion industry is estimated to have directly contributed ÂŁ20.9 billion to the UK economy, or 1.7% of total UK GDP. (British Fashion Council, 2010)

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Introduction The referendum which determined the future of the UK’s membership in the European Union (EU) was one of the most contentious issues of 2016. On June 23rd, the British electorate voted for a ‘Brexit’ - meaning the UK was to withdraw from the EU after being a member for over 40 years. The withdrawal is set to have a profound effect on many industries, including fashion. An industry which contributes “£28 billion ($37bn) to the UK economy” (GDN Online, 2016) per year, the British fashion industry is a vital component in maintaining the country’s economy and presence on the international stage.

and second, to then chart how London became a global fashion city. This leads to a definition of Brexit, and subsequently the EU, before examining the potential ramifications for the British fashion industry as a result of Brexit, paying particular attention to flow of immigration and its importance to fashion education. It will then be discussed whether London’s reputation as an innovative and diverse fashion capital will suffer as a result of the Brexit vote, before moving on to what the future may hold for the British fashion industry in the aftermath of Brexit, and to suggest recommendations as to how institutions and brands may navigate the post-Brexit landscape in order to protect their outputs (graduates or profits). Taking all this information into account, this dissertation will illustrate how Britain’s withdrawal from the EU could compromise London’s current status as a global fashion city and the reputation it holds within the international community.

This dissertation examines what it means to be a ‘global fashion city’, and how the referendum vote in favour of ‘Brexit’ could potentially affect London’s status, and esteemed reputation, as a global fashion city. The objectives of this dissertation are five-fold. Firstly, it aims to identify what factors make a global fashion city,

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Methodology Both primary and secondary research have been undertaken in order to thoroughly examine the potential ramifications of Brexit upon the British fashion industry centred in London.

the UK to study and how Brexit may change this, alongside their opinion on London’s (potentially) changing reputation. Many sources of secondary research cited failed to gather opinions of the international students looking to study in the UK that Brexit will affect, instead choosing to focus on the statements made by professionals in the field. This made it clear that primary research was required to gather opinions from the focal demographic that is to be examined.

Primary research was conducted in the form of interviews (either in person, or via telephone) with figures placed in the education sector of the fashion industry. Such figures are Lee Barron (see Appendix C), Faculty Director of International Recruitment & Development at Northumbria University, who liaises with the London branch of that faculty, and Josephine Collins (see Appendix D), Course Leader for BA Fashion Journalism at London College of Fashion. These individuals were chosen because of both their professional proximity to London, and their knowledge of international students currently enrolled in fashion education at their respective institutions.

Secondary research focussed on academic books and journals detailing London’s rise to global fashion city status, alongside a myriad of online articles discussing the potential future consequences for the fashion industry as a result of Brexit, from a variety of trusted sources such as the Financial Times, The Telegraph, The New York Times and The Business of Fashion.

Alongside the aforementioned interviews, an online survey was conducted which targeted international fashion students. Entitled, ‘Potential effects of Brexit’, the SurveyMonkey questionnaire invited students to express their personal views on what attracted them to

All primary research carried out under this body of research was ethically sound, and no participant was exposed to harm, with all persons and data being treated with respect (see Appendix A & B). 3


London is one of, if not the, central place globally for fashion design (Laub, 2016)

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Chapter 1 What is a ‘global fashion city’?

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A ‘global fashion city’ typically generates significant economic output from the design, production and subsequent retailing of fashion products. These cities are home to world-renowned fashion houses, magazines, design schools, fashion weeks, award ceremonies and exhibitions. Their ability to influence style and trends beyond their city limits is what sets them apart from the rest. The most prominent of these cities, often referred to as ‘the big four’, are “London, Paris, Milan and New York” (Fashion Days, 2014). In their 11th annual survey ‘Top 56 Global Fashion Capitals’ in 2015, Global Language Monitor (GLM) ranked London third, behind New York which ranked second, behind Paris. The 21st century has seen the introduction of other major cities as fashion hubs such as Los Angeles, Rome, Milan, Barcelona, Berlin, Madrid and Tokyo (ranked chronologically from fourth to tenth place by GLM).

Dior” (Biography.com, 2016), and currently resides at the helm of Maison Margeila. Being the most recent addition to the big four, it is evident that London has not always been the high-status global fashion city it is today. One of the major contributors to the success of London as a fashion hub, which cannot be overlooked, is the establishment of the British Fashion Council (BFC). In its current incarnation, the BFC supports the industry and its designers by standing as an organisation which can gain government funding, and thus, “carry enough weight and influence to support and assist the industry, thus preventing it from being manipulated, as in the past, by other international designers and their dates” (Conran, 1984 cited in O’Byrne and Worsley-Taylor, 2009, p.104). However, it hasn’t always been this way. The establishment of the BFC on 1 September 1986 coincided with the influx of new designers entering the market, to which credit can be attributed to thenprime minister Margaret Thatcher, who “introduced a large number of measures designed to encourage entrepreneurship and the development of new businesses, which, if they performed well, could expect to benefit from lower taxes” (O’Byrne and Worsley-Taylor, 2009, p.110). The new availability of these funds resulted in an “unprecedented boom in new fashion labels” (ibid.) in the 1980s as it became clear to designers that starting their own businesses was the way forward. This was the combined result of the number of design college graduates gradually rising from the “early 1970s - by 1989 the annual figure stood at 1,500” (ibid.), in addition to the state of the clothing manufacturing industry. It guaranteed little chance of employment, and was in terminal decline. As a result, concluded by O’Byrne and Worsley-Taylor, “clothing manufacturers had to move with the times or close; most of them closed” (2009, p. 111). And so began the fashion business start-up boom. The BFC was integral to the establishment of these new entrepreneurial designers and their brands. Fashion now had a representative body that was “recognised by the government and therefore eligible for funding” (ibid., p.107).

There are a complex range of factors which determine a cities status as a global fashion city; there is no standard formula which can enable a city to achieve this status, and each of the big four have different histories which chart their rise to the top. Producing world-class talent is a common characteristic of the big four. New York has Parsons School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), whilst Paris is home to École Supérieure des Arts et Techniques de la Mode (ESMOD), and Milan, Istituto Marangoni. The focus of this research, London, is home to the world’s top two fashion schools (according to CEOWORLD magazine), Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (CSM) and London College of Fashion (LCF). The internationally renowned CSM, specifically their MA Fashion Design course, boasts many esteemed alumni including the late Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Riccardo Tisci, Phoebe Philo and Stella McCartney. All have gone on to pursue hugely successful careers in the industry, occupying some of the fashion world’s most coveted positions. CSM graduates have been named ‘Designer of the Year’ at the prestigious British Fashion Awards fourteen times since 1987, with Alexander McQueen taking the title four times, as well as earning the title “‘International Designer of the Year’ in 2003, and…that same year he was made Commander of the British Empire” (Wilson, 2015, pg. 3). Philo currently occupies the Creative Director position at French fashion house Celine, with Tisci occupying the same position at Givenchy, whilst Galliano has previously headed “the French haute couture houses Givenchy…and Christian

An additional, vital contributor to London’s status as a global fashion capital is the success of its bi-annual Fashion Weeks. Held in September and February for spring/summer and autumn/ winter collections respectively, London’s Fashion Weeks attract the industry’s top tier in design, journalism and modelling. But again, as with the 6


BFC, this wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t until 1984 that London had its own organised fashion week. Before the establishment of the BFC in its current state, London struggled to compete on the fashion month calendar with its more established and longer running counterparts in Paris, New York and Milan. Representation by a poorly funded organisation meant that London Fashion Week (LFW) was vulnerable to manipulation by what were viewed as ‘the more important’ dates of major designers showing in Paris, New York and Milan. This is supported by O’Byrne and Worsley-Taylor’s statement in Style City, “One of the biggest and most consistent problems faced by the organisers of LFW over the previous two decades had been a chronic shortage of money, making it well nigh impossible for London to compete with better-funded European counterparts” (2009, p. 188). However, their fortunes changed when 1960s hairdresser Vidal Sassoon, upon hearing LFW was in trouble, persuaded multinational company and owner of the Sassoon brand, Proctor & Gamble to provide much needed sponsorship. After an initial investment of £250,000 over three years, the company continued to sponsor LFW until Canon took over their role in

2006. Sassoon’s investment represented a new era for LFW, encouraging other companies to take up sponsorship so by the point of “October 2007, LFW received over £1 million in sponsorship each season and had a larger number of sponsors than any of its international equivalents” (ibid., p. 188). This sponsorship, together with the establishment of the BFC “represented a major achievement and the end of London’s inability to present a united front in the face of competition from other fashion capitals” (ibid., p.107). The result is an industry which, in 2009, “contributed £20.9 billion to the UK economy, or 1.7% of total UK GDP”, and accounted for 816,000 jobs or “2.7% of total UK employment” (British Fashion Council, 2010, p. 25). Editor of British Vogue, Alexandra Shulman, summarised for the Guardian, “British fashion, unlike many of its counterparts, remains resolutely inventive, uncategorizable and challenging” (Shulman, 2009). A sentiment echoed by Anna Laub, founder and creative director of Prism London, “London is one of, if not the, central place globally for fashion design” (Laub, 2016, p. 56).

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London’s a capital city, it’s arguably the most important fashion and media city in Europe. Josephine Collins, Course Leader for BA Fashion Journalism at London College of Fashion (Collins, 2016. See Appendix D)

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Chapter 2 Brexit & potential consequences for London’s fashion industry

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What is Brexit?

What is the European Union?

’Brexit’ is the nickname coined for the British exit from the European Union (EU), “a portmanteau of the words ‘Britain’ and ‘exit’” (Taub, 2016). The referendum, held on June 23rd 2016, asked voters: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” (GOV.UK, 2016). The result was a 52% to 48% vote to the ‘Leave’ campaign, with a turnout of “71.8%, with more than 30 million people voting” (Hunt and Wheeler, 2016).

Often abbreviated to the ‘EU’, the European Union is a political and economic union between 28 countries in Europe, with a collective population of more than 500 million. It was founded after the Second World War in order to “foster economic cooperation: the idea being that countries that trade with one another become economically interdependent and so more likely to avoid conflict”, (The European Union, 2016). The internal market of the EU has become a ‘single market’ in which the “the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons is assured, and in which citizens are free to live, work, study and do business” (EUR-Lex, 2016).

Britain will continue to abide EU laws and treaties until it ceases to become a member, but will take no further part in decision-making. Britain will only begin the leaving process once Article 50 is triggered by Prime Minister Theresa May, who assumed the role after David Cameron resigned upon losing the ‘Remain’ (in the EU) campaign. Britain will then have two years to complete the exit process. However, the terms of Britain’s exit have to be agreed by 27 national parliaments, a process which could take “up to six years” (Hunt and Wheeler, 2016) suggested Former Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond (now Chancellor), to BBC News.

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“The free movement of people is fundament­al to the success of our business” (Porter, 2016)

What does this mean for the British fashion industry? committed to honouring the British electorates wishes as a result of the referendum, as she stated, “I think an important aspect that underpinned people’s approach to that vote was a concern that they had about control of movement of people from the EU into the UK”, despite being a supporter of Britain remaining in the EU, she appears to have accepted the loss and is dedicated to doing her job as leader of the British democracy stating, “It’s now our job to get on and deliver it”, (Woodcock, 2016). She has also stated that she endeavours to reduce net migration, “the difference between the numbers entering and leaving the country” (Hunt and Wheeler, 2016), to a ‘sustainable’ level - below 100,000 per year. The figure currently stands at “330,000 a year, of which 184,000 are EU citizens, and 188,000 are from outside the EU the figures include a 39,000 outflow of UK citizens”, (ibid.). So, it is clear that immigration will be impacted, the extent of which is a cause of concern for many in the industry.

One of the biggest potential ramifications for the fashion industry is the impact on immigration, which the industry relies upon heavily for both talent and workforce. Currently fellow EU citizens can enter our country with ease and benefit from lower education fees than non-EU members, encouraging them to study and subsequently work in Britain. However as a result of Brexit, immigration laws could change, making it both more difficult and more expensive for EU citizens to enter and study in Britain. The potential consequence to the fashion industry is fewer students and workers entering the country, depriving it of valuable international design talent and promoting “cultural and industrial impoverishment”, (Business of Fashion, 2016). The restriction of Britain’s immigration laws, a major feature in the ‘Leave’ campaign, will be an issue Theresa May plans to negotiate. She appears 11


The importance of immigration to the British fashion industry The referendum result was an unpopular one within the British fashion industry. During the campaign, the BFC conducted a poll in which 90 per cent of the 500 designers they asked stated they planned to vote ‘Remain’. As Breward and Gilbert state in Fashion’s World Cities, the fashion industries within global fashion cities have “been shaped by flows of people (as cheap skilled labour, designers, entrepreneurs and consumers), materials, capital and ideas”, and “immigration has been a feature of the development of most major fashion centres, particularly London” (2006, p. 9). Additionally, a ‘senior figure in a multibrand luxury retailer’ said ‘off-the-record’ to the Financial Times, that “the free movement of people is fundament­al to the success of our business” (Porter, 2016). In short, immigration is the lifeblood of the British fashion industry. The starting point for many designers is education. London’s highly acclaimed fashion schools attract many talented EU students who benefit from worldclass teaching and lower tuition fees than their non-EU counterparts. The number of EU students currently in HE (Higher Education) in the UK stands at 124,575, with non-EU students at 312,010. Many students choose to remain in the UK upon graduating to begin their careers/launch their own businesses. Some of Britain’s most exciting new designers are EU immigrants, “hailing from countries like Serbia (Roksanda Ilincic), Portugal (Marques’Almeida) and Greece (Mary Katrantzou)” (Business of Fashion, 2016). In fact, “56 per cent of designers on London Fashion Week’s Schedule…were born outside the UK” (Armstrong, 2016). It is designers such as these which contribute to and uphold London’s reputation as an innovative and diverse fashion capital.

However, it is not just designers who are vital to the continued success of the British fashion industry. Fashion schools offer courses in marketing, communication, creative direction, merchandising, journalism and fashion business; producing graduates who fill roles that current UK citizens cannot. Recently appointed as Burberry’s CEO is Marco Gobetti, and similarly at Alexander McQueen is CEO Emmanuel Gintzberger, both of whom are EU immigrants. Patrick Grant, owner and creative director of British label E. Tautz, stated, “In our own factory, two-thirds of the workers are eastern European, because we don’t have the skilled labour in this country,” (Porter, 2016), a sentiment echoed by Andrew Groves, Course Director BA Fashion at the University of Westminster, who confirmed immigration law changes “could make a difference to all the hundreds of graduates who staff the design studios” (ibid.). Course Leader for BA Fashion Journalism at LCF, Josephine Collins (see Appendix D), affirmed that the flow of international students for LCF is “really important” (Collins, 2016. See Appendix D). This was a statement echoed by Lee Barron (see Appendix C), Faculty Director of International Recruitment & Development at Northumbria University (which also has a London campus), who also said flow of international students is “a very important element”, and additionally that “the London campus is predominantly international students. Its location is very important in that it’s in a very vibrant economic, financial and cultural zone”, (Barron, 2016. See Appendix C). It is clear that a change to immigration laws will have a profound effect on the vital flow of EU students into UK educational institutions, and subsequently the quality of London’s industry as a whole. In support of this, a study by Britain’s National Institute of Economic and Social Research found that losing labour force “could lead to lower productivity, slower economic growth and decreased job opportunities”, (Taub, 2016). 12


What attracts international students to study in the UK?

Below: “Was the ease of immigration from a fellow EU country an important factor in your decision to come study in the UK?” (SurveyMonkey Survey on Potential Effects of Brexit, 2016)

A vast amount of both primary and secondary research was carried out in order to determine what reasons were responsible for the large influx of international students into UK institutions, and how Brexit may change these factors. Funding emerged as a very important factor for international students currently studying in the UK, for example, in a recent survey of international fashion students (see Appendix E) participants were asked, “Was the ease of immigration from a fellow EU country an important factor in your decision to come study in the UK?” (SurveyMonkey 17% Survey on Potential Effects of Brexit, 2016), to which No 83 per cent answered ‘Yes’ and 17 per cent answered ‘No’, (see graph opposite). EU students don’t have to obtain, and subsequently waver the fee of, visas whilst also benefitting from paying the same university fees as UK-domiciled students (£9,000 per year), whilst also having “access to the same taxpayer-backed tuition fee loans as UK students”, (Espinoza, 2016). However, if Brexit results in all international students (both EU and 83% non-EU) paying the same higher fee of £15,000 per Yes year, this takes away the funding-based incentive to study here, or to contribute to the UK fashion industry. One survey participant (see Appendix E) stated, “I would not be able to afford study here without the tuition fee loan and the UK is becoming a less attractive country to work in”, whilst another cited the “EU gives lower fees” (SurveyMonkey Survey on Potential Effects of Brexit, 2016), as their reason for studying in the UK. Whilst they provide a helpful insight, the results of this survey may have limited usefulness as there were only This leads to the conclusion that perhaps the future of eleven respondents. UK arts education, for international students, will be an elitist one. Affordable only to those born in Britain, London is a creative hub, and “a city that is very open or with the financial ability to pay £15,000 per year to everyone. People of all genders and races within for an education in their desired field of fashion, which the creative industry can really thrive here”, (Stringer, they could perhaps obtain elsewhere (Paris, Milan) for 2016, p. 55). This statement highlights what Britain a lower fee. may be sacrificing by voting to leave the EU. London has a reputation of being “modern, progressive and Funding incentives, however, were not the only factors forward-thinking”, (Andersen, 2016, p. 51), however that attract international students to study in the UK. the decision to withdraw from the EU, which the UK London is one of the world’s most iconic cities, and one has been a member of for over 40 years, suggests of the four fashion capitals, along with Milan, Paris and that Britain wants to isolate itself both politically and New York. It is rich in history, culture and architecture, economically from the rest of Europe, and become and is “arguably the most important fashion and media independent of it, rather than an active contributor city in Europe” (Collins, 2016. See Appendix D). to the EU’s ‘single market’. The future of London may Multiple reasons were attributed by survey participants present a contradiction to Amie Robertson’s (a London(see Appendix E) as the reasons they chose the UK to based designer) previous statement in i-D Magazine; study in, from “very supportive of fashion, famous for “London is the most supportive city for designers its style”, to “good fashion schools that actually help whether male or female, there are no restrictions on you get employment”, and “better fashion-friendly our creativity and no limits on what we can achieve” environment” (SurveyMonkey Survey on Potential (Robertson, 2016, p. 57), in that the government itself Effects of Brexit, 2016). will impose these restrictions and limits on creativity. 13


Further potential negative consequences for the UK fashion industry The British fashion industry doesn’t just benefit from the influx of international talent as a result of its EU membership, it also receives access to vital funding to support innovation and unite designers. Many fashion-related bodies are in danger of losing funding, including the BFC, who receive funding from the European Regional Development Fund. Chief Executive, Caroline Rush stated, “We have had reassurances that the current grant is secure. What will happen post-exit is a different matter. That will be an opportunity for lobbying government in terms of funding, and how our industries and different initiatives are supported”, (Porter, 2016). Another organisation in danger is the Centre for Fashion Enterprise (CFE), “which supports emerging brands with funding from the EU that’s matched with funds from the London College of Fashion” (ibid.). They have worked with EU-born designers Mary Katrantzou and Marques’Almeida, alongside many others, to build their brands into successful London-based businesses, alongside creating jobs. Not only do this affect the development of EU talent in London, but home talent as well, meaning the UK’s fashion industry as a whole stands to suffer.

Above right: Marques Almeida - one of the EU-born designers the CFE have supported using EU funding (Models.com, 2015)

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Chapter 3 Moving forward

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Moving forward, the steps the British fashion industry now needs to take in the aftermath of Brexit must to be considered. Many prominent figures in the industry have spoken out about the most important issues to be addressed including Alexandra Shulman, Editorin-Chief of British Vogue and Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the BFC. The focus appears to be on minimising ‘red tape’ and any potential barriers to entry which overseas students/talent may experience in the future when entering the country. London-based accessories designer, Anya Hindmarch, believes we ought to be “pragmatic and upbeat”, and encourage the government to “focus on the ability to hire talent from overseas. Keeping red tape, customs, duties and tariffs low and simple” (Business of Fashion, 2016). Shulman similarly concluded that the government must ensure as “little damage to our lifestyle and economy as possible”(ibid.). Similarly, following a series of roundtables carried out by the BFC with a number of designers and brands, Rush reported; “The three main

concerns were around Intellectual Property regulations; tariffs; and talent and visas”, continuing, “with the help of the British government we intend to ensure that we are able to protect tariff-free trade in the EU, keeping red tape to a minimum while also establishing effective trade deals in key territories outside of the EU” (ibid.). Lee Barron also echoed these concerns, stating that universities will be hoping to keep “the visa issue as straightforward as possible”, and they will endeavour to “minimise and support as much as possible any government-imposed issues”, (Barron, 2016. See Appendix C) in order to make the process as smooth as possible. This suggests that the British fashion industry will be looking to potentially lobby the government in order to ensure their industry is protected, and the issues discussed above are addressed. As stated in the Financial Times, this is already beginning, “many are now lobbying for the future of British fashion, particularly the free movement of people” (Porter, 2016). 16


Opposite: Vivienne Westwood is one of many designers who have spoken out in favour of Britain remaining in the EU (Wildabout Magazine, 2016)

Will London’s reputation suffer?

esteemed reputation suffering. 64 per cent of survey participants (see Appendix E) said ‘No’, they didn’t Moving forward, the question of whether London’s believe Brexit would affect London’s reputation. reputation as an innovative, diverse and welcoming Josephine Collins agreed. She believes, “this is fashion capital will suffer as a result of the Brexit vote something that is separate from its reputation as a needs to be considered. The results of primary research fashion centre, and a centre for fashion education,” yielded mixed views. On one hand, there are those concluding, “I don’t think London and its reputation of the opinion that London’s reputation will suffer. Of will be affected at all” (Collins, 2016. See Appendix those 36 per cent who answered ‘Yes’ to the question D). Lee Barron also discussed the perceived separation “Do you think the UK leaving the EU has affected their of the Brexit vote and the fashion industry, arguing reputation as being a diverse and innovative fashion that the industry, including the likes of “Vivienne centre?” (SurveyMonkey Survey on Potential Effects of Westwood, Patrick Grant, Paul Smith” have been Brexit, 2016) in a recent survey (see Appendix E), there “very, very upfront with saying we want to be a part were responses such as, “it makes them seem like they of Europe”, concluding, “there’s clear messages from want to be isolated from Europe”, and “less inclusive” our industry to Europe that…they consider themselves, (SurveyMonkey Survey on Potential Effects of Brexit, part of that process” (Barron, 2016. See Appendix 2016). Whilst another expressed their concern of C). It is clear that members of the British fashion Brexit making “London less important” (ibid.) as new industry in London want to distance themselves from companies choose to set up in other fashion capitals the anti-immigration message that is implied by Brexit, (which make entry easier), possibly endangering future which is clearly backed up by statistics. In a BFC poll innovation. Lee Barron also suggested that we must conducting before the referendum vote, 90 per cent of consider “the symbolic impact” of one of the “global the 500 designers they asked stated they planned to nexus” points of the fashion industry detaching itself vote ‘Remain’. In addition, referendum results revealed from “the natural continuum” (Barron, 2016. See “60 per cent of Londoners backed British membership Appendix C) that has previously occurred in Europe. of the European Union” (Coles, Kirk and Krol, 2016). In short, London wanted Britain to remain a member of However, on the other hand, there are others who the EU; implying a disassociation with the final result believe that the Brexit vote will not result in London’s and its subsequent implications.

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The resilience of the British fashion industry Furthermore, the British fashion industry has proven itself in the past to be resilient, and able to overcome obstacles which have threatened its survival. Many in the industry are optimistic, including Fabio Piras, MA Fashion Course Director at CSM, who believes the British fashion industry is “flexible and resilient enough to deal with whatever the consequences of leaving the EU might be”, (Business of Fashion, 2016). Stavros Karelis, founder of contemporary London label Machine-A is in agreement, citing “The British fashion industry has managed to survive the 2008 credit crisis and bounce back to become very competitive and thriving” (ibid.) as the reason for his optimism in the aftermath of Brexit. Anya Hindmarch similarly stated, “I suspect that we will find a way to make it a success for us and for the UK as well as for our European business partners. We will make it work with respect for each other”, (ibid.). So, whilst Brexit is a largely negative issue for the fashion industry, there are measures that can be taken to minimise damage to the future of the industry and London’s reputation as a fashion capital. Many designers will be conscious of the way Brexit will be perceived by business partners and suppliers overseas, so optimistic statements such as those above are to be expected as designers endeavour to project a positive image across the continent.

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“Fashion is an industry that only exists because it accepts the idea of constant change” Fabio Piras, MA Fashion Course Director at Central Saint Martins (Business of Fashion, 2016)

Recommendations The key to minimising potential ramifications to London as a fashion capital, and the British fashion industry as a whole, is to maintain the strong relationship the industry currently has with Europe. Currently, British designers export “70 per cent of their products to the EU” (Armstrong, 2016), alongside conducting business with countless suppliers, trade shows and overseas stores who stock their products. British brands will have to take steps to maintain these links overseas in the midst of Brexit. The first may be to rally fellow designers, education institutions and funding bodies to lobby the government in order to protect trade tariffs, and to minimise red tape for potential students and workers wishing to enter the UK. The government can do this in the form of making the process of obtaining a visa, and passing through customs etc. as simple as possible. The potential solution could be to adopt a similar strategy to Norway, who are not members of the EU but receive “access to most of the bloc’s internal market through membership of the European Economic Area”, (Gurzu, 2016). This means Norway

is part of Europe’s Schengen passport-free travel zone, and also allows “goods, services and labor [to] flow freely between Norway and the EU” (ibid.), in turn, the country implements around 75 per cent of EU laws. In terms of maintaining profits, designers have several options, although each presents drawbacks. The first could be to raise sale prices, in order to maintain profit margins if import prices increase. The clear negative of this option however is increased prices resulting in deterring customers and pushing them towards more affordable brands. A second option is to buy more goods from the UK to forego import charges. Although this is a viable option, Sarah Gordon of the Financial Times states it is “unlikely given the expense” (Gordon, 2016) which will come with buying from the UK as opposed to cheaper overseas manufacturers. Further options suggested by Gordon include setting up offshore distribution facilities or a “bonded warehouse in the UK to avoid duties on items that will be reexported” (ibid.). 20


opposite: Mary Katrantzou x Adidas collection. Katrantzou is one of many EU-born talents currently operating as a successful designer in London (Adidas, 2015)

Conclusion In order to answer the question ‘What makes a global fashion city and will London suffer as a result of Brexit?’, this body of research has identified the production of world-class talent from educational institutions as a characteristic common to each global fashion city, the focal city of this research being London. With this in mind, the biggest potential threat to the British fashion industry is the effect that postBrexit regulations will impose on flow of immigration. Immigration is a force the industry relies on heavily for talent and workforce; both of which contribute to the success of not just the British fashion industry and its acclaimed reputation, but to the UK economy. “Immigration has been a feature of the development of most major fashion centres, particularly London” (Breward and Gilbert, 2006, p. 9), and tighter laws, alongside the loss of funding for organisations such as the BFC and the CFE, combined with the scrapping of lower tuition fees for EU students, could result in the flow of international talent into Britain being majorly compromised. A considerable number feel this will inevitably impact London’s reputation as being a “open and modern, progressive and forward-thinking” fashion capital (Andersen, 2016) as the Brexit vote and the antiimmigration connotations that accompany it appear to contradict this statement. However, many in the industry are optimistic and have made conscious efforts to assure Europe these are not the values the industry holds. Among those is Paul Smith, who has spoken out on the issue, affirming, “Without question I am loyal to Europe” (Porter, 2016). Bearing in mind the fashion

industry is one “that only exists because it accepts the idea of constant change” (Business of Fashion, 2016), and the fact that it has overcome major threats to its survival in the past, such as the 2008 credit crisis, it has proven to be a resilient and flexible industry with the ability to bounce back from decline. Navigating the post-Brexit landscape may not be simple, but it is achievable. Experts have stated that there needs to be an emphasis “on the ability to hire talent from overseas. Keeping red tape, customs, duties and tariffs low and simple” (Business of Fashion, 2016), to avoid deterring talent elsewhere. The industry can lobby the government to ensure their concerns are heard, and the government in turn could consider adopting a strategy similar to non-EU member Norway’s, who remain in Europe’s single market and the Schengen passport-free travel zone. This approach could solve both tariff and visa concerns whilst maintaining the UK’s vital relationship with Europe. Other options for brands include increasing product prices, sourcing UK-produced goods, setting up offshore distribution facilities and bonded warehouses. There is no question that Brexit will affect the British fashion industry, the extent of which is unknowable at this point, however an industry that “ contributes some £28 billion ($37bn) to the UK economy” (GDN Online, 2016), will of course be taken into consideration when the time comes for Brexit-imposed laws to be created. Final word count including primary research quotes and excluding secondary research quotes = 4,393 21


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Dissertation Research Project  

This project examines what it means to be a ‘global fashion city’, and how the referendum vote in favour of ‘Brexit’ could potentially affec...

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