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Is UK fashion suffering from Brexiety?

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Update: 2019-09-19 17:13:54
Is UK fashion suffering from Brexiety?

September is a big month in the fashion calendar, with fashion weeks happening in New York, London, Milan and Paris. Each city hosts a series of events over five days where top designers show off their new collections.

Last week was London's turn. Think lots of "out there" outfits, air kisses on cheeks and greetings of "babe, you look incredible!"

But this year, the normal small talk between shows, and at after-parties, was punctuated by discussions about - yep, you guessed it - Brexit.

Everyone from designers to models and garment-makers were keen to know the impact leaving the European Union will have on their industry, which is worth £32bn to the UK's economy.

Despite fears about the possible impact of Brexit, London Fashion Week continues to attract the finest fashion talent from around the globe with designers from more than 19 countries showcasing their designs.

"The UK's fashion scene is still open and inclusive," says the London College of Fashion's director of recruitment, Paul Yuille.

The college, which has produced famous brands like Jimmy Choo and J W Anderson, had three designers in this year's event.

"We've had an increase in applications from European students wanting to study fashion in the UK. It started after the 2016 referendum and this year has been no different."

But his positive outlook is not shared by everyone in his industry.

Henry Holland is the founder of House of Holland, a designer label worn by celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Lizzo and Little Mix.

His London Fashion Week show on Saturday featured multi-coloured, leopard print dresses, slogan T-shirts and sparkly make-up.

When we meet him in his east London studio - an open space where Henry's dog, Little Miss Peggy, roams free - he tells Radio 1 Newsbeat the uncertainty over a no-deal Brexit is making things difficult for his business.

He says with so much unknown, it's hard to plan ahead.

"I'm petrified about the future. I think people are anxious and cautious, so when your business is reliant on people spending money on clothes - anxiety and caution don't really work for growth."

On the prospect of overseas trade deals outside the EU with countries like Australia, the US and Canada, he was cautious and acknowledged that any benefits would take time to have effect.

"Yes, there are possibilities there, but that's not something we can do overnight."

'It's a total gamble'

Henry explained how exchange rates are causing him difficulties because of how fashion companies work.

In his industry, it's common for brands to forward sell. Essentially, they agree to sell clothes at a certain price a few months in advance.

But, he says it's hard to know how to price things because of the changing value of the pound.

"The clothes we showcase at fashion week will be on sale to the customers in February next year, so I have to place orders on those goods, this side of Christmas and this side of Brexit. With fluctuating rates it's a total gamble."

Brexit uncertainty isn't just impacting high end designers, but the high street too.

Jenny Holloway runs Fashion Enter, a clothing factory which makes 10,000 pieces every week for brands including ASOS and Marks and Spencer.

Although they're based in north London, 85% of their machinists are from eastern Europe.

Jenny says they're now struggling to recruit new staff.

"People aren't knocking on the door like they were before, asking if they can come and join us.

"It's been disorientating and frustrating for the workforce because they don't really understand how it will affect them."

When asked why she doesn't employ more Brits, Jenny says there aren't currently enough qualified people:

"We don't have British garment makers in the numbers we need. There's been a drop in the number since the 70s and 80s".

Source: BBC

BDST: 1514 HRS, SEP 19, 2019

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