Feb 19, 2022
Caroline Rush (BFC): "Many designers embrace the hybrid model”
Feb 19, 2022
London Fashion Week kicked off its five-day hybrid schedule on Friday, with a return to pre-pandemic normalcy still far from being achieved, and with Brexit still a challenge, said Caroline Rush, director of the British Fashion Council (BFC), to AFP.
Still, digital runway presentations have been embraced as a creative and commercial opportunity for many brands, and hybrid presentations could be here to last.
What can we expect of fashion week in London after two very difficult years?
Caroline Rush: This week, we are delighted to welcome runway presentations that will once again embrace a hybrid format with some 60 digital presentations and 50 in-person ones. There is a real appetite for a face-to-face experience and I look forward to seeing an international audience return. We are clearly not back to normal, but this is progress from where we were in September and September was already an improvement (compared to the peak of the pandemic when Fashion Week had to be cancelled, editor’s note).
We won’t have people from many Asian countries who are still not able to travel, but there are representatives from the U.K. here, so you can still do business and see the collections, and buying online is something that people have gotten used to.
I don’t know if we’ll go back to where we were before. The need to move to digital runway presentations has inspired many creators over the past two years and it is now up to them to decide how they want to show their work. Many of them may decide to do a in-person runway presentation in February and a digital one in September, truly embracing the hybrid model.
What has been the impact of the pandemic and Brexit?
CR: It’s been two very difficult years. The pandemic has hit everyone in the industry, digital sales (surged) and the way we buy has changed.
The Covid-19 supply chain crisis has been a real challenge. Some designers can’t show their collection because there’s been an outbreak of cases in their factory. It’s hard to produce a collection in time, but it’s getting better.
Brexit continues to be a challenge for the fashion industry, whether it’s tariffs, paperwork, visas for people to work in different countries. We have an active dialogue with the government. Of course, free trade agreements have been signed and we want to ensure that the fashion industry is at the centre of discussions, and that the difficulties and lessons of Brexit are taken into account. But we are optimistic — we have incredible designers, innovation and creativity, and that continues to resonate around the world.”
The fashion industry has been heavily criticized in recent months for its negative environmental impact...
CR: We will talk a lot (during Fashion Week) about sustainability. As an industry, we know we have an impact on the planet. We’ve made commitments to really think about how we can move to more circular fashion in the UK. Designers have really been at the forefront of this transition, and new talent is very keen to create sustainably-oriented businesses. We have to think about the materials we us, but for that we need infrastructures to collect and recycle (old clothes).
Designers and companies are thinking in terms of resale and repair to extend the life of a garment, but we do not necessarily have the mechanical and chemical recycling infrastructure in the United Kingdom. This represents a tremendous opportunity for the country to create skills and jobs.
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