Sep 16, 2016
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London Fashion Week puts on brave face after Brexit

Sep 16, 2016

London Fashion Week opens on Friday with shows by Burberry, J.W. Anderson and Topshop UNIQUE, with the industry putting on a brave face amid concerns over the impact of Brexit.

Burberry - Fall-Winter2016 - Womenswear - London - © PixelFormula

Many designers wanted to stay in the European Union, and there are fears about the impact of leaving on exports, costs and London's ability to attract design talent.

The EU accounted for 70 percent of British textiles and apparel exports in 2014, worth £5.8 billion, according to the UK Fashion and Textile Association.

"London is a fashion, business, creative and cultural capital. It is a great place to live and work and is open for business," said Caroline Rush, the chief executive of the British Fashion Council.

"We are seeing strong retail sales and consumer spending at home, our brands continue to perform well in export markets and London is still home to the best talent in the global fashion industry," she said.

Retail sales suffered only a slight dip in August after a strong July, while analysts said the weaker pound since the referendum had boosted sales of luxury items by foreign tourists by making them cheaper.

But high street giant Next is among those warning that prices may rise as the weak currency makes it more expensive to import goods from overseas suppliers.

Prime Minister Theresa May marked London Fashion Week with a reception on Thursday at 10 Downing Street, where she played down the notion that Brexit would be bad for the industry.

"From our home grown start-ups to international fashion houses -- every business in the industry will play a major role in ensuring we make a success of Brexit.

"By taking advantage of the opportunities that leaving the EU gives us and playing to our strengths as a great trading nation - we can build a build a fairer economy that works for all, not just the privileged few," she said.

- 'One size of fashion' -

Over the next five days, an array of up-and-coming designers, high-street names and luxury brands will seek to banish the Brexit blues with shows across the capital.

They include Versus and Mm6, diffusion lines of international brands Versace and Maison Margiela, Kering-owned Christopher Kane, Paul Smith, Roksanda and Mulberry.

Burberry joins a growing list of designers including Gucci, Tom Ford and Vivienne Westwood by showing men and women's clothes together for the first time on Monday.

Confirming another trend, Topshop's UNIQUE collection will be available to buy immediately, addressing customers' impatience at having to wait months before catwalk clothes hit the shops.

This represents a fundamental change in the way fashion is delivered -- and women's rights campaigners have also seized it as a chance to address a long-held issue with the industry.

The Women's Equality Party has started a campaign on social media, #NoSizeFitsAll, to persuade London designers to offer larger sample sizes for all their collections to encourage the use of "more healthy-looking models.

"We aim with this campaign to bring an end at last to the idea that there is only one kind of body and one size of fashion for all," said Sophie Walker, the leader of the political party that was founded last year.

They reject the suggestion that this is impractical, pointing to the trend towards "see-now buy-now" collections.

The clothes are already there -- they've just not being shown on the catwalk," spokeswoman Catherine Riley told AFP.

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