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A Dress For Success: London Fashion Week And The Economy

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In a recent speech in London, Chancellor George Osborne declared that the UK economy is “turning a corner”.  His statement may be very timely, if economic forecasts surrounding London Fashion Week prove to be true.

Vodafone, American Express, Canon and Mercedes-Benz are just a small number of major international companies lined up to sponsor the event, which will begin on September 13.  Organised by the British Fashion Council (BFC), it promises to showcase Britain’s best designers, both established and newcomers.  As one of the ‘big four’ international catwalk benchmarks, the event is estimated to attract over five thousand journalists, photographers, TV crews and, crucially, buyers.  The exhibitors expect orders to exceed £100 million – a welcome boost for the economy, and a renaissance for the British clothing industry.

The clothing and textile industry may be the economic keystone for modern Britain.  In 2009, it produced over £20.9 billion worth of goods.  This figure is only expected to increase with the emergence of digital technologies which have insofar permitted designers to work more closely with suppliers and retailers, encouraging a resurgence of primary material manufacture in the UK. 

Fashion retail is another emerging sector.  According to a report by the BFC, the UK fashion retail sector generates just over half as many jobs as travel and tourism, making it the second largest employer.  Including direct, indirect and induced impacts, the industry has supported 1.31 million jobs – 4.5% of total employment – in 2009.

Even so, the fashion industry faces important challenges.  A high number of designer businesses still fail, and there is a lack of entrepreneurial and skill training for young designers.  The dominance of e-commerce has equally placed demands on manufacturing, design and retail processes to keep up.    

However, the BFC has been consistently targeting these challenges with initiatives aimed at developing five cornerstones to a prosperous British fashion industry:  business, investment, reputation, innovation and education.

For starters, the technological revolution has only galvanised the industry into pursuing innovative ventures, with companies such as ASOS and Net-a-Porter harnessing the increasing efficiencies of online retail.  Brand equity estimation has also produced a surprising figure – calculating ‘Brand Britain’s’ worth as £1.75 trillion.  Additionally, it is this very brand recognition that enhances UK tourism to flourish by encouraging international tourists to visit the UK.

As London Fashion Week begins, Britain takes the world stage, and shows a promising economic model that may be the key to combat the damaging and demoralising effects of the recession.  With the government’s promotional backing, it seems that the economy may, indeed, turn that long-awaited corner.