BFC data shows fashion's UK importance as body wants on Brexit risk

As London Fashion Week gets under way, the British Fashion Council (BFC) has unveiled new industry statistics highlighting just how important the sector is to Britain while also warning about the risk of a no-deal Brexit.


British fashion faces a huge risk because of Brexit according to industry insiders


Its new Value of Fashion report said the industry directly contributed £32.3 billion ($41.8billion) to UK GDP in 2017, a 5.4% increase on 2016 and - importantly - a growth rate 1.6% higher than the rest of the economy.

We hear a lot about how important the financial sector is to the UK, but the fashion industry is almost as large when it comes to employment figures. The BFC cited Oxford Economics 2018 figures that show 890,000 jobs are supported across the industry, which is up 1.8% year-on-year.

And in a BBC interview Friday for the Today show, BFC chair Stephanie Phair said Brexit is putting all that at risk as the uncertainty it’s causing “makes it difficult for the industry to figure out how to plan for Brexit in their strategies." 

She said: “It is an industry that is complex. It requires manufacturing abroad, designing here, reshipping abroad. It is a mix of goods, services and talents. So what we are talking to Government about is really frictionless borders, tariff-free access to the EU and the ability for talent to move, the free movement of people. We continue to have these conversations.”

But she said she was unable to say what impact a no-deal Brexit would have as even that option remains unclear in terms of its details.

Also on the Today show, the director of international business at the UK Fabric and Textiles Association, Paul Algar, said Brexit was “unhelpful” and that the pound’s weakness has caused costs to shoot up.

He added: “If we are manufacturing products here, and there is no deal, then we are looking at tariffs to get merchandise into Europe of 15%-20%, depending on the product, and that will have a knock-on effect. The EU is our largest export market by far.”

Orders taken in September at London Fashion Week will be delivered in January, February and March next year and he said this means buyers are unclear whether those goods will be caught up in queues at Dover and that could make them think twice about placing those orders.

Meanwhile Alexa Chung said a big concern is the potential impact of limits on freedom of movement for creative workers. “Our warehouse is in the Netherlands, there are British people in here, but we also have lots of talented people from all over the world, so that worries me,” she said.

“I think it takes that kind of melting pot of cultures and perspectives to make something creatively interesting, so if that is limited then I am sure it would have an impact on what we are making here.”

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