PDD attended The Future of Fashion debate hosted by Lord Laird of Artigarvan on Wednesday evening. This was a lively session covering the most pressing issues facing today’s fashion industry such as:
· The difficult relationship between designers and buyers in this economic climate
· The impact of London’s fashion industry on the UK’s economy
· How is the fashion industry supporting up and coming designers
· Amanda Rudin – FashionTV
· Harold Tillman – British Fashion Council
· Katie Maloy – Touch Media
From the general concerns raised, it seems the UK fashion industry is facing similar challenges to our manufacturing and creative industries as a whole. This includes competition from low cost countries, lack of support for small businesses and up-and-coming talent, an inflexible tax and financial system that hinders growth and a government that has a fragmented approach to supporting the industry.
Despite the seeming neglect and regulatory obstacles, the size of the UK Fashion Industry is still staggering. Harold Tillman presented the audience with figures from the latest Fashion Council study; £21 billion per year directly related to fashion and a further £10 billion in allied industries. This surprised nearly everyone present, especially Lord Laird. He encouraged those present to get involved in finding solutions rather than complaining, to form working committees and become more active. He was also surprised, given the size of the industry, that he and the House of Lords had not been lobbied in the past for support. They are now getting behind the industry and helping to push the government to do more.
This discussion resulted in an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience, with lots of suggestions floated from the floor to answer many of the issues raised. Lively discussion and debate carried on further into the evening over Hi Sushi and drinks – further such events are sure to follow.
The key message I took from the evening is that every UK industry is facing a tidal wave of subsidised competition from low cost countries and we all have a right to complain. In the end though, it is up to us to get involved, come up with solutions, actions and start a dialogue with Government and the Upper House in order to get results.