As a small-scale June edition of London Fashion Week gets under way, the BFC’s Chair David Pemsel has issued a strategy update and rallying cry that sets out what the body wants to do but adds it needs help to do that.
Pemsel said that after taking over from Stephanie Phair last autumn, he’s been working with BCF CEO Caoline Rush and that “we will focus our resources and the expertise available to us on responsible growth, relentless innovation and the global and local amplification of the British fashion industry”.
He added that this comes at an unprecedented time of challenges after several years “of turmoil from Brexit to Covid to War in Ukraine, to the cost-of-living crisis” and that “taking the time to re-set has been essential. The UK fashion industry is harder to navigate than ever, with new international trading terms post-Brexit, challenges to access finance, longer payment terms, increasing regulation on the horizon as our industry transitions to net zero, the need to create a truly diverse workforce with equal access and the opportunity sighted through digital fashion”.
It does raise questions over what the future of this month’s LFW event will be. Originally a menswear-only event, it lost this focus as big brands more frequently combined their men’s and women’s collections in their main September LFW show, or even decided to show at Paris or Milan’s menswear events.
The challenges Pemsel mentioned — particularly Covid lockdowns — also had an impact on it and the result is that the current June schedule is a radically reduced one with big names notably absent.
Pemsel said nothing about that but stressed that the BFC’s “mission is to champion British fashion as a creative force on the world stage”. He said this will be done by “continuing to bolster our pioneering world-class programmes that unlock and elevate creative talent”.
The BFC will aim to “prepare businesses at all stages for positive change through embracing innovation. Success will be positioning British fashion as a catalyst of change in core commercial and cultural areas of the industry through Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEI&B), Digital Fashion and the Environment through our Institute of Positive Fashion”.
It will also “create connections, insights and advisory opportunities for our dynamic, inclusive, and unified community to come together to collectively support our industry to grow, to prepare for regulation and for talent to gain access”.
And it will “continue to evolve our platforms to amplify excellence in creativity and its role in the UK’s cultural influence”. That will mean “constant iteration of London Fashion Week as the leading creative, diverse and culturally influential platform and the Fashion Awards as a celebration of London as Creative Capital and primary fundraiser for the BFC Foundation”.
Whether this means a focus on the main September and February LFWs, or more evolution of its smaller events wasn’t made clear.
Pemsel was clearly also pitching for the wider industry to do more, saying: “Our ambitions are too great to be constrained by the small team at the BFC. We as an industry showed our strength as a community through the pandemic and harnessing that strength to collectively do what we can to contribute to retaining and strengthening our pre-eminent position as creators, innovators and industry trailblazers is the opportunity now”. He also said “our approach is to convene our community to collectively achieve this”, and he ended with: “We invite you to get involved.”
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