When on Friday, my good friend and beauty blogger, beautypulseLONDON, turned down a breakfast meet-up to attend London fashion week, it got me thinking…
There has been a lot of talk this week about British fashion, the British fashion industry and how much the fashion industry contributes to the economy. In Friday’s Evening Standard, the report on the commencement of fashion week at Somerset House, says Sir Philip Green of Top Shop ‘…called on the government to recognise the contribution British designers make to the economy, an estimated 20.9 billion a year.’
Samantha Cameron, hosted a reception at Downing Street in support of the British Fashion industry, attended by Sir Philip Green and Anna Wintour of US Vogue who thanked Sir Philip Green for his support of NEWGEN (a scheme to help young designers) for the past 10 years.
But all this talk of British designers and British fashion and British fashion industry made me question the fashion industry’s definition of British, because trawling through the images on the British Fashion Council’s website, I didn’t see any evidence of the diversity of Britain or indeed London in most of the images.
The British Fashion Council, in collaboration with the British council had an inaugural International Fashion Showcase, highlighting the work of emerging designers from all over the world ‘to celebrate the year of the Olympics and Paralympics and honour its values of international respect, excellence, equality and friendship.’ BeautypulseLONDON attended the Caribbean event and the designers did the region proud! In her blog The Caribbean Collections: LFW AW12 she waxes lyrical about the fabulous creativity of the designers, from the hand bags of VeVe Collections to the funky 70’s feel of The Collection 75 the beauty and creativity were there for all to see.
Some of the other countries featured in the showcase include China, Botswana, Uzbekistan, the US and Nigeria, my parents’ country of origin. This international showcasing of designers from around the world is all well and good, but what about the diversity right here on our doorstep?
The fashion industry wants to be taken seriously, if the report – The Future of Fashion: Strategic Consideration for Growth – is anything to go by. In the report, the government is urged to define fashion retail as part the creative industry so that it can ‘….get policy attention and civil service resources it needs.’ The report also talks about other serious issues such as skills, training and job creation. A very serious issue for young people, especially in London and most especially for those from a minority background.
The report expresses a desire to ‘…map out training in all the various functions of the fashion industry [and] where gaps exist, action must be taken to fill them….through carefully designed apprenticeship programmes.’
These are serious issues indeed and an indication that the fashion industry wants to be taken seriously. But I think, in order to be taken seriously, the industry must take it’s critics seriously and address those issues if it really wants to grow. Criticism of the images produced that are a distortion of real people and a distortion of how people see themselves, as well as how society as a whole perceives the value of the fashion industry. It’s not enough to say that the fashion industry is valuable because it makes money, it must have added value, goodwill, if you will, that is essential for the growth and success of any industry.
It is not enough to go on about the British fashion industry, if the fashion industry does not portray the diversity of the British culture. The report – The future of Fashion – asserts that, ‘The fashion industry is rightly perceived as dynamic, young, vibrant and hopeful.’ I daresay if this statement is to be unequivocal, the fashion industry must add diversity to its growth strategy.
In Friday’s Evening Standard, Harold Tillman, British Fashion Council chairman was quoted as saying, ‘…..we need to do more. We need to pull together as an industry to make it happen.’
Hear! Hear!….. Rule Britannia!