The British Fashion Council closed London Fashion Week with a reception to celebrate British fashion and sustainability at Downing Street hosted alongside the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Rt. Hon Oliver Dowden, MP.
Dowden, with Stephanie Phair, chair and Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, welcomed designers, publishers, retailers and business leaders from the fashion industry to the reception to share further details of its plans for the Institute of Positive Fashion and its global initiatives map to support UK fashion designer businesses, while calling for an industry-led step-change to address climate change.
Phair opened proceedings discussing the “unprecedented challenges” that faced London Fashion Week this season, as the fashion industry navigated the impact of coronavirus, the ongoing negotiations post-Brexit, and Storm Dennis, as well as what she called the “biggest challenge” the sustainability of the planet.
In her opening speech, Phair said: “Since becoming chair two years ago, I have seen the depth of commitment to supporting all aspects of this industry. From championing emerging talent to raising millions for education through The Fashion Awards to helping business prepare for investment and of course showcasing our talent on a global stage. As the first of the four global fashion weeks to open its doors to the public London Fashion Week has become an even more powerful platform for communication.
“Throughout my career, I’ve seen first-hand the power of fashion to tell stories and define our culture. This gives an incredible influence to bring the consumer into the conversation as we address sustainability and build a movement for change.”
Phair added: “Some have called on us to cancel fashion week and I accept that our model, its frequency and its purpose need to evolve. But I do believe that it can be a positive platform to showcase change and we will work with consumers, the industry and our counterparts around the world because we all care deeply about our industry and its legacy. I’m particularly I’m proud that as an organisation we recognise the power of activism but keep focused on practical actions.”
London Fashion Week closes with detailed sustainability plans
Fashion is a significant global industry worth 32 billion pounds to the UK economy and employing 1 million people, and the British Fashion Council is looking to be forward-thinking and reimagine the industry as a “force for good” and with that asking for better collaboration from within the fashion industry with its Institute of Positive Fashion.
Rush, added: “Climate change is the largest issue facing the planet today, we know that both collective and individual action is needed to meet the pace of change required. As an industry, there are some big questions we need to answer, and some new ways of working required.”
Some of those “big questions” Rush explained are how does the fashion industry use the power of the collective as a catalyst, how can the industry move forward and share knowledge, without duplication, and importantly how can the industry use their voice, platforms, and global reach to communicate the need for change.
“We have marked 2020 as a year for positive change,” explained Rush. “In a very British way, we are looking at a practical, action led agenda that can help inform businesses, connect with global initiatives and bring industry together to tackle big issues.”
The British Fashion Council is looking to address sustainability with three action points, the first is its Mapping Global Initiative, which it states will act as a baseline to avoid duplication and provide clarity around where new resources can focus.
Rush called on all in the industry “to contribute, to help us make this map go further and to ensure that none of us duplicate, ensuring collaboration on positive change going forward”.
The initiatives currently on the Institute of Positive Fashion map, located on the BFC’s website, are segmented by Pillar Environment, People, Community and Craftsmanship, and by territory market. With the British Fashion Council adding that it hopes by the time the Institute of Positive Fashion launches later this year that there will be “deeper data to align the initiatives to business verticals”.
The Institute of Positive Fashion platform will become a hub for all businesses to see what toolkits and information is available, and it will also provide a framework that supports information flow to global initiatives such as G7, UNFCCC and is already working with the United Nations Office of Partnerships (UNOP).
The initiative will also invite industry to collectively look more closely at innovation to address the issues that are discussed at boardrooms and roundtables regularly.
The final action point mentioned by Rush was to use its platforms, including London Fashion Week and The Fashion Awards to address the issues, while also showcasing new businesses models and “create appetite for engagement” such as it has seen with its Positive Fashion Exhibition featured during London Fashion Week and its partnership with the UN Office for Partnerships at The Fashion Awards last year.
Rush added: "It is no accident we are here at Downing Street sharing this with you. We need government to work with us. These are challenging times and your support and leadership is required to shape the future together, to embrace innovation, address climate, people and cultural challenges so that the fashion industry can remain an economic, creative & cultural, positive contributor whilst ensuring that our natural resources are protected, re-instated and the industry evolves for the future.
"Let’s work together, share, collaborate not duplicate and use our voice. Fashion is a creative outlet for individual expression that touches everyone, and as we have seen at London Fashion Week our businesses can inspire, support communities with a huge capacity to be a social force for good.”
Image: courtesy of the British Fashion Council - Stephanie Phair, chair, British Fashion Council, Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for DCMS, Caroline Rush, chief executive, British Fashion Council