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LFW: The future of the British Fashion Council

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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As the British Fashion Council says goodbye to exiting Chairman Dame Natalie Massenet, it will face a new series of challenges in 2018.

Massenet was known for her strong relationships with UK-based designers and was able to offer mentoring in a way the previous chairmen did not. Massenet, unlike many others, understood the importance of branding and marketing, of the challenges facing young designers at retail level, and of bucking the system in order to get things done.

Of the BFC rules she changed, Massenet told the Business of Fashion: “First thing, we focused on the governance of the BFC, bringing in some non-execs who could add value. I immediately set out to define the five areas of focus that needed to be divided and conquered, and I appointed presidents to each of these five pillars: reputation, business, investment, digital and education, equally important and each needing to be addressed. We had Google, investment banks, the London School of Economics, the mayor’s office, not just the fashion industry get behind these initiatives, so we managed to get more done.”

But London, like New York, has lost some of its footing. Despite British designers creatively helming some of the world's best-known brands and companies, London Fashion Week is still at number three on the list of importance, after Paris and Milan. Many a formidable business still prefers to show in Paris, where the majority of orders are written. One of the goals of the BFC is to write as many orders and generate as much sterling at home as possible, but it must look beyond the parameters of London and think of what British fashion companies need to succeed in a global marketplace.

The BFC monetised the British Fashion Awards

During Massenet's tenure the BFC monetised the British Fashion Awards and solidified the importance of celebrating and honouring British brands and designers, in the same way the Americans have done with the CFDA Awards. Putting British fashion on the map of not just consumers but also communicating the importance of an industry is vital to its success.

The challenges that lie ahead for the British Fashion Council are in tandem with the developments in other industries, such as harnessing new technologies, how to survive in a crowded marketplace, and how to nurture young talent. One of the roles of the organisation is to provide e a platform for new designers that allows them to experiment, to be creative - even naive - and then to start new businesses from all they have learnt and seen.

As for the next chairman, Massenet told the Business of Fashion she has some advice: "a candidate who won’t replicate what I did, just as I didn’t replicate what came before me. I’d tell them to take the baton and run, not necessarily in the same direction, just keep running. But I hope the next chairman of the BFC is thinking about the impact of Alexa, of artificial intelligence, of last mile delivery. There are so many exciting things that are going to drive the future of the fashion industry.”

Photo credit: Natalie Massenet and Jose Neves, courtesy of Farfetch

British Fashion Council
Natalie Massenet