LONDON — The British Fashion Council on Friday unveiled a new strategy, vowing to generate “responsible growth, relentless innovation, and the global and local amplification of the British fashion industry.”
David Pemsel, who succeeded Stephanie Phair last October as chair of the BFC, revealed the trade organization’s post-pandemic plans in a letter to BFC members and stakeholders.
“Our mission is to champion British fashion as a creative force on the world stage. We will do this by continuing to bolster our pioneering, world-class programs that unlock and elevate creative talent. Our work and success are fueled by you, an extraordinarily diverse and inspiring community of creatives, advocates, icons, experts, and fans,” Pemsel said in the letter.
In an exclusive interview, Caroline Rush, chief executive officer of the BFC, said the new strategy offers much-needed clarity to businesses and individuals “about how they get involved, how they can access the work that we’re doing, and why.”
The BFC said it will continue to prepare businesses at all stages for positive change by embracing innovation.
In the letter, Pemsel said that success will mean “positioning British fashion as a catalyst of change in core commercial and cultural areas of the industry, through DEI & B [diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging], Web 3, and the environment through our Institute of Positive Fashion.”
Unveiled in 2020, the Institute of Positive Fashion was meant to be a resource for businesses looking to ramp up their sustainability efforts, urging them to meld global collaboration with local action.
In the interview, Rush said the organization is planning to roll out webinars and forums in specific areas for members to envision how they can use these new ideas in their businesses.
The BFC said it wants to create connections, insights and advisory opportunities for the community to come together and prepare for regulation, and support emerging talent.
“Success will be to see businesses grow responsibly year on year, to build their networks to support growth, and to have the insights and advice they need at the different stages of their development. As part of this, the community will support us to support the next generation of talent through the BFC Foundation and early-stage business mentoring programs,” Pemsel’s letter added.
Rush said mentorship has been “growing in strength and success” in the past few years via the BFC community portal, which is accessible to designer members and patrons. It enables patrons to offer particular mentoring services to the whole of the design community, she added.
The letter also noted that London Fashion Week continues to be “a leading creative, diverse, and culturally influential platform” and described The Fashion Awards as “a celebration of London as the creative capital and the primary fundraiser for the BFC Foundation.”
The London Fashion Week June edition runs from Friday to Monday. Qasimi, SMR Days, Saul Nash, and Ravensbourne University London will anchor the showcase, while Daniel Fletcher and Martine Rose will show off-schedule on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
There will also be panel discussions and a London fashion-focused pub quiz over the weekend for attendees.
Rush described the slim June showcase as “a transition period,” and promised that the next one will look drastically different. Next year marks London Fashion Week’s 40th anniversary, and the BFC has been talking to menswear businesses about creating a new platform, she revealed.
“We love the highly creative businesses that are doing catwalk shows. But Savile Row, designers like Oliver Spencer, and other craft-led businesses don’t lend themselves necessarily to fashion shows. We want both the industry and the consumer to have access to those businesses and be able to celebrate their stories,” Rush said.
She also confirmed that the January edition of London Fashion Week, which used to focus on menswear, is unlikely to return. The timing — right after New Year’s Day — was awkward for designers, press, and buyers alike as they often skipped London to head straight to Pitti Uomo in Florence, and the showcase was put on hold during the pandemic.
Rush said the fast-changing buying model means that London-based menswear brands don’t necessarily have to stage a runway show so early in the year.
“The January edition started quite small. We felt comfortable doing it right at the beginning of January, but the pandemic made that incredibly challenging. We were practically under lockdown every January for the last few years. As a result, [men’s] designers have chosen to show in February,” said Rush.
She added: “I was talking to a menswear brand yesterday. They said that because buyers are now buying year-round, they’re actually able to write their menswear orders during London Fashion Week in February.”
Rush said the annual Fashion Awards ceremony, which is due to take place at Royal Albert Hall on Dec. 4, will “focus more on our British designers,” instead of global names, which have long dominated the event.
Last year’s edition spotlighted Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.
Rush said the BFC wants to give “brilliant British businesses a voice alongside the international fashion brands that are here. We want to celebrate our industry and equally support the next generation of designers coming through. Many of them may well end up in the design rooms around the world.”
The BFC will resume staging global events as well, Rush revealed.
She is meeting with the delegation from Shanghai Fashion Week next week to talk about rebooting the exchange program that was introduced in 2018. At the time, the project was funded by Chinese e-tailers JD.com and Vip.com.
The BFC also hosted a cocktail reception in New York in 2019 with designer Christopher Kane and model and singer Karen Elson in attendance.
Global outreach was a key part of Phair’s strategy for the BFC, which was revealed in September 2018 at a time when the U.K. was dealing with the challenges of Brexit and a fast-changing industry.
The other key area Phair was pushing for the BFC was to secure more private funding and bring the investment community closer to the fashion one.
She delivered that with a BFC joint partnership with tech companies including Google, Holition and Clearpay. She also helped to establish the Venrex BFC Fashion I fund.
The venture capital fund was a partnership with Venrex aimed at supporting “nontraditional” fashion businesses that have “strong creative, innovative and commercial credentials,” with seed, early stage or growth stage funding.
While Pemsel’s letter mentioned very little about the role that private investment will play going forward, it’s understood that the BFC will continue to help its community to engage with investors.