When it comes to UK fashion, there has been a flood of overseas investors in British brands since around 2013. It seems that whereas Paris was once at the heart of the art of turning fashion into business, the UK has now emerged as one of the most dynamic entrepreneurial centres of style.
Young UK designers, including J. W. Andersen from Northern Ireland, whose clothes promote quirky, androgynous looks, and the eclectic collections of Christopher Kane from Scotland are particularly in demand. Here’s a quick guide to what this might mean for the fashion industry in the UK in years to come:
The Middle East
Fashion has often borrowed from Middle Eastern styles – think of softly draping fabrics or ornate patterns often seen in skirts and dresses. The M1 Group is a Middle Eastern company that has invested in a number of different fashion brands around the world. In September 2007, the M1 Group, founded by Taha and Najib Mikati, moved away from the company’s traditional investments in construction and telecoms to acquire businesses in new sectors, including the French fashion brand Façonnable. In addition, it now owns casual wear brand Pepe Jeans, and luxury accessories and clothing company Hackett London. The chief executive officer Azmi Mikati has a degree in civil engineering and is a keen supporter of the Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon.
Vogue international editor Suzy Menkes has described London in particular as “the New York of Europe” with an energetic fashion scene that is attracting a great deal of attention. Whereas French fashion is grounded in the notion of traditional chic, UK fashion is looking to the future and what’s coming next, particularly in terms of femininity and modernity. It seems that investors are buying into the idea of “newness” and the unique and vibrant London environment is pulling them in from all over the world. Collections based on moments in history, such as military conquests, are disappearing in favour of contemporary themes that include abstract as well as uniquely personal references.
Building the brand
Today’s designers are much more savvy about creating a brand and some have gone to great lengths to do so. Besides clothing, they are pushing their mark on to accessories, such as pens, scarves and even sweets, in order to increase the impact among budget-conscious shoppers. By bringing the brand front and centre, designers are thus demonstrating the value of what they do to investors, both existing and potential. In addition, young designers are now taught more about the need for financial acumen and contacts within the manufacturing industry before they leave college – a mentoring system nurtures talent at the same time as providing a safety net.
Business support as much as the digital age has transformed the fashion industry – social media means young, unknown designers are able to create interest without spending a fortune on marketing. By all accounts, the next step is for designers to take firm control of the financial aspects and to fully appreciate the effects of foreign investments, making the most of the opportunities they offer.