Last week, think tank Fashion Roundtable put forward an open letter to the U.K Government signed by over 455 industry leaders requesting a meeting to discuss the impact of Brexit and current government policy on the U.K fashion industry. With the industry under threat, despite employing almost 1 million people and making more than the automobile, film, music and pharmaceutical industries combined, it's shocking yet sadly not surprising that eight days later, Boris Johnson's government are yet to respond.
Signed by fashion industry figureheads including Sarah Mower, Nick Knight, Vivienne Westwood, together with parliament members including Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey, the letter has also gained the support of industry leaders across manufacturing, retail, modelling, creative business, education, brands and journalism. The move, spearheaded by Fashion Roundtable and CEO Tamara Cincik, is vital to keeping our industry alive. Despite a follow up letter being sent on Tuesday 9 February, the U.K government have stayed silent, raising already heightened concerns about the disregard shown for a vital industry facing decimation.
Let's put things in perspective by looking at the U.K fishing industry. They make the equivalent to what East London alone makes from fashion, yet has received £23m in government support for their exports. Fashion is clearly low on the priority least. If you want to help, you can find out more about how to send a letter to your MP here.
Tamara Cincik, CEO and Founder of Fashion Roundtable released the following statement:
'What is taking the Government so long to answer our urgent request for a meeting? We understand there is a pandemic, but the Government has met with our colleagues in the music industry since signing the Brexit deal and we urge them to meet with us as well. Delays and silence are not a way forward for business certainty. This silence from the Government is deeply concerning and I hope that they commit to meeting with our stakeholders in the coming days, as they already have with our colleagues in the music industry. We urge them to show the same levels of concern and support for all aspects of business, creative industries and export brands.'
Fashion Roundtable have shared some responses they've received from fashion businesses to shine a light on some of the effects our industry is facing following Brexit.
Jamie Gill, CEO Roksanda: “Although we are grateful to just retain zero-tariff trade, (which still came as a great surprise), the increased declaration process will cost us administratively. Immediately we are feeling the brunt of high freight costs and changes to EU VAT. It’s burdensome alongside the on-going impact of the pandemic and removal of VAT for our international Buyers”.
Valery Demure, Valery Demure Showroom and Consultancy: 'We are struggling with shipping samples back and forth. The documentation is taking so much of our time and small brands are struggling with added costs and delays. A client of mine used to send 18ct jewellery samples to London for €100 and now it is €400 for a small shipment. We are seriously looking at relocation to the EU after 27 years of business in the UK.'
John Horner, Managing Director, Models 1: 'We are very concerned at the lack of response from the Government. Models are critical to every aspect of the fashion industry’s interface with its customers and this is managed on a global scale. It seems absurd that both the EU and the UK government put forward freedom of movement proposals for the overall creative sector and simply because they couldn’t agree, have walked away, putting many industry sectors in jeopardy. 30% of models represented by major UK model agencies are from the EU and 25% of income is derived from the EU. It is all at risk and work will be lost to UK plc.'