Just like everyone else looking to be heard about Brexit, the £29bn Industry has drawn a white paper – through the newly formed Fashion Roundtable – on their concerns as a deal draws nearer in less than 1 year.
The white paper was the subject of discussion on the SWOWStudio live on May 2 where the uncertainties facing British-based companies were brought to light.
In a bid to speak in one voice, the firms such as Under Armour have coalesced around the Fashion Roundtable whose manifesto highlights the implications of Brexit on their sector: continued participation in the EU educational, cultural, and business programs; maintenance of the single market; guaranteeing the legal status of EU citizens resident in the UK.
The propositions in the white paper are based on a three-month survey and the deliberations of roundtable events. It is not clear how big the survey sample was, although companies such as Victoria & Albert Museum, Vogue, MatchesFashion.com, Showstudio, London College of Design, and the Design Council have been listed as participants. Over 80 percent of those surveyed felt Brexit is bad for fashion in the EU and UK.
This is an echo of a pre-Brexit survey by the British Fashion Council in which 90 percent of fashion designers said they would vote ‘remain’.
According to the latest findings by Fashion Roundtable, 94 percent of the respondents feel that fashion is not well represented in UK politics. It is, therefore, easy to understand the need for an industry white paper for the fashion industry, which earns the UK 15 times the amount contributed by the fishing industry, while at the same time has no representation during negotiations in parliament.
Although the white paper resoundingly rejects Brexit, the focus is to lobby for a resolution that secures the interests of the fashion and greater creative sector in the best possible way.
Fashion Roundtable would have hoped for Britain to stay in the single market but recent speeches by Prime Minister Teresa May do not inspire any hope. The industry is asking for the bare minimum under the prevailing circumstances. They want a guarantee that movement of goods and people would attract no additional costs as well as removal of restrictions on UK nationals moving within the Schengen area.
The fear of the fashion industry is that Brexit will make British talent and companies less competitive including the huge number of freelance designers who travel regularly from the UK to the EU and vice versa. These could be hit by wait times, visa fees, and loss of work opportunities.
The effects of the loss of European City Culture are bound to reverberate among the greater public just as would the withdrawal of a number of behind the scenes bursaries and funds which have made the UK central to European fashion innovations that have gone into producing clothes for big and tall men.
In the paper, the UK is urged to keep contributing to these initiatives to ensure that British firms can still apply for them. There are concerns about the possible stoppage of projects that have helped secure the future of fashion as well as being left out of the Erasmus scheme through which European talent gets into universities in the UK.