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BFC sets out Positive Fashion agenda at Downing Street reception

Lauretta Roberts
19 February 2020

The British Fashion Council set out its plans to create an Institute of Positive Fashion and global initiatives map to support UK fashion designer businesses, while calling for an industry-led step-change to address climate change, at a Downing Street reception to mark the end of London Fashion Week.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Rt. Hon Oliver Dowden, MP, Stephanie Phair, Chair and Caroline Rush, CEO of British Fashion Council (BFC) hosted the event, which was attended by designers, media, retailers and business leaders, along with international guests in town for the shows.

London Fashion Week had been targeted by protestors from Extinction Rebellion calling for it to be scrapped due to fashion's record on sustainability, but the BFC used the occasion to urge the industry to make a collective "step change" to address climate change and said platforms such as LFW could be used as a force for positive change.

Stephanie Phair addressed the room and acknowledged the challenges the industry faced, not least in recent times due to coronavirus, the on-going Brexit negotiations and the storms. However she said the industry must face the challenges of climate change together and acknowledged the BFC's part in this, suggesting that the Fashion Week model may need to change.

"Some have called on us to cancel Fashion Week and I accept that our model, its frequency and its purpose need to evolve. But I do believe that it can be a positive platform to showcase change and we will work with consumers, the industry and our counterparts around the world because we all care deeply about our industry and its legacy. I’m particularly I’m proud that as an organisation we recognise the power of activism but keep focused on practical actions," Phair said.

She then handed over to Caroline Rush who set out the council's agenda for fashion. The full text of her speech is below.

Caroline Rush, CBE, Downing Street address:

"Climate change is the largest issue facing the planet today, we know that both collective and individual action is needed to meet the pace of change required.

As an industry there are some big questions we need to answer, and some new ways of working required.

  • How do we use the power of the collective as a catalyst? Incremental change is a start, but it won’t be enough to significantly move the dial.
  • How do we share knowledge to avoid duplication? Reducing impact shouldn’t be a race to who can monetise this first.
  • How can we as an industry use our voice, our platforms, our powerful global reach to communicate the need for change while authentically committing to change ourselves? 

We have marked 2020 as a year for positive change. In a very British way, we are looking at a practical, action led agenda that can help inform businesses, connect with global initiatives and bring industry together to tackle big issues:

We wanted to share three things we are doing to address this.

Mapping Global Initiatives – the baseline to avoid duplication and provide clarity around where new resources can focus

This map can be accessed [...] on the British Fashion Council website.

We invite you all to contribute, to help us make this map go further and to ensure that none of us duplicate, ensuring collaboration on positive change going forward.

The initiatives currently on the IPF map are segmented by Pillar Environment, People, Community & Craftsmanship, and by territory market.  By the time the IPF launches later this year, there will be deeper data to align the initiatives to business verticals.

The Institute of Positive Fashion will be launched this year, a platform where businesses can go to see what toolkits and information is available. Where toolkits exist, they will be sign-posted, where new are required we will work with experts to deliver them.

It will also provide a framework that supports information flow to global initiatives such as G7, UNFCCC and is already working with the United Nations Office of Partnerships (UNOP).

In this way, we can engage with all relevant government departments and can bring together industry and government to address core challenges. It will invite industry to collectively look more closely at innovation to address issues that are discussed at boardrooms and roundtables regularly. With thanks to the IPF Steering Committee, who have dedicated their time and knowledge to helping us develop this greatly needed platform.

Finally, our Platforms London Fashion Week & The Fashion Awards. We will use our platforms to address issues, to showcase new businesses models and create appetite for engagement as we have seen with Positive Fashion Exhibition here at London Fashion Week and our partnership with the UN Office for Partnerships at The Fashion Awards last year.

It is no accident we are here at Downing Street sharing this with you. We need government to work with us. These are challenging times and your support and leadership is required to shape the future together, to embrace innovation, address climate, people and cultural challenges so that the fashion industry can remain an economic, creative & cultural, positive contributor whilst ensuring that our natural resources are protected, re-instated and the industry evolves for the future.

Let’s work together, share, collaborate not duplicate and use our voice. Fashion is a creative outlet for individual expression that touches everyone, and as we have seen at London Fashion Week our businesses can inspire, support communities with a huge capacity to be a social force for good."

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