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Theresa May says fashion is "serious business" as she hosts LFW reception at Downing Street

Lauretta Roberts
18 September 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May said British fashion was "serious business" and that she wanted to “see us continue this success as we build a new future for a global Britain where our fashion industry can thrive” at a Downing Street reception this evening, held to mark the final day of London Fashion Week.

Figures from all walks of fashion attended the event from models to designers, retailers and journalists with guests present including Alice Temperley, Christopher Kane and Molly Goddard. Mrs May referenced recently released figures, which show that the fashion industry now contributes £32.3bn to UK GDP and employs close to 900,000 people.

“For years, London Fashion Week has showcased the best known names in British fashion as well as the industry’s emerging talent and this year has been no exception.

British fashion is a serious business. The industry as a whole contributes £32 billion to our economy, employs over 890,000 people, and totals billions of pounds worth of exports. Our designers sit at the helm of global brands and we lead the world in design and digital innovation with names such as Net-a-Porter, ASOS and Farfetch all launching in the UK," she said.

British Fashion Council chairman Stephanie Phair also took the opportunity to use the event to highlight the economic and cultural importance of fashion to Britain and the global fashion industry. “London is the Global Fashion Capital and this week London Fashion Week has played host to over 120 runway shows, presentations and events from 80 global fashion designers, to an international audience from over 50 countries," Phair said.

"Our mission at the British Fashion Council is to cement the international reputation of British fashion – which directly contributes over £32 billion to the UK in GDP. Fashion is a serious business and in employment terms is ranked almost as large as financial services. In this time of change, when digital is disrupting the old order and borders seem to be closing, let’s remember that fashion unites – that fashion is a cultural signifier and that the UK has an opportunity to champion the creativity of Brand Britain with fashion at its cultural epicentre,” she added.

The Prime Minister highlighted initiatives such as the Government's support of the British Fashion Council and its international guest programme, which brought 150 top-level international media and retailers to the capital for London Fashion Week, as evidence of its support for the industry.

The Government is also helping accelerate the fashion industry’s export potential to important markets including Europe, USA, Japan, China and South Korea, Mrs May said. Later this month, the Government will also support British Fashion Council’s “LONDON showROOMS” showcase of emerging British designers at Paris Fashion Week.

Recently it also extended the exceptional talent visa programme to include fashion designers enabling the industry to attract world class talent.

Prime Minister Theresa May's Speech to the fashion industry in full:

Thank you Stephanie and welcome everyone. I am truly delighted to be hosting this reception to celebrate London Fashion Week.

I want to thank [British Fashion Council chair and CEO] Stephanie Phair, Caroline Rush – and everyone at the British Fashion Council – for their fantastic work in championing British fashion and London Fashion Week. And of course the designers, the models, the assistants, the set designers and all those without whom it would not be such a success.

For years – London Fashion Week has showcased not just the big well-known names in British fashion, but also the – often brilliant – up and coming talent.

That is what has always made London stand out. That is what has always given this city’s fashion business the leading edge.

And I am delighted that this year we have designers such as Malene Oddershede Bach and Victoria Beckham showing in London for the first time.

British fashion [...] is serious business. Some of our biggest names are known the world over – Stella McCartney, Burberry, Mulberry. The industry as a whole contributes £32 billion to our economy, employs over 890,000 people, and totals billions of pounds worth of exports.

But if I am honest, we have all got a job to do, which is about getting that message out to people – about how valuable fashion is to the British economy as a whole, about how many jobs are involved in the British fashion industry and what it means to our economy.

We are home to some of the world’s finest fashion colleges. Our designers sit at the helm of global brands. And we lead the world in design and digital innovation – with names such as, Net-a-Porter, ASOS and Farfetch launched in the UK.

And of course – this year there was the live streaming of London Fashion Week shows to millions of fashion watchers in China.

But it is also London’s reputation as a thriving, diverse city that makes this such a great place to do business. And I am delighted to hear that Chanel – one of the grand dames in the fashion business – has announced it is relocating its global headquarters here to London.

I want to see us continue this success – I want Britain to continue being a place where talent is nurtured and supported, and where fashion can thrive and do business.

And as we look to build a new future for a global Britain, as an open, outward-facing country outside of the EU – I want to ensure that our fashion industry – an industry in which we have so much pride – can build upon its success. That is why our exceptional talent visa will ensure that the world’s leading fashion designers can live and work here. It is why we are backing the industries of the future through our modern Industrial Strategy – supporting innovation, technology and encouraging jobs and growth in every part of the country.

And it is why through the Creative Industries Sector Deal we – along with industry – are investing £150 million in creative businesses, including design and fashion.

But today – as London Fashion Week draws to a close – let me congratulate you all once again.

As I say, let’s work together to make sure everybody realises what an important part London fashion does and British fashion plays in our economy and employing people up and down our country. Let’s get the message out there of the fantastic talent we’ve got – not just the big names but all the people who are behind those big names and every aspect of the industry which leads to its enormous success.

And I wish you all every success for the season ahead. Thank you."

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