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What effect will Brexit have on the British fashion industry?

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Earlier this year a survey conducted by the British Fashion Council revealed that 90% of designers supported remaining in the EU, while only 4% supported Brexit.

High-end fashion designers like Vivienne Westwood and Christopher Bailey of Burberry have been very vocal about their views on Brexit and their preference to remain in the EU. Throughout all the referendum campaigning, discussions have focused on the negative impact a Brexit vote could potentially have on British business and trade. As the British fashion industry has close ties with the EU, through funding, workers, and trade, fashion designers have every right to be concerned about what the future holds.

Now the UK has voted in favour of leaving the EU, how will this actually affect the British fashion industry?

Importing and exporting

Following the vote for Brexit the pound dramatically fell to a seven year low against the dollar. This will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the fashion industry as production will be more expensive. Companies who produce their clothing outside the UK and in countries where they pay in dollars, such as in China, will experience a huge rise in manufacturing costs.

However, it’s not just rising costs that could prove detrimental to the fashion industry – there’s no guarantee we will still have access to the free market, meaning there is a possibility exporting and importing will become difficult. Only time will tell what new trade agreements the government will be able to make, and the impact this will have on the export and import of fashion goods. 

Fashion shows and EU workers

Freedom of movement for workers is one of the big benefits to being in the EU. UK people can work in any of the 60 EU states without applying for a visa, and any EU resident can come and freely work here. As there is uncertainty about what Brexit Britain will entail, as the government frankly doesn’t know what kind of deal they’ll be able to make, it’s entirely possible EU models will have to get visas to come and appear in fashion shows.

Just imagine the costs this will involve, let alone the inconvenience. It’s not just fashion show models, though, other EU workers who come to the EU to work in the British Fashion Industry could also be affected if the UK isn’t given, or doesn’t seek, involvement in the freedom of movement. Speaking to the New York Times, Scottish fashion designer Christopher Kane asked: “All these amazing seamstresses from Italy, from all over Europe, that have been working with us for five years […] how much would it cost for us to get them visas?”

Tourism

This is the one area where Brexit might actually be a benefit. With the falling rate of the pound, tourists might be more drawn to visiting Britain and spending their money here because of the value for money they’ll get. How much of a benefit this could be depends on so many other factors, as if the British fashion industry is negatively hit due to Brexit any added tourism may not count for much at all.

Fashion schools funding

There’s been a lot of talk about the impact Brexit will have on the higher-education sector, given that the EU gives millions of pounds in funding to universities in the UK each year. On top of this, young people in EU countries are able to study in the UK at the same cost of UK students; however, it’s now entirely possible they could be charged the same high-rates as intentional students, which is something that could deter EU students from studying in the UK. This won't just impact universities, it will also have a knock on effect on UK fashion schools. 

Speaking to The London College of Fashion, Cristiana Malcia, a recent Fashion Photography graduate from Romania, said:

“From where I stand, Brexit could potentially involve having a much harder time finding a job here, as I would no longer be granted permission to work in the UK without a visa. My main concern, however, is the impossibility of doing my MA degree in the future. I feel that the prospect of the UK leaving the EU would fully deter me from pursuing an MA here, as I would automatically qualify as an international student and have to pay a much higher fee. Overall, I think Brexit could influence other potential future fashion students from the EU to consider doing their studies in cities such as Milan and Paris, to the detriment of UK fashion schools.”

While people have discussed what Brexit could mean for UK universities, little focus has been given to what Brexit impact there might be on UK fashion schools. Currently, schools such as The London Fashion College receive money from The European Regional Development fund. Now we’re leaving the EU the likelihood is this funding could be reduced or cut altogether. A cut in funding to fashion schools could have such a wide ranging impact, from limiting student’s opportunities to deterring EU students like Christiana.

Consumers

Shopping at high-street favourites like Topshop and River Island could soon become more expensive as the financial impacts the fashion industry experiences could be transferred to the consumer. Increasing the price of fashion goods may be one way to counteract the extra costs or lack of funding the fashion industry is potentially subjected to, which is ultimately bad news for consumers.




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