Published on February 19, 2013 | by Myriah Towner

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British fashion in danger of being left behind

Portrait Meg Hillier

Meg Hillier wants government action to save the UK fashion industry [Meg Hillier]

The UK fashion industry will be “left behind” if the government does not start supporting future talent, according to one politician.

Meg Hillier, Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch has compared the UK fashion world to the film industry, urging the government to initiate similar tax breaks or investment vehicles.

Addressing an audience at Westminster Hall she said: “We need the government to react with action and support, and recognise the fashion industry’s value and importance to the UK economy.”

Britain’s fashion industry is estimated to be worth £21 billion according to the British Fashion Council report The Value of the UK Fashion Industry.

Sustainable future

Hillier explained that to sustain the future of the industry, education must be a focus point: “The London College of Fashion is a shining example. It’s been running for over 100 years and has produced some incredible talent.

“But who are the success stories of the future and how do we make sure that the graduates of today have the support to succeed?

“How do we make sure that the graduates of today have the support to succeed?” Meg Hillier MP

“Young people need a clear pathway laid out so that they can experience career opportunities available, get funding for their businesses, while also addressing the issue of unpaid internships,” she said.

The UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT), an inclusive network for fashion and textile companies, spoke to Arts London News about the importance of paid internships and working with employers to get graduates into the industry.

“I think it is important for people to understand that if you are going to give someone a job then you need to reward and remunerate them accordingly,” explained UKFT chief executive John Miln.

“The reality is that there are not enough jobs for textile and design graduates to go into. Our job is to work with employers to see if we can seek out ways of getting into a business perhaps through an alternative route.”

Recognition and funding

Miln said that most young designers “need money to develop their skills” and organisations like the British Fashion Council (BFC) help designers gain recognation and funding to establish and devlop their own enterprise.

The BFC offers the internationally recognised scheme New Generation (NEWGEN) which can fund catwalk shows, offer the opportunity to use the BFC Catwalk Show Space as well as business and mentoring support through partnerships with Shoosmiths, Baker Tilley and Lloyds TSB.

Both Hillier and Miln also identify manufacturing and the lack of skilled machinists as an existing problem in the industry and have called on the government for support.

“The reality is there is not a terrific level of capacity for manufacturing in the fashion industry,” said Miln.

“The reality is that there are not enough jobs for textile and design graduates to go into.” UK Fashion and Textile Association chief executive, John Miln

“Organisations like DISC [Design-Manufacturer Innovation Support Centre] are thinking about how manufacturing can support the work of designers to get them sampled products that they can present in their collections.”

Hillier has advised the government to move away from unpaid internships to graduate apprenticeships, launch of a programme of support and innovation for technical skills and increase funding for small businesses.

The recent London Fashion Week is an example of how much impact the industry has on the countries economy.

The bi-annual event alone generates an estimated £100 million and contributes over £20 million to London’s economy, according to fashion online news publication FashionUnited.

Hillier said: “If you look beyond the perfect seems of the catwalk shows, there lies the heart, the beating heart, of an industry. An industry that contributes £21 billion to the UK economy and supporting 16,000 jobs making it the largest employer of all the creative industries.”

 

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