London has been home to some of the world’s most iconic fashion designers and today it is brimming with new talent which helps Britain punch above its weight when it comes to fashion influence. As Culture Secretary, I want to champion the capital’s reputation for talent and imagination as a key part of our thriving creative industries, and I can’t wait to see it on full display this London Fashion Week.
This is a week where London fizzes with creative energy and one where the whole city feels like a catwalk, with designers, models and fashion show audiences in their gladrags. The great and the good of the fashion world will be in the city and all eyes will be on the feature shows — with each one lifting the curtain on the fashion trends of the year ahead.
The success of this industry in London has long and deep historical roots that stretch back to the days of cloth dyeing in the Middle Ages, the Spitalfields silk weavers of the 17th and 18th centuries and the rag trade of the 19th century. In the post war years Mary Quant revolutionised fashion with the invention of the miniskirt — a fashion item that became a symbol of the 1960s and made London the heart of the global fashion scene.
Today our Fashion Week has matured from an event that first took place in the car park of the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington 39 years ago, to an annual extravaganza that showcases our designers’ fearless imagination three times a year.
The global reputation of our Fashion Week is testament to the exceptional talent we have in the UK and the years of dedication and work put in by young designers who have honed their craft. Our fashion colleges like Central St Martins are instrumental in encouraging and developing the skills of some of the most creative people in fashion. And once those fashion innovators are ready to take the next step, the British Fashion Council provides unwavering support to young designers looking to make a breakthrough.
But I recognise that success today is never a guarantee of success tomorrow. Today our fashion industry is worth almost £29 billion to the economy each year and employs some 800,000 jobs across the country. Fashion is a glittering part of our society and I’m determined to do everything possible to maximise the potential of our creative industries to drive growth across the country and support more good quality jobs. And that’s why we’re backing the next generation of British fashion designers with £2 million of new funding for the future talent of Fashion Week through the British Fashion Council’s NEWGEN scheme.
The NEWGEN scheme has a proven track record of supporting some of the biggest names in fashion to get off the ground, from Alexander McQueen and Simone Rocha, to JW Anderson and Erdem. It gives financial support to pioneering designers, opportunities to showcase their work and access to mentoring from industry experts so they can build and sustain their craft. Such is the scheme’s success that organisations around the world have frequently looked at how they too can replicate the British Fashion Council’s model.
Continuing to support this scheme, backing this pipeline of talent is part of our long term approach as set out in the Creative Industries Sector Vision; a blueprint for maximising the growth of our creative sectors and ensuring it can fulfil its true potential in the years ahead. By following this Vision, and by building a pipeline of talent, we will generate an additional £50bn of economic growth and generate one million extra jobs by 2030.
So this week I’m excited to not only see the creative energy that is fizzing through our fashion industry today, I’m looking forward to a bright future for UK fashion. One where design excellence is given licence to flourish and one where tomorrow’s talent is given the backing it needs to become the household fashion brands of the future.
Lucy Frazer is Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport