Why ‘Brexit’ could be a wardrobe malfunction for the fashion industry


With the EU referendum looming ever nearer, the impacts of a possible ‘Brexit’ are being discussed across all aspects of the media. One question that will still remain – even if the UK does not – is what will happen to the fashion industry if we leave the EU? Currently, fashion is one of Britain’s highest grossing exports, contributing billions to the UK economy each year (an estimated £26 billion in 2014). Not only this,  the UK is home to many world famous and emerging designers. A vote to leave could change all of that.

Fashion deity, Vivienne Westwood, makes an appeal to younger voters to not let the older generations decide their fate.
In the UK, tuition fees are already staggeringly high (not to mention the risk of the maximum cap being increased), but for those outside the EU, studying in the UK costs even more. A ‘Brexit’ would mean that EU students are no longer protected to pay the same amount as British students, and the same would apply for British students choosing to study elsewhere in Europe, ultimately leaving students priced out of fashion and other subject areas. As a result, potential talents would take their service elsewhere in the EU. This could be detrimental to a large aspect of the UK fashion industry and threatening a free movement of talent.
Previously, the European Regional Development Fund has provided millions to London Fashion, with fashion universities and non-profit organisations having received financial sponsorship from the ERDF. These sponsorships go to the London College of Fashion and the British Fashion Council (the organisation behind London Fashion week), both of which strive to support the new talents of the fashion industry, equipping them with the vital resources, guidance and funding needed to break into the world of fashion. The loss of valuable funding to these fashion institutes would cause instability and a decrease in help given to upcoming designers, artists, stylists and more.
As well as funding and tuition fees being put in jeopardy, the cost of clothing will be also, with clothing potentially becoming more expensive if ‘Brexit’ becomes a reality. Given that the British pound hit a seven-year low against the US dollar this year (and with HSBC warning that it is likely to carry on decreasing in value if we are to leave the EU), imports would become even more expensive for the British people, due to currency conversation rates. Additionally, many designers are choosing to outsource their production in foreign countries, such as China, where they pay in dollars which means, for suppliers, the only way to recover the additional costs would be to raise the price of the clothing.
Due to the threat that lingers closely over the shoulder of the fashion industry due to the prospect of a ‘Brexit’, fashion icons and artists alike have been actively campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU. They’ve been encouraging the public not to vote for, what they believe to be, uncertainty (with leave) but instead European unity (with remain). For those registered to vote, don’t forget to have your say this Thursday.

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