Britannia still cool for foreign fashionistas

A survey suggests small businesses in the fashion sector are thriving, thanks to their foreign exports. Which is exactly what the Government wants...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
London Fashion Week’s designers may have packed up their outfits, the models may be back on solids again and Pandemonia may have deflated her hairdo until the autumn/winter shows next year, but the UK’s fashion businesses are en vogue all year round – thanks, apparently, to none other than beige enthusiast Kate Middleton. According to a survey by that well-known fashion brand DHL Express, 57% of British fashion businesses reckon influences such as the Duchess of Cambridge and Kate Moss (aka the Duchess of Croydon) have made UK fashion particularly attractive to overseas buyers. Which, given the Government’s keenness to increase exports, is very encouraging indeed…

Even more heartening is the amount by which British fashion businesses expect their overseas sales figures to increase: according to the survey, 65% expect them to double over the next two years. In particularly strong demand are British-made shoes, which 30% of businesses say they export, while just over a quarter say knitwear is the most in demand, and 13% say lingerie. According to the survey, 70% of businesses say international buyers most value British quality, while 38% are attracted to our classic designs, and 28% say British products represent value for money. 43% said most of their exports go to the USA – not surprising, given America’s edgiest look is a pair of Ralph Lauren chinos…

But businesses said the Government could do more to help them in their quest to conquer foreign catwalks. One in five said they’d like to see more trade missions sent abroad (with Sam Cam presumably taking the role her sartorially challenged husband ordinarily plays), while 17% would like to see financial incentives like tax breaks for exporters.

It’s not a bad idea: after all, with all this focus by the Government on manufacturing, it’s ignoring the fact that the UK has one of the most exciting creative industries in the world. With everyone from Burberry to Vivienne Westwood hailing from these shores – not to mention a burgeoning appetite for luxury goods in emerging markets – the Government could do a lot worse than providing incentives for the industry to expand abroad. Who knows – it might push any thoughts of a double-dip out of fashion altogether.

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