Everyone’s talking about London’s young designer set — and the news is not good.
The media has been buzzing about the wave of familiar faces who will be missing from the front rows this season. Julie Gilhart, Ron Frasch, and Ken Downing won’t be making it to London Fashion Week this season to represent major American department stores Barneys, Saks and Neiman Marcus, respectively. For Julie, a fervent supporter of London’s emerging brands, it is the first time in 20 years that she won’t be here.
These buyers have told the press that unless London’s designers produce something very special or have strong existing relationships with US retailers, they will have a hard time making up for the spiralling effect that the strong pound has had on their prices once converted to American dollars.
It’s a good thing that some designers (but not enough!) are thinking more about business than buzz. Danielle Scutt, a darling of Fashion East in past seasons, has decided not to show this time so she can focus on building her business by producing a lookbook designed to market her designs.
However, we don’t believe enough designers are thinking this way. Just talk to Erin Mullaney, a former buyer of designer womenswear at Selfridges who is moving to Browns to become their Buying Director. She told WWD
"It’s almost the end of January and I haven’t had a single delivery through yet. For many British designers, it is a constant struggle with cash flow."
With the high prices that London designers have to charge, retailers expect impeccable service — reliablity, high quality, good communication, and on-time delivery. Many young designers have failed to put in the necessary processes and expertise to do this. And many don’t have anywhere to turn.
This is why at The Business of Fashion, we wrote a Manifesto for Change In Iqons Magazine for a new approach to building the fashion businesses of the next generation; one that goes beyond the sporadic financial support, industry handouts and over-zealous use of their precious names that is the norm today.
Thank goodness the news is not all bad. Some relief may come in the form of the new front row – the faces of fashion’s emerging markets whose economies are still growing at a rapid clip and who want to continue to support London’s young design talent.
And, maybe London’s young designers can take a page out of Tory Burch’s book. She fashioned a business model first, before going on to build a business that is turning over more than $115m a year.