LONDON, United Kingdom – The Business of Fashion has learned that Natalie Massenet, founder of pioneering fashion e-commerce website Net-a-Porter, is soon to be named the new chairman of the British Fashion Council (BFC), replacing Harold Tillman, who has been chairman of the organisation since 2008. It is understood that Massenet will not assume the role of Chairman until sometime next year.
When asked for comment, the BFC made the following statement: “Despite rumours, the BFC has confirmed that any new chairman is subject to BFC executive board approval. The BFC executive board is not due to meet until tomorrow evening and any announcement cannot be expected until then.” Ms. Massenet’s communications team declined to comment.
The new appointment would signal more than just a change in leadership for the BFC. Under Mr. Tillman, alongside chief executive Caroline Rush and her predecessor Hilary Riva, the BFC has had remarkable success in getting London Fashion Week back on the global fashion radar, powered by the creativity of London’s emerging designers and the return of Burberry as anchor to the schedule. The body has also forged an array of corporate partnerships with Vogue, Elle, Vodafone and others, to provide prizes and sponsorships to support emerging fashion labels in their nascent state.
But for these same young designers, what happens when the sponsorship runs out? What happens when there are no more awards to win?
Indeed, despite the positive marketing buzz created by the BFC, many of London’s young fashion businesses remain sub-scale and undercapitalised. In order for global names like Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Erdem Moralioglu and Mary Katrantzou to take their businesses to the next level, the BFC will need to shift gears to help designers find proper capital investment – and focus on the digital opportunity.
Enter Ms. Massenet. She is an inspired choice to chair the BFC. As an entrepreneur who has built (and sold) her own business, with an impeccable sense of product, a proven eye for talent, and digital savvy, she is well equipped to lead the British Fashion Council into the next stage of its development and help London fashion deliver on the great promise is has shown in recent years.
Imran Amed is founder and editor-in-chief of The Business of Fashion
Update: The British Fashion Council has confirmed that Natalie Massenet has been appointed chairman of the BFC, effective January 2013. In an official statement, Ms. Massenet commented: “I am honoured and excited to be taking on the role of chairman of The British Fashion Council. Over the past few years The British Fashion Council, led by Harold Tillman and Caroline Rush, has done an extraordinary job of building the profile of our industry worldwide. Not only do we have some of the best creative talent based in London but there are also great British designers working in some of the most high profile luxury design houses in the world. We also have the best understanding of what our industry contributes to the UK economy and what a significant player the British Fashion Industry is and can continue to be. My experience is in merging extraordinary creative content with innovative global commerce. From January, together with Caroline Rush and her team, I aim to apply these lessons to my new role, a role I take incredibly seriously.” Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council, added: “The board are looking forward to welcoming Natalie to the organisation and working closely with her on our programme of development and activity over the next three years, both at home and abroad. I thank Harold for his incredible support and vision and for extending his initial three year term to almost five to see us through a period of significant change.”
Editor’s Note: This article was revised on 4 September, 2012, to include a statement from the BFC made following the article’s original publication. An earlier version of this article also misstated that Harold Tillman has served as chairman of the British Fashion Council since 2006. He has not. Mr. Tillman was appointed chairman in 2008.