Now I am starting to look for fabrics, components and packaging for my launch collection I find Brexit on my mind. How will it affect the UK fashion industry and how will it impact on my business?
The fashion industry contributes over £28 billion to the UK economy and supports 880,000 jobs. It is a global leader in creativity, innovation and business. However, if the standard World Trade Organisation rules are followed it would mean a 12% tariff on all clothing imports. As I want to manufacture in the UK this wouldn't apply to me but from that we can assume there is also likely to be a tariff placed on any raw materials sourced from overseas. Sourcing as much as possible from the UK would mean we could avoid such levies and also the possibility of goods spending a long in customs while tariff payments are checked.
Following the vote to leave the Sterling plummeted against the Euro and the Dollar which means brands having to spend more money to create the same amount of clothing. For some brands it will start to be less cost effective to be producing off shore, which could mean many consider UK manufacturing again. While this would be great for the UK economy it could make it harder for me to get a look in at the factories. The advantage to manufacturing in the UK would mean less exposure to such currency fluctuations particularly.
The curb on immigration post-brexit would mean the loss of many of the highly skilled workers who help put together a collection who are from Eastern European where sewing skills are taught in schools. Sadly since most UK fashion production went offshore we haven't been training many of young people so there will be a real acute shortage. Some companies have stated that they are likely to lose a third of their staff, and for some London factories it's more like 70%. As a small start-up company I will not be a priority for any factories, short staffed or not, so I will have to build a good strong relationship with the right manufacturers.
Consumer confidence will undoubtedly be affected as price increases on all imported goods will mean people have less money in their pocket to spend. Clothing is something people can always cut back on so the fashion trade could feel real shockwaves from this, possibly premium brands like Boy Wonder especially. However, being a children's clothing brand may insulate us from this somewhat as kids always keep growing and need new clothes.
Many other brands will be affected by the increased cost of foreign travel as they visit factories, suppliers and tradeshows abroad. This could present an advantage for me as I will be UK based and as localised as possible. A local manufacturing base means quicker delivery and less environmental impact. Being able to visit the factories and suppliers and deal with problems quickly will give me a strong chance of success.
The biggest advantage in Brexit for me is the increased interested in British made goods. The UK textile business is seeing a resurgence at the moment with positive signs such as cotton spinning returning to the country for the first time in a generation. An amazing 5000 new jobs were created in the UK textile manufacturing sector in 2015 and by 2020 a further 15,000 are expected. So let's hope this is the start of a British revival!
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