Whether it’s Christmas 2020 or Easter 2021, Brexit is eventually going to happen. And in terms of fashion, buyers have had to rethink their whole strategy and designers have had to re-evaluate their manufacturing process.
Tamara Cincik, founder and CEO of Fashion Roundtable, a not-for-profit organisation that specialises in integrating the concerns of the fashion industry into UK and EU politics, explains that the fashion industry contributed almost £30 billion to the UK economy in 2016 and the uncertainty of Brexit is already causing worry.
It seems like it all comes down to pricing. Buyers and boutique owners from Scarecrow Boutique, Susana and Adriana explain that Brexit has affected which brands they’re able to work with as it all depends on pricing. And whilst certain brands have completely disappeared from the radar, Susana says, “we want value for the customer but certain brands we won’t be able to do anymore because it’s too expensive”. Womenswear buyer from McElhinneys, Leona Fallen says, “I think that in a way people are being a bit more cautious with their budgets and stuff, I think because of Brexit people are so uncertain”. Vanessa Murray from A Hume Country Clothing says, “there has been price increases, some of them justified, others not so much. But it does mean that the margins are being shrunk and the prices are going up and the consumer doesn’t necessarily understand this”.
The fact that consumers aren’t spending in the same way as they used to might not come as a surprise, and they might not necessarily be able to blame Brexit for it, but one thing we do know is that retailers and buyers have become smarter in their buying process and the buyers do have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Leona’s way of staying relevant during the Brexit uncertainty is to always answer to what the client wants, but to be smart about it, saying, “you still need to have that little bit of space and budget to play around. If someone comes in and asks for a grey top and we have no grey tops – the first thing you do is go get a grey top”. In this way, you stay up-to-date without sitting on stock that won’t sell.
Susana reveals that they’re taking a completely different approach to what they’re used to, “We have to compete with disposable fashion, you can’t compete with that and we’re not going to. So we’re going to find something different. We’re doing more accessories now.”
Whether it is by buying into safe fashion and continuity pieces such as classic tailoring and timeless knitwear, or doing something completely different, the strategy that the Pure London buyers have taken seem to be to buy into compelling things that will stay relevant beyond Brexit.