20 Feb 2015
Figures that won’t go out of fashion
London Fashion Week reminds us of the industry’s economic importance
Fashion is big business
Latest estimates suggest its direct value to the UK economy stands at £26bn - rising as high as £46bn when considering its influence on spending in other industries.
It’s also the greatest employer of all creative industries; supporting around 800,000 jobs, according to data published by the British Fashion Council (BFC).
London Fashion Week (Feb 20-24) has become a pivotal date in the luxury style diary. With over 5,000 visitors, live streams to 160 countries and orders typically in excess of £100m placed – its role is key in an increasingly fashion-dependent economy.
London Business School has just announced the launch of a pioneering venture with the British Fashion Council, which will see MBA students team up with early-stage designers with superb ‘first collections’, but who wish to remain independent.
The students will support designers in their goal of establishing their own brands, rather than them simply being bought up by the top fashion houses.
This partnership was created as a response to the BFC’s ‘Commercialising Creativity’ report, authored last year by MBA students Alessandra Basso and Alejandra Caro.
We take a look at the importance of nurturing the next generation of British luxury leaders.
High-end to high street
The fashion business is an increasingly popular avenue for School students to pursue and the opportunities on offer are broad and varied.
On top of formal summer internships which cater for high-end and high street - M&S to Gucci - there are also the exciting projects which run alongside study programmes.
As we speak, four MBA students are interning backstage at London Fashion Week with celebrated dress designer Emilia Wickstead, who has designed dresses for the Duchess of Cambridge among others.
Another recent coup for our MBA students is the launch of our second MBA programme in luxury management in partnership with Walpole.
Fiona Stubbs is a career services expert at the School, with a specific focus on consumer, healthcare and retail sectors. She explains how the appetite for careers in luxury has grown.
“Increasingly students are interested in retail and luxury,” she says.
“London Business School has top quality luxury talent to share with luxury outlets and we’re seeing a really exciting marriage between students with a real appetite for luxury careers and designers who need business strategy to expand.
“And we’re looking for more established and up-and-coming designers to partner with.”
One businesswoman who has found great success in the industry is Connie Nam, who founded jewellery brand Astrid & Miyu after graduating with an MBA from London Business School.
Now selling through Asos.com, Fenwick, House of Fraser - and after boutique collaborations with Topshop - her brand has succeeded in forging that link between luxury and affordability.
“The fashion jewellery market is dichotomised with cheap high street costume jewellery and the high end designer jewellery brands. It's also highly fragmented with very few key brands leading the market. I wanted to fill the gap in the market by offering high quality, well-designed jewellery pieces at affordable price points,” she says.
Connie speaks highly of the School’s programme: “I come from an investment background and London Business School gave me a stepping stone for me to get a taste of fashion, by working for LVMH. The entrepreneurship classes, the high calibre classmates and alumni have all been great inspirations for me,” she says.
“When I applied for the MBA at I had a five-to-10-year plan, hoping to follow my passion and find a role in a luxury fashion conglomerate and then, perhaps, to set up my own business. I came from from the world of finance and I knew I needed to improve my general management skills and to learn from different disciplines.
“Both of these aspects are at the heart of the MBA, and the flexibility of its courses and its practical teaching style really appealed to me. In particular, the alumni network that I can reach out to be invaluable for an entrepreneur, who needs to juggle with limited resources,” she adds.
The centre of fashion
Fashion Week only serves to emphasise London’s reckoning as a true shopping global capital and a prestige base for industry hopefuls.
Elizabetta Camilleri is a London Business School MBA graduate who has made big waves. Founder of revolutionary online promotions site SalesGossip, she was named Female Entrepreneur of the Year at 2013’s Smarta 100 awards.
“London Fashion Week helps make the city synonymous with shopping and gives more 'character' to the British style, admired by traditionalists and fashionista worldwide,” she says. “Most global luxury shoppers have at one point or another (and many times a few times a year) come to London simply to shop.”
As Elizabetta Camilleri explains: “Online British brands and retailers have some of the most advanced digital shopping experiences in the world. Luxury is what might make the headlines, but in reality the success of that sector also brings in a lot of value to anyone from premium fashion brands and retailers and high street ones.”
Fiona Stubbs sounds a positive note for the future: “In my three years I’ve noticed a big difference in interest and take-up in our Luxury management options. The Walpole programme in particular shows how amazingly the grapevine works; people hear about it and want to go on the programme, and businesses hear about it and come to us."