Bright and frilly: designers unveil Brexit wardrobe

LONDON (Reuters) - If you have been wondering what to wear when Britain leaves the European Union next spring, here are some pointers: Hot pink, skirts slashed at the thigh and plenty of lace and ruffles.

At least that is what designers at London Fashion Week unveiled in their spring/summer 2019 collections which will start hitting UK shops just before Brexit - a divorce many in the industry opposed in the 2016 referendum.

The economic uncertainty facing the 32.3 billion pounds ($42.39 billion) fashion industry when Britain leaves the bloc on March 29 has not translated into gloomy looks on the catwalks with designers showing bright lines rich in intricate detailing.

Hot pink appeared at the Richard Malone, Gareth Pugh and Pam Hogg shows with the former also using bright blues and greens.

Hogg, known for her fantastical creations, presented revealing bodysuits and frocks decorated with masses of tulle as well as jumpsuits and dresses in a carnival-like print. Models wore huge headpieces and towering platforms.

“I’m not politically outspoken but it’s in my work,” Hogg told Reuters. “Life is for living and there’s too many people holding people down...I just want to bring some joy back into life.”

Soft romantic looks of ruffles, floral prints and lace dominated at Bora Aksu, Preen and Roland Mouret. There was also a voluminous shoulders trend - puffed up at Preen or pointy at Julien Macdonald, who dressed models in sparkling dresses slashed all over. His menswear also had sparkles.

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Asked if his bright line was a response to Brexit, Malone said: “It is, constantly, yeah... That’s what we are doing by creating, you are kind of defying a system that doesn’t want you to create.”


Like other sectors, Britain’s fashion industry is waiting to hear whether the country will strike a deal with the EU. Many designers get textiles from Europe and there is now a question mark over tariffs and costs.

“We haven’t had a problem because...we’re dealing with the best suppliers so it’s fine,” Alice Temperley said after showing her collection of feminine dresses and sequined suits.

“But...there’s so much uncertainty that it’s just very hard to know do you have to factor yet more into your costing...and do we end up losing margin and we don’t really know yet.”

Most London-based designers opposed Brexit, according to a pre-referendum survey by the British Fashion Council (BFC). They will have to prepare their autumn/winter lines, unveiled in February, somewhat blindly.

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“The biggest challenge we have is the unknown,” BFC Chief Executive Caroline Rush said.

“The whole of the (fashion) industry didn’t want to exit the EU. We want tariff free, frictionless borders, movement of people and talent and so as much as we can do that to protect our businesses, having access to that talent and being able to ship goods efficiently, quickly is incredibly important.”

Others were less worried about Brexit. London-based Turkish designer Aksu said a specific focus for him was Asia Pacific.

“Fashion is so global you can’t actually put it in a country box,” he said. “I don’t think (Brexit) will (have a) massive negative effect on fashion.”

Fashion theory might suggest hemlines drop in tough times but amid warnings that Britain’s economy will shrink without a Brexit deal, designers appear to be paying no heed to this.

“In challenging times in fashion, we always see the outpouring of creativity,” Rush said. “And where perhaps sometimes things may feel a little pared back in the fashion industry, I think we might see the opposite.”

Reporting By Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Jayson Mansaray; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky