There are high hopes for this seasons London fashion week to provide a much needed boost to the economy, but critics suggest the event neglects to help those suffering most.
Big Brands, Big Money
Big name British designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith and Burberry’s Christopher Bailey are among those who will show off their designs during London fashion week starting Friday.
There are high hopes for growth in Britain’s luxury sector.
September is one of the most important months in the fashion calendar as the four big catwalk fixtures – New York, London, Milan and Paris – gear up for next summer.
London’s fashion week is best known as a showcase for cutting edge talent and avant-garde trends.
“It’s an exciting time for London with a host of established brands such as Tom Ford and Burberry firmly on the calendar alongside new talent and labels which are growing,” said Helen David, head of womenswear at luxury department store Harrods.
The Rana Plaza disaster
Combined London fashion weeks attract more than 100 million pounds ($160 million) in orders a year, along with journalists and bloggers from around the world.
However, critics argue that most of this wealth only benefits the already very rich, and does little to alleviate the poverty of those making these clothes for mass market.
Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers’ Federation, intends to join forces with British union campaigners to highlight the plight of workers in the global fashion industry.
The link between cheap fashion in Britain’s shops and shockingly poor worker conditions was highlighted following the collapse of the eight-storey Rana Plaza garment manufacturing building in April earlier this year.
Amin will use his visit to persuade UK retailers to pay a wage far in excess of the £25 (3,000 taka) a month earned by the Rana Plaza workers. He says more pressure is needed to bring equality to the industry.
“The Rana Plaza disaster not only exposed unsafe conditions for workers turning out British stores’ clothes, but the pittance on which they struggle to survive. It is high time UK retail chains, and other companies sourcing from Bangladesh, matched ethical claims with action to lift their suppliers’ workers out of poverty,” he said.
As of mid-September 2013, compensations to families of the Rana Plaza disaster victims were still under discussion, with many families struggling to survive.
Future of the Industry
The British luxury sector is forecast to almost double in size over the next five years. Fashion contributes 21 billion pounds to Britain’s $2.5 trillion economy and is the largest employer of all the creative industries in the UK.
Despite a still struggling global economy, British fashion brands are hoping to cash in on evidence of a rebound in the luxury sector as solid demand in Japan and the United States combined with recovery in Europe offset China’s slowdown.
Advocacy groups however, are concerned that the working conditions of those producing a majority of the clothes we buy are living in economic slavery.