Following Friday’s shock result on leaving the EU, Britain faces serious economic challenges in the days ahead. This is particularly so in the fashion industry, which accounts for a big chunk of our intentional trade. Although we have been historically successful in exporting our goods into Europe, this is by no means a simple one way transaction. Very few handbags made in the UK are entirely from locally sourced raw materials. We rely on importing leathers and hardware from Italy and other EU states. Outside the single market manufacturers may well face tariffs on exports, as well as carrying the burden of a weaker pound and parity issues with VAT. This will inevitably effect profit margins. Crucial to this will be the speed and success the government have in renegotiating trade deals.
The EU has also been important in supporting initiatives within British fashion schools, which in turn attracted foreign students able to study here without visa restrictions. This free movement of talent has only been beneficial to our industry and helped to keep us at the forefront of design and enterprise. It now remains to be seen if the government will be willing and able to step up and fill these inevitable funding gaps.
Patents and trade marks are another area set to get more complicated for British designers as we may lose access to the Unitary patent scheme, and be forced to protect our intellectual property on a country by country basis.
Hopefully there will a positive to Brexit amidst the gloom and uncertainty. And particularly designers with small brands and small workshops may well stand the best chance on riding the storm. Only time will tell.