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The British invasion continues Stateside

As the 'Source British' trade show debuts in LA we look at why the US hearts UK fashion

Despite its large, domestic spectrum of influential designers, it seems that the American interest in overseas fashion has not sunk. While ex-First Lady Michelle Obama has been spotted sporting a Burberry trench coat and Erdem dresses regularly appear on the Hollywood red carpets, the American fashion scene continues to be invaded by British talent.

According to the British Fashion Council the UK’s fashion industry is worth £26 billion to the economy and provides 800,000 jobs, making it the largest creative industry in the country. The majority of these fashion businesses also export to other nations, estimated to have a value of over £6.5 billion, and the foreign investment by multinational organisations such as LVMH and Kering group in young British brands is on the rise as seen at Christopher Kane and JW Anderson. But it is in the US that you will find some of the most vocal fans of UK fashion.

Second only to Japan, the US is the largest importer of British fashion and textiles. Fashion theorist Alison Goodrum explains that many American consumers are mainly attracted to the British ‘look’ of tradition and earnestness, and are hoping to buy into this sense of ‘britishness’. Many UK fashion powerhouses, such as Paul Smith and Mulberry, have a long life heritage of producing distinctively British clothing and promoting their ‘Made in Britain’ roots. Harold Tillman, former chairman of the British Fashion Council and ex-owner of UK brands Jaeger and Aquascutum agrees, stating that; “We are having our time. British fashion is back and we have the opportunity to grow globally. People want to buy British – made in Britain reeks of quality.”

Burberry sales saw a a double-digit growth in North-America in 2015 and Paul Smith and Mulberry are set to open their doors in multiple new locations in the US this year, the investment in global expansion by luxury UK fashion brands has certainly paid off. Whilst the successful growth of the older luxury conglomerates advertises a renewed interest in the British history and heritage, Michael Wainwright, Managing Director of Boodles, a luxury British jeweller, argues that companies however should not solely rely on their heritage. London has evolved in to a unique and dynamic society, with leading fashion universities attracting creative, forward-thinking individuals from all across the globe.

Burberry Campaign Poster

According to the British Fashion Council, UK fashion therefore does not only represent the more common associations made with Britain’s nationality and craftsmanship, but also inspires the industry with an eclectic mix of cultures and diversity. Whereas the fashion capitals Paris and Milan mainly present traditional and more established brands, the bi-annual London Fashion Week is a seedbed for young, multinational talent and a modern reflection of current global movements, with many designers originating from beyond the UK. Lulu Kennedy, founder of the non-profit organisation nurturing emerging British designers Fashion East, claims that “whereas French ideas about fashion are based around history and traditional notions of chic, the British take is also about the future, about what we want to see next”. Phoebe Philo, who graduated from Central Saint Martins, commented on the Brit effect; “it has been a game-changer for the whole industry by addressing femininity and modernity, opening up a wider discussion about women’s lives that reaches beyond fashion.”

It has therefore come as no surprise that ‘Source British’, a new trade show that took place on the 13-14 March 2017 in the California Market Center in Los Angeles, has showcased a wide range of both heritage and contemporary collections across fashion, accessories, home, gifts and crafts.

Brimmed hats and satchel bags were exhibited alongside colourful and graphic printed shirts, as Joanne Lee, senior vice president of trade shows and marketing at the CMC, said; “Source British will become a Los Angeles discovery point for UK fashion.” She adds that “British design and craftsmanship have long been revered by US buyers. With Source British in Los Angeles, West Coast buyers are being offered the extraordinary opportunity to explore Britain’s top brands in one convenient LA Market trip,” Lee proves that Britain’s designer talent continues to take the industry by storm.

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