Crisis on the catwalk over Britain's fashion brain drain
New initiative launched to halt overseas exodus of up-and-coming designers
The catwalk purred for the Paris unveiling of the latest collection by Kim Jones, one of Britain's hottest designers. But Jones has already been snapped up by Louis Vuitton, and with so many homegrown designers historically taking their business overseas, a new initiative has been launched to promote the claims of British menswear.
The British Fashion Council (BFC) yesterday announced the formation of a Fashion 2012 Menswear committee, designed to raise the profile of UK designers and increase sales.
Chaired by Dylan Jones, the GQ editor, the body will create events, involving the UK's leading brands, which will "celebrate and showcase British menswear". The first event will be in Paris on Sunday. But the buzz in the city was for the collection from Jones, 33, the award-winning style director of Vuitton menswear.
It is a path well travelled by the best of British designers, and persuading rising stars that their ambitions can be satisfied without heading to Paris or Milan is a challenge for the new committee.
Christopher Raeburn, winner of the British Fashion Award for Emerging Talent in Menswear, who is showing in Paris this weekend, said: "It's exciting to have support from people at the BFC who can bring their expertise to British menswear. Improving the presentation of catwalk shows is very important for attracting buyers. Some designers will want to go abroad but I'm proud of the high quality manufacturing skills we have in wool, leather and accessories we have in the UK."
However Raeburn, praised for his ethically aware use of military fabrics to create garments which are functional and intelligent, said the gender gap needed addressing.
"We need to improve the visibility of menswear in comparison to womenswear," he said. "There's more money in womenswear. There are five days devoted to womenswear in the London Fashion Week schedule compared to one for men."
Raeburn, whose mens and womenswear is in Liberty and Harvey Nichols, added: "In some ways menswear is more of a serious business because of the functionality and attention to detail of the clothes. The structure of a menswear manufacturing business is already there."
Dylan Jones said his committee would "look at various strategic changes to the menswear element of London fashion Week" with further details to be announced in Paris.
He said he believed that "UK menswear has never been so exciting" and he wants to see more "genuine mavericks".
As for the fashion "brain drain", he said: "It is inevitable that some designers will leave to go and work – but in a year when the whole world will be looking at London and the UK, what with the Jubilee and the Olympics – it is important to focus on the huge ability of young designers to help UK business. We have some of the greatest talent in the world here."
British menswear received a boost with the announcement from Milan that the Alexander McQueen label is forming a partnership with Savile Row tailor H Huntsman and Sons to create made-to-order suits.
Inspired by the Victorian dandy look, the £5,000 Huntsman suits unveiled in Milan feature a single-breasted dinner jacket, a black and white Prince of Wales check double-breasted trouser suit and a black cashmere double-breasted overcoat.
British menswear talent is enjoying strong representation at the big shows. Scottish designer Jonathan Saunders made his Milan debut this week. Savile Row tailors E Tautz, the winner of the British Fashion Awards for Menswear prize in 2010, led by designer Patrick Grant, will present a preview of its collection at the Paris showrooms next week.
Homegrown talent: British stars of menswear
First menswear designer to win funding through the BFC's Fashion Forward scheme for emerging talent. Born in Northamptonshire, his signature style is "leather, knits, and strong, bold, directional menswear."
International Ethical Fashion Forum award-winner hailed for his luxury designer sportswear. Backs British craftsmanship by sourcing quality wool from West Yorkshire and believes distinctive goods will thrive in tough times.
His debut holiday-wear collection was hailed a triumph in Paris last year. The London designer, lured to Louis Vuitton after a spell as creative head of Dunhill, said his move to the luxury brand was "my dream job".
The Liverpuddlian graduate of Central Saint Martins has reinvented shell suits with his "refined scallyism" range. His collections feature "performance fabrics, clean silhouettes and the right amount of drama."
Menswear Designer of the Year runs tailoring house Norton & Sons and E Tautz. Says: "The Tautz man has a classic English sensibility mixed with a kind of schoolboy humour; he likes to dress elegantly."
The Scottish designer, who brings the aesthetics of engineering to his creations, unveiled his menswear collection in Milan. His designs are favoured by Madonna and Michelle Obama.
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