Style: He dresses the world, but Britain won't pay the price for Hussein Chalayan

On Thursday, London Fashion Week kicks off - and all eyes will be on Swinging London once more. British fashion rules the world, and more overseas buyers than ever are expected to attend the collections. Yet last week, Hussein Chalayan, one of our hottest designer exports, was without a sponsor for his show. Tamsin Blanchard, Fashion Editor, reports
Hussein Chalayan, the Turkish-Cypriot born, London-raised and Central Saint Martin's educated designer, is one of three reasons overseas buyers and the press will bother stopping off at London Fashion Week, between Milan, Paris and New York. Along with Alexander McQueen and Antonio Berardi, Chalayan is responsible for making London swing. He sells in the UK, France, Italy, the United States, Hong Kong and Japan, and was nominated as designer of the year at last year's British Fashion Awards.

Since his show last spring, Chalayan has been seeking a sponsor for his spring/summer 1998 collection, scheduled for next Saturday night. But this week, after approaching UK drinks companies and other potential sponsors, he was left without anyone to foot the bill - and staging a fashion show, as any designer knows, does not come cheap. So with no support from British business forthcoming, he turned for help to the land of his birth, and secured some financial support from the North Cyprus Tourism Centre.

It is still a fraction of the amount he needs, but the show will go on, albeit in a smaller, more intimate form. "It seemed like the only place that would give me support at the last minute," says Chalayan. However, the British Fashion Council has since helped by giving Chalayan a venue for free.

While he has backing for the manufacture of his collections, his business partners are not millionaires; fashion designers are usually left to their own devices to raise funds for putting on their shows. A sum of around pounds 45,000 is the minimum needed to rent a venue, lighting, stage designers, hair and make-up, pay for invitations, security and, of course, models. However, if they like the designer, many models will work for an outfit in lieu of a fee. Big fashion houses like Chanel will spend closer to pounds 500,000 for a single show.

Previously, Chalayan has been sponsored by Absolut and Nokia. "They sponsor you fresh from college, but they don't realise the cycle doesn't end there," he says. "There is always a need for sponsorship."

Chalayan, along with our other leading designers, sees his ideas plagiarised by high street stores, but gets little back in return. While Clements Ribeiro have found salvation with a deal with Dorothy Perkins, and Pearce Fionda landed a two-way deal with Debenhams that saved them from bankruptcy last year.

Every season, there is a battle to get a share in the sponsorship pie. Even our most famous export, Alexander McQueen, has seen deals fall through at the last minute. His show will be sponsored by ICI, which is building the stage, and American Express. Janet Fischgrund, spokeswoman for McQueen says: "sponsorship is an enormous issue for young designers, it's impossible to fund these shows on your own."

Antonio Berardi, feted by American Vogue as the Next Big Thing, has sponsorship from Courvoisier. This season the designer will also come out at the end of the show wearing a pair of designer specs, courtesy of David Clulow. However, sponsorship for next season remains uncertain.

Priyesh Shah, Berardi's business partner, said yesterday, "It's crazy we still have to rely on sponsorship. Companies don't understand the importance of fashion as a medium ... yet the kudos of a lot of British companies like Marks & Spencer and The Burton Group relies on the hyping of Cool Britannia."

Simon Ward, administrator for the British Fashion Council, said yesterday, "Hussein Chalayan is one of our major names; we're going to make sure he has a show. He is an important part of the resurgence of London." But the BFC is not a sponsorship marriage broker. Clearly one of the things we excel at is new talent ... It is the new names like Hussein Chalayan that have brought the focus back to London."