Designer exodus puts fashion week in doubt

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The Independent Online
THE FUTURE of London Fashion Week was in doubt yesterday after John Richmond, a leading British designer, confirmed that he would be showing in Paris next season.

Mr Richmond is the fifth designer to leave London Fashion Week in the last three years. He follows in the steps of John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, Katharine Hamnett and Rifat Ozbek. Helen Storey is also considering showing abroad.

The designer, who sold pounds 4m worth of clothes last year, said yesterday: 'The British market is still very important to me, and I will continue to use the UK as my manufacturing and design base.' But he added: 'London Fashion Week does not attract enough international press and buyers. If my business is to expand, I must show in Paris.'

The decision is more bad news for the London Designer Show, the trade exhibition at the core of London Fashion Week, which still hopes to find backing for a slimmed-down event next season.

In October, the British Clothing Industry Association, which has supported the event since 1990 to the tune of pounds 100,000 a season, confirmed that it was pulling out.

Discussions with new potential sponsors, including the Blenheim Group, which organises mainstream fashion trade shows in London and Birmingham, have proved inconclusive. The Blenheim Group is understood to be eager to become involved in the designer fashion market, but is unwilling to participate in a sponsorship role.

Annette Worsley-Taylor, organiser of the London Designer Show, delivered a paper to the Department of Trade and Industry in October which called for government support for the designer industry.

Ms Worsley-Taylor, who has banged the drum for British designers since the mid-Eighties, contrasted British government indifference with the French government's support for plans to make Paris the capital of world fashion. A pounds 40m fashion catwalk complex at the Louvre opens next autumn.

However, many British designers and retailers are questioning whether the industry needs a London Fashion Week. Joseph Ettedgui, the retailer, said: 'We must all think internationally now.'

Other designers fear that the loss of London Fashion Week will seriously damage Britain's international reputation as a hotbed of design talent.

(Photographs omitted)

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