London Fashion Week: Lloyds manufacturing director Kerrie Gordon on the future of the fashion industry
In a year that has affected every industry in one way or another, one might have expected London Fashion Week to be cancelled.
This week, however, the biannual event has gone ahead - albeit with a few tweaks to keep it Covid-compliant.
With the event shining a spotlight on the fashion industry, Bdaily spoke to Kerrie Gordon, London area director of the manufacturing, consumer and leisure sectors at Lloyds Bank, about how the industry has handled the impact of the pandemic.
Can you give us an idea of what your job entails?
I am the London area director for manufacturing, consumer and leisure within Lloyds Bank’s Commercial Banking division.
I oversee 11 relationship managers who between them look after around 1,400 clients in these sectors across the city.
How has the pandemic affected the fashion sector over the past year?
It’s fair to say that the coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected the London fashion sector at every level; from retailers, to supply chains, to vendors.
Along with closed shops and low footfall in the centre of the city, production has decreased and demand has plummeted as people haven’t had the opportunity to get dressed up and go out to events or socialise.
Despite a spike among online retailers last summer when people splurged their lockdown savings, demand has dropped again with the latest restrictions leaving even the online-only retailers struggling.
However, the government’s roadmap for lifting restrictions has offered reason for optimism.
At Lloyds Bank, we’ve provided businesses across all sectors with the support, advice and funding to manage working capital, build resilience and navigate the ongoing disruption.
One example is family-run fashion designer Design Couture, which we helped to secure a £43k loan via the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS).
With the loan, the London-based business, which owns plus-sized ladies clothing brand Gatsby Lady London, was able to cover overheads and ramp up distribution of its products, including to stockists in Europe and North America.
Design Couture is now looking forward to seeing its new ranges being retailed online and in stores when they’re allowed to reopen.
London Fashion Week has still (virtually) gone ahead this week - what is the significance of this for the industry?
It’s a major positive for the industry that London Fashion Week has still been able to go ahead this year – albeit virtually.
Going online has of course made the event more accessible and, while many will be looking forward to later this year or early next when models will hopefully be back gracing the runways, I imagine it will also remain online to help continue to bring in a wider audience, which is great for the designers.
The new roadmap out of lockdown has recently been announced - what impact will this have on the sector?
It has been an extremely challenging 12 months for so many industries but, with the ongoing vaccine rollout and a roadmap out of lockdown, there is a belief that the sector will bounce back, hopefully in time for Autumn when the next London Fashion Week will be upon us.
In the meantime, its businesses continue to show resilience and innovation.
How will the effects of the pandemic influence the fashion sector going forward? What does the future look like for the industry?
London’s fashion industry is world renowned, and the pandemic has given designers new platforms and opportunities to experiment using technology.
I believe in many ways the fashion industry will return to how it was before, but with added elements like the virtual runways we’ve seen, making it much more accessible to the wider public.
We look forward to more diverse, tech-driven, but also face-to-face London Fashion Weeks in the near future.
What is the most positive thing to have come out of the last year?
For the sector, fashion still offers a way for people to express themselves, be it at home or out socialising, and it’s been encouraging to see how firms have adapted and expanded to meet everchanging demands.
One example of a fashion brand pivoting during lockdown to great effect is London-based LYL, which was named a Small Business of 2020 by Lloyds Bank in recognition of its efforts.
The business was founded just before the start of the pandemic, and specialising in luxury womenswear it expanded its range beyond formal office attire to reflect the shift to working from home.
This resulted in its founder being contacted by independent brand retailer Wolf & Badger about stocking LYL on its website, which led to a 400 per cent increase in orders between September and December.
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