The Prime Minister and British Fashion Council host Downing Street reception to celebrate sustainable fashion and textiles

09 June 2022

This evening at a Downing Street reception, we set out the foundations now in place to move towards a 10 year Fashion Industry Sustainable Change Programme, focused on creating a world leading circular fashion eco-system in the UK with innovation and creativity front and centre.  The Sustainable Programme outlines the need for the first industry led Centre of Excellence, housed within the BFC’s Institute of Positive Fashion to convene industry including designers, retailers, manufacturers, academia and broader stakeholders including partnership bodies UK Fashion and Textiles (UKFT) and British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The evening gave credit to research partnerships to date with Innovate UK, UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the vision of the CEOs of these organisations and of many British businesses from independent designers and big brands to manufacturers who are leading the way.  The programme vision is to deliver city level eco-systems with world leading recycling infrastructure that delivers regional regeneration and innovation clusters, investment in skills and that embraces new business models focused on circularity.

Guests from across the fashion and textiles industry included designers, media, retailers and business leaders as well as government and academia, including Anya Hindmarch, Designer; Cigdem Kurtulus, Reckitt; David Pemsel, Science Magic Inc; Dax Lovegrove, Jimmy Choo; Esra Kasapoglu, Innovate UK; Holli Rogers, FARFETCH & Browns, James Lambert, Value Retail PLC; Jamie Gill, Roksanda; Jefferson Hack, Dazed Media; Jonathan Ackeroyd, Burberry; Jo Churchill MP, Environment Minister; Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi; Lynda Petherick, Accenture; Nigel Lugg MBE, UKFT; Orsola de Castro, Fashion Revolution; Paolo Carzana, Designer; Paul Scully MP, Minister for Sport Business; Rich Bayer, Clearpay; Robyn Lynch, Designer; Scott Morrison; Sian Westerman; Sophia Neouphitou, 10 Magazine; Sonia Thimmiah, Reckitt; Stephen Jones, Designer; Tina Lake, MY WARDROBE HQ; Tom Fiddian, Innovate UK.

Stephanie Phair OBE, Chair spoke first, followed by the Prime Minister.

Stephanie Phair OBE, Chair, British Fashion Council

Good evening all and thank you for joining us.

Thank you, Prime Minister, for hosting us here at 10 Downing Street as we focus on the role that fashion has to play in tackling the climate emergency. As a significant contributor to UK GDP and a leader in the creative industries, we have the power to address the need for change in consumer behaviour and the industrial transformation needed through business and critical societal interventions to meet the levelling up agenda, regeneration and skills.

Over the last few years, we have been focused on developing a blueprint for a circular fashion eco-system for the UK, that will significantly reduce our impact on the planet, future proof our industry and develop UK IP through design and innovation. We are here today to ask you to support this programme to go from theory to practice, from research to reality.

Prime Minister, you have been a champion of the fashion industry for many years, since your time as London Mayor and you have recognised the contribution this industry makes to our economy, to employment, and to this country’s IP making it a great strength for Brand Britain on the international stage.

To date, the fashion industry has not relied on government intervention, but today, Industry and Government - through targeted regulation and funding - need to partner for the future, and move from seeing the climate crisis as risk management to an opportunity for development and prosperity across the UK. 

The Fashion Industry is multifaceted – from creativity & design, photography, image making, retail, textiles & manufacturing, e-commerce and technology. High-end design to the high street. We still lead in creativity with British educated talent leading many design studios and brands across the world and many of our emerging talents are already seen as world leaders in sustainable business from Christopher Raeburn to Phoebe English. London Fashion Week has organically become the leading showcase of excellence in this area, talking about sustainable fashion since 2006, way ahead of many other international fashion cities.

But in order to reach and exceed the pledges of the Government Climate Action
Plan - 51% reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions no later than 2050, there is an imperative to act now.

As our population grows, so does consumption, 4 billion items of clothing were bought in the UK alone in 2019, with approximately 80 billion globally.

At least 60% will never be recycled.

Clothing production has doubled in the last 15 years.

Fashion is the 3rd largest polluting industry on the planet.

The Fashion Industry is a big part of the problem, so we must be a big part of the solution and the solutions need to be bold and wide reaching. And we believe we have a path towards this.

We need to address how we design, how we source, how we produce, how we ship, how we market product, how we shop and how we deal with waste that currently goes to landfill. We can’t do this within the current structures and practices of our industry.

Pre-pandemic in Feb 2020, the British Fashion Council launched the Institute of Positive Fashion here at Downing Street with the early ambition for a sustainability programme using the UK as a pioneer for a circular fashion economy. This was a result of over a year’s partnership with Innovate UK bringing together many industry voices from brands, academia, cross government departments and international businesses.

The Institute of Positive Fashion was created as a vehicle to house the first industry led Centre of Excellence, leveraging the convening power of the BFC to bring together expertise, Industry know-how, creative thinking and knowledge share with a view to accelerating industrial transformation through innovation.

Now two years on we continue to work with Innovate UK, with CEO Indro Mu-ker-jee and his brilliant team as well as their colleagues across UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and Art & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), where we have together researched and evidenced a 10 year Industrial Change Programme with innovation at its core. This will require an estimated £80m in funding.

It will bring together government and industry, including partnership bodies such as UK Fashion & Textiles (UKFT) and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) alongside brands, designer businesses, retailers, manufacturers, academia and innovators in sustainability as well as the BFCs network of international partners and brands to play a key part in this knowledge exchange.

Imagine 10 years from now a city like Leeds which has a rich history in manufacturing and textiles retaining its role as a key part of the fashion and textiles industry and an example of a circular city with reprocessing plants, energised highstreets with takeback schemes where product is broken down, re-spun and made to create new fabrics; a city with an inclusive and diverse work force, with new skills and learning opportunities.  This isn’t a pipe dream – elements of this are already being seen around the world – we can bring this expertise together and make it a reality for the UK putting us at the forefront of change.

The scale of the challenge is such that industry can’t do this alone. Many great things are being done in silos, but joining the dots, thoughtful regulation and supercharging change through funding will help the UK lead in this respect.

We want to thank those of you who are on this journey with us and look forward to accelerating the IPF Centre of Excellence as part of the Industrial Change Programme and need your support to help deliver to targets to reduce our impact on the planet and its people while providing industry growth in the next 10 years.

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister 

‘The UK Fashion Industry is a big contributor to the economy and to Brand Britain and I am delighted to support this brilliant industry as it moves forward with a 10 year Fashion Industry Sustainable Change Programme bringing opportunities across the UK to meet our Government Climate Action Plan of environmental and societal change’.

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