Meeting Caroline Rush, the CEO of the British Fashion Council, inside The Murray, a newly opened hotel located in the beating heart of Hong Kong, could not have been better timed.
The city is abuzz with exciting activities.
The end of March brought Hong Kong Art Basel – and the long Easter weekend – which has attracted huge numbers of visitors from around the world.
BFC CEO @rushcaroline at the party hosted with @EdelineLee, @eudonchoi, @GeorgiaHardinge, @HouseOfHolland, @Isa_Arfen, @MoP_London, @PhoebeEnglish, @RoksandaIlincic, @sharonwauchob & @TEATUMJONES celebrating British fashion, design & creativity in Hong Kong pic.twitter.com/2sPwuKXN60— BFC (@BFC) March 23, 2018
“Exciting” is a word with which Rush is very familiar.
Billed to be at the vanguard of the designer clothing revolution now going on in Britain’s fashion industry, Rush has helped raise the profile of London Fashion Week and promote many of the latest emerging British-based designers in international markets.
She has also ensured the skills of the nation’s star designers, such as Roksanda Ilincic, JW Anderson, and Mary Katrantzou, have been globally recognised.
The PR mogul started her career in public relations in Manchester, in the north of England.
Armed with her trademark talent for fine finesse, she first became involved in the affairs of the British Fashion Council (BFC) – a non-profit trade group which promotes British fashion designers and their work in Britain and around the world – in 1998.
She officially joined the group in 2009, and took on a role that has seen her masterminding many successful collaborations, including the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund, the BFC/Bazaar Fashion Arts Foundation, and the British Fashion Awards.
@hardingegeorgia @motherofpearl @henryholland @teatumjones @sharonwauchob @edelinelee @hsbc @eudonchoi @isa_arfen @phoebeenglish @roksandailincic @97crush @ka.ren.m @sianwesterman1 @britishfashioncouncil #hongkong #partytonight
A post shared by E D E L I N E L E E (@edelinelee) on Mar 22, 2018 at 11:39pm PDT
It’s only hours before a big evening party at Potato Head to celebrate designers, such as Ilincic, Edeline Lee, Eudon Choi, Georgia Hardinge, House of Holland, Isa Arfen, Mother of Pearl, Phoebe English, Sharon Wauchob, and Teatum Jones, when she talks to STYLE magazine about fashion and beyond.
How has British fashion’s international profile changed in the past few decades?
We have [long had] an incredible group of talented people, and are working from a very good standpoint.
But when I first came in nine years ago, we hadn’t necessarily focused on celebrating the incredible talent we had. We were a little bit ‘British’ and rather apologetic about that.
We have put a lot of effort into making sure that those young, creative designers have brilliant business support and mentoring, which means they are not just creatives who come and go, but creative businesses.
You can see that success in the likes of Roksanda, who is in Hong Kong to open her first store, [someone] who has been through NewGen [an initiative giving mentoring and finding to British based menswear, womenswear and accessories businesses] and support schemes, and has gone from strength to strength.
British fashion has its distinctive voice: it’s usually seen as being full of drive, with plenty of creative room to grow. What do you think contributes to this?
We have a talent support scheme called the BFC Fashion Trust: it’s a philanthropic initiative where individuals contribute to the charity and helps challenged business.
Designers are taken on a retail tour [in Hong Kong]: they have spoken to personal shoppers and individuals who work in Hong Kong, so it’s a real immersion in the Hong Kong fashion industry.
It’s been an incredible opportunity, and it has really helped bring to life many conversations they have had, whether with department stores or independent players, and they are going to leave energised and focused on how they can build their businesses here.
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A post shared by JW ANDERSON (@jw_anderson) on Mar 21, 2018 at 8:07am PDT
Why Hong Kong?
This week is a week of great festivals of innovation [just before Art Basel Hong Kong begins], and it seems like a good time to focus on British business and innovation.
We also celebrate the designers, as British fashion, in particular, is known for its creativity and innovation. With Art Basel week, there is a real international crowd [here].
I think that mainland China seems more accessible now compared to the past, but Hong Kong has always been our first point of entry.
It’s much more Westernised because of its history.
It’s an easy place to start a conversation about China ... it is about having that dialogue around what WeChat is and what KOLs [key opinion leaders] do.
Hong Kong is a very vibrant place to be. It has a very different DNA to Shanghai – it’s a great city, but I am [particularly] fond of Hong Kong.
A post shared by SHARON WAUCHOB (@sharonwauchob) on Mar 4, 2018 at 8:32am PST
Have you felt any effects from political events, such as Brexit, and will London Fashion Week consider showing Hong Kong-based designers?
To be honest, Brexit [the prospective withdrawal of Britain from the European Union] has not affected us much yet.
It depends on the deal; until then we can’t really react to it.
We have always thought about how the businesses can grow internationally, and we do a designer survey every year, and year after year, Hong Kong and China have come up consistently in the top three key locations.
So it is important for us to have strong partnerships here and promote our businesses.
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A post shared by EUDON CHOI STUDIO (@eudonchoi) on Apr 5, 2018 at 4:03am PDT
If you look at London Fashion Week, we have Chinese designers taking part for both menswear and women’s wear.
In particular, London is seen as being truly international and supportive of emerging businesses, so it’s all about whether it makes sense for the brand to show in London.
I think if you have a strong contemporary brand, New York may well be the market for you; but if you are more designer and creative, then London could be a better place.
British fashion has found its distinctive voice, and usually is seen as full of drive, a lot more creative room to grow; what do you think contributes to this?
I can take no credit for that, and it is purely the talent of our designers, many of whom come from our art schools.
There is something very special about the way fashion is taught in the UK, and that is they are taught in an art-school environment.
It is about pushing creativity and understanding your point of view and your DNA, and that gives the designers a very special approach, which is why I think it gives us so many incredible, young talented designers. It all starts from education.