Five Minutes with Caroline Rush CBE
Straight after a successful London Fashion Week, Caroline Rush – CEO of the British Fashion Council sat down with us to talk about Brexit; runway-to-retail and strengthening her Executive Board.
Caroline also shares the one piece of advice she would give to someone entering the world of fashion & the proudest moments of her career.
As Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council, what is your typical day like?
There isn’t one. I meet with a broad range of individuals from designers, retailers, sponsors, other creative industries experts, educators, media and the broader industry.
One of the key pillars of the BFC is innovation, what do you think creates a successful culture of innovation today? In the future where do you see the next generation of innovators coming from?
Britain has always been known as an incubator for innovative fashion talent, and I think a key element of this is the incredible education system available in this country. The UK has some of the best fashion and art schools in the world and we have seen a number of internationally celebrated designers, such as Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Hussein Chalayan and Stella McCartney – more recently Christopher Kane, Erdem, Roksanda, Mary katrantzo graduating from these schools. We are working relentlessly to ensure that future talent has access to those amazing schools. Our charity, the BFC Education Foundation plays a pivotal role in helping young talent studying in the UK and we are very excited that this year’s Fashion Awards on December 5th at the Royal Albert Hall will raise money to allow the Foundation to continue its great work.
“There is no clear best option for any brand, but creating the conditions for a market that nurtures and facilities a multitude of models is the best way for British fashion to continue to excel and grow”
Over the last few seasons fashion has been brought closer to the consumer with the movement towards the ‘runway-to-retail’ model. What do you believe is the next big thing for the British fashion industry is?
We have seen different designers and brands embracing and rejecting the see-now buy-now model over the last few seasons, and this reflects the different priorities and scales of these businesses; everyone is thinking about how to reach out to consumers in new, exciting and different ways. There is no clear best option for any brand, but creating the conditions for a market that nurtures and facilities a multitude of models is the best way for British fashion to continue to excel and grow.
What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing small fashion businesses that want to grow in today’s market?
It’s important for new businesses and designers just starting out to understand how to manage their cash flow throughout the year – fashion businesses operate on a unique model and it needs to be carefully balanced. Through our Business Support team and our designer support initiatives the BFC offers thousands of hours of free advice to emerging designers on such areas, as well as the other key tools needed to grow a business. We also recently re-launched our Designer Fact File which is a free online learning platform which makes the invaluable expertise we have gathered from a wide spectrum of experts available to all.
How do you foresee Brexit will impact the British Fashion industry?
Our industry, by its nature, has strong links with international markets and we need to make sure that these links remain strong both in Europe and elsewhere whatever the government’s plans are; However it’s hard to make predictions when so few decisions have been made. The BFC has conducted roundtables with hundreds of designers and brands to establish what their biggest concerns are, and how we can work as an industry to address those concerns moving forward. The BFC has written a white paper on the fashion industry and Brexit which we will be presenting to the government.
“Securing new talent at the executive level is about finding a leader in their field who can inform and bolster the work that we do; it’s about a balance between someone who really understands our goals and objectives whilst also being full of fresh insight and ideas.”
As the BFC has grown, what have been the challenges in securing the right talent/expertise for your executive board?
Securing new talent at the executive level is about finding a leader in their field who can inform and bolster the work that we do; it’s about a balance between someone who really understands our goals and objectives whilst also being full of fresh insight and ideas. Our Executive Board is now stronger than ever with Dame Natalie Massenet, Anya Hindmarch MBE, Dylan Jones OBE, Jose Neves and David Pemsel all being incredible leaders in their respective fields.
What’s the best piece of advice you would give to someone entering the world of fashion?
There’s no substitute for experience – explore every opportunity and work hard.
If you could define Caroline Rush in three words, what would they be?
Ambitous, Competitive and Considerate.
What are you most proud of?
I’m very proud of securing London’s place as one of the ‘Big Four’ global fashion weeks. Integral to this has been increasing the global reach of British fashion; growing its financial contribution to the economy and its job creation; investing in fashion education seeing returns from that investment in innovation across the industry. I’m also extremely proud of receiving my CBE for services to the British fashion industry.