LONDON — Long before Boris Johnson was prime-minister-to-be, he served as the mayor of London for eight years from 2008 to 2016, presiding over the successful 2012 Olympic Games, introducing a cycle scheme with the bicycles that are still referred to as “Boris bikes,” and wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds on water cannons, meant for crowd control, but which were eventually sold for scrap.
During that time, Johnson was a big supporter of green spaces, giving life to 100 “pocket-sized” parks across London and drawing up proposals for a garden bridge across the Thames, akin to the High Line in Manhattan. Alas, it was never built, with the current Mayor Sadiq Khan concluding it did not represent value for money. The failed project cost 53 million pounds.
Throughout his tenure as mayor, Johnson also was always a big supporter of fashion and the retail industry.
In 2015 he hosted a dinner with the British Fashion Council to support the industry and later that year, he visited the BHV Marais department store in Paris to support the retailer’s fashion holiday campaign.
As mayor, Johnson headed the London Development Agency, helping to drive economic development through regeneration projects. It was founded in 1999, but was closed in 2012.
The LDA funded some major programs, such as the Centre for Fashion Enterprise, an incubator for fashion technology businesses based at the London College of Fashion, and the Fashion Forward program, which helped support young designers in growing their businesses. Beneficiaries included Christopher Kane, Erdem and Marios Schwab.
But Johnson isn’t exactly the most fashion-forward of figures, although most parliamentarians and ministers aren’t exactly known for their natty sense of dress. His wardrobe consists of baggy suits and dress shirts, although he does have a penchant for colorful ties and a good pair of cycling socks, which he told WWD is his “one concession to fashion.”
“If you’re on a bicycle, it’s important you have a good, long right sock if you want to avoid it being caught in the chain,” Johnson said, adding that he liked to shop for those socks in north London’s Chapel Market.
Here, some more of Johnson’s takes on fashion over the years, as published in WWD:
“London’s better, we invented bondage trousers, and the suit. Every single man in this room is wearing something that was invented in London. And we do it better than everybody else.” (2015)
“We believe strongly that fashion and design are central to the future. Fashion is an industry that probably employs about 900,000 people in my country, and generates direct and indirect [gross domestic product] of 49 billion pounds. It’s of huge importance.” (2015)
“The London suit is a pandemic — it’s populated the entire planet. You don’t get Scotch whisky made in Korea or Parmesan cheese made in Australia — you come to London for a suit.” (2013)
“Men are apparently spending more money on clothes than women. It’s obviously a growing and booming business and I’m proud to say that London is at the very heart of it.” (2013)
“Even though no one would accuse me of being particularly well-dressed, I appreciate this stuff and I understand the vital importance of supporting it. Fashion is not just something that makes London one of the most attractive, vibrant cities to come and live and work in. Of course it earns huge sums of money in terms of exports. It’s part of a creative sector in London that has a turnover of about 18 billion pounds ($29.2 billion) a year.” (2009)
“London has got this incredible breadth of skills, so you not only have people who are good with a pair of scissors and with a needle and thread, but fashion impresarios, people who understand how to put on a show and all that kind of jazz.” (2009)
“We export the greatest fashion icons around the world — not just our models, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, they are London girls, but also of course Anna Wintour, she’s a London girl. And where does Brüno [a flamboyant fashion designer character played by Sacha Baron Cohen] come from? The most important figure in fashion [Sacha Baron Cohen] went to Haberdashers’ Aske’s school in north London.” (2009)