LONDON — The British Fashion Council has published its balance sheet for the first time, and plans to become a paid-for membership organization as it seeks new ways to raise funds for designers, programs and scholarships in a challenging environment ahead of Brexit.
Until now, the BFC has relied on fundraising through events such as The Fashion Awards, government grants, donations and patronage to keep its engines running.
BFC chair Stephanie Phair said the new membership program would allow the organization to “open up our services to a much wider community and not just the brands that are part of the schedule at London Fashion Week.” More details will be laid out ahead of London Fashion Week, which runs from Sept. 13 to 17.
The BFC’s total income for the year ended March 31 was 12.2 million pounds, compared with the previous year’s 13 million pounds. The 6 percent decline was due partly to the phasing of its government grant, and less money coming from patronage and from the London fashion weeks, according to the annual report which was released on Friday.
Money raised through The Fashion Awards, the annual black-tie gala that takes place at Royal Albert Hall, rose to 2.9 million pounds, compared with the previous year’s 2.8 million pounds.
Surplus, after-tax, for the financial year was 849,454 pounds, compared with the previous year’s 1.2 million pounds.
The BFC said it experienced a “challenging first half” due to market conditions, with a number of existing sponsors and patrons scaling back on promotional and marketing activities, and therefore reducing their level of investment.
It said that a focused effort was being made to develop “new and exciting ways to attract new partners to our portfolio,” including seeking out international partnerships.
Performance was stronger in the second half, with new alliances revealed, including JD.com as an official sponsor of LFW, as well as Value Retail and Browns backing the BFC’s talent support initiatives.
The BFC said a target has been set to stem the declining trend in sponsorship revenue since April 2019. It has revealed LetsBab as an official sponsor of London Fashion Week, while online retailer Depop will be supporting Newgen. An annual partnership with Clearpay will support the Fashion Forum.
The report added that the industry organization was facing up to the challenges of Brexit “across all areas of the business,” and said the BFC has grown its international strategy, promoted British fashion, and made clear that it welcomes talent, partnerships and business from around the world.
It has also “broadened and deepened its dialogue with the government” ahead of Brexit to ensure the industry’s concerns over issues such as frictionless borders, the movement of goods and people, access to talent and skilled workers, IP and manufacturing, are heard.
The BFC said that central to its discussions with government is the future of funding for economic development, particularly the future of European Regional Development Funding.
In April, the BFC commenced a fourth grant agreement with the ERDF, committing 3.5 million pounds of matched funding over two and a half years.
The money will go toward supporting fashion designers at the London fashion weeks and special showcases. The BFC also stressed that the U.K. Treasury has made a public statement of intent to underwrite a commitment to the funding regardless of Brexit, and as part of its No Deal technical papers.
“While income-generating activities are relatively well-diversified across multiple projects, continuing to innovate and pursue new commercial opportunities remains part of the longer-term risk management strategy of the group,” the BFC said.
The organization added that it continues to work closely with government to unlock new opportunities and specifically to seed fund new projects, such as exploring the BFC’s role in improving the environmental impact of the fashion industry.