Tech on the Runway: An Interview with Jenico Preston, BFC Commercial Director
By: Samira Hersom
Running London Fashion Week is one of the many projects overseen by Jenico Preston, Commercial Director at the British Fashion Council (BFC). We caught up with Jenico during London Fashion Week to chat about the influence of technology on British fashion and how the BFC is helping British designers face new challenges.
The BFC supports global brands and emerging talents alike. What do you think is the biggest challenge British designers face today?
Brexit continues to be a key concern for UK fashion businesses, as trade and frictionless borders are key to our industry. The European Union is the UK’s biggest export market for textiles and apparel and accounted for 74% of UK exports in 2016. We therefore rely on a steady trade flow as well as talent coming to the UK. This time of uncertainty is therefore definitely challenging yet also an opportunity for the industry to collaborate more closely.
How is the BFC helping support these challenges?
We support our designers by bringing the industry together and sharing collective knowledge, experience and resources of the sector, through our initiatives. Alongside London Fashion Week and London Fashion Week Men’s, our New Gen and Fashion Trust talent schemes foster growth by providing international platforms for emerging and established talent alike. This past LFW in September we had international press and buyers attendance from over 70 countries visiting over 100 catwalk shows, presentation and events.
In terms of Brexit we are actively encouraging the government to allow free movement of goods and services in the transition period and post Brexit, to maintain the flow of trade.
How do you think technology is impacting the BFC and London Fashion Week?
New technology allows audience participation and the possibility to reach a larger market, allowing greater reach for our designer businesses. In today’s digital landscape, technology is impacting across our industry; from shows being life streamed and shared on social media to 24% of fashion sales now happening online. We have just recently announced a new partnership with JD.com, Chinas largest e-commerce company to support designers that are part of the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund to enter an often difficult to navigate Chinese market through the E-commerce space.
What is one of the latest initiatives the BFC is working on in terms of innovation?
At the BFC, we are looking to lead on innovation in sustainability. Throughout 2017 the British Fashion Council aims to celebrate Positive Fashion best practice by creating a dialogue and providing a platform to tell good news stories that help facilitate global change. Positive Fashion Topics include Sustainability, Diversity & Industry Education and Local Manufacturing & Craftsmanship. Earlier this year we launched the British High-End Manufacturers Database to make it easier for designers to form supply chain relationships and reach productions units. In 2018 with diversity and model health at our focus, we are working with BFC Positive Fashion Ambassador Adwoa Aboah to lead the charge on change and use fashion as a positive platform to inspire future generations.
How do you think Fashion Weeks are changing and how is LFW adapting to these changes?
The platform of international Fashion Weeks widen the conversation people have with audiences and are becoming more designed around the consumer and their experiences. Over the last seasons several brands have shifted to a see-now buy now model allowing direct access to fashion at the time of production, reducing the gap between fashion design and the audience. Furthermore, London is being recognised as a platform for global brands to engage with business and consumers alike. At London Fashion Week in September Emporio Armani, MM6, Nicopanda, Tommy Hilfiger and Versus all showed on schedule alongside British designer businesses Burberry, Christopher Kane, Erdem, JW Anderson and Simone Rocha.
Do you believe in fashion shows changing their form or evolving towards virtual reality in the future?
Technology is unpredictable and exciting, just like fashion. Many brands live stream their shows and Burberry is an example of a brand that opened its show to a larger audience through the see-now buy-now model. Brands like Ralph & Russo, Roksanda and Molly Goddard are turning their fashion shows into bigger experiences and performances, which allows audience engagement and sharing on social media platforms in a direct to consumer approach. At the BFC, we continue to closely collaborate with cutting edge technologies to enhance the experience of Fashion Week and lead the way in the industry.
What do you hope to see in the future in the fashion and technology space? Do you personally gravitate towards technology or traditional ways?
I believe technology and fashion need to coexist, whether that is through design, product development, marketing or customer engagement. The British Fashion Council identifies with four pillars that sit at the heart of our business, one of these being Digital & Innovation. Through this strategic standpoint we aim to provide British designer businesses with the expertise and advice to lead in this area; working with brands to understand their challenges and future solutions, while taking the lead from other industries, working with the likes of Google, YNap, Snapchat and JD.com.