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  • Zoe Norton

Challenges facing UK’s fashion entrepreneurs as they work toward sustainable prosperity




Through research conducted as part of our Fostering Sustainable Practices (FSP) project we know UK fashion micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) play a vital role in pioneering sustainable practices in the wider fashion industry. The challenges faced by UK’s fashion entrepreneurs are not unique, as with many sectors, the UK fashion industry, is experiencing significant transformation due to the amalgamation of 3 major issues: Climate Emergency, Brexit transitions, and the economic and social crisis caused by Covid-19. In response, shifts in the geographical structure of supply chains and creative business practices have the potential to invigorate, or decimate a sector that has huge soft power and economic significance for the UK.


Whilst Fashion MSMEs within the creative industries are the most economically vulnerable, they tend to be more agile and mobile when dealing with seismic shifts. Covid-19 has forced many companies to rely on new local partners to overcome the upheaval brought by severe supply chain disruptions. Whilst Brexit has forced many companies to rely on foreign partners, as they were forced to relocate some of their supply chain operations in mainland Europe.


As part of our new project Managing transition in the UK fashion sector, Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) and Fashion Business Research Centre, have launched a UK-wide survey for fashion MSMEs – seeking responses that will aid our research in understanding how Covid-19, Brexit and the Climate Emergency have transformed the key drivers, opportunities and challenges associated with supply chain relocation strategies. By collating this data from a wide range of fashion enterprises, we will inform policy makers of suitable changes to help support MSME’s in the UK.


In the UK, most policy attention is focused on the mass market portion of the industry, failing to recognise the value, particularly of MSMEs, in economic, environmental, and social terms. Instead, policy tends to focus on end-of-life waste initiatives rather than the creative innovation in products, services, and systems. Through this research we hope to inform policymakers of the needs of this important section of the creative sector, identify ways to economically invigorate the sector and support industry net zero goals in the face of the challenges outlined above, climate emergency, Brexit, and Covid-19.


This work is an extension of the Fostering Sustainable Practices (FSP) project and builds on research developed. The FSP project created a unique evidence-led guidebook, Fashion as Sustainability in Action, highlighting and evidencing the sustainable practices of fashion MSMEs as drivers of innovation towards social, environmental, cultural, and economic prosperity. The guidebook targets business support organisations that mentor, showcase and invest in fashion/creative MSMEs and/or new enterprises in the creative industries, to extend their knowledge for supporting the sustainability ambitions and practices of these enterprises.


Fashion MSME based in the UK?


We’re looking for fashion micro or small and medium enterprises (MSME), who are headquartered in the UK, to contribute to our research.


Complete the survey + Please note: your survey responses are confidential and will only be released only as part of group summaries. If you have any questions or comments about this survey, please contact Project Manager, Zoe Norton (z.norton@fashion.arts.ac.uk).


UK based fashion business support organisation?

The project team are seeking support organisations that are interested in using this guidebook within their organisations. We are looking for support organisations in the Midlands, the Northwest, and Scotland, who would be interested in attending a half-day workshop. Contact Project Manager, Zoe Norton (z.norton@fashion.arts.ac.uk).