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What Britain’s Brexit Means for Fashion Brands — and Shoppers

A model walks the runway at Gucci's resort show at Westminster Abbey wearing a Union Jack sweater. A model walks Gucci’s cruise show at Westminster Abbey. Photo: Karwai Tang/Getty Images

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On Thursday, Britain made history with a vote to leave the European Union. In short order, members of the fashion industry took to social media to voice their opinions on the outcome — overwhelmingly, disappointment. “I’ve never been so unproud to be British,” Katie Grand, the editor in chief of Love magazine, wrote on Instagram.

Fear has been the common motivator on both sides of the issue, the New York Times wrote on Thursday. For those who wanted to remain in the E.U., that would be the fear of an “economic catastrophe” including a depreciated pound and higher taxes. For those who hoped to leave, it’s the fear of crime and terrorism that’s seen as linked to increasing immigration to Britain.

That underlying xenophobia was a large part of fashion players’ frustration with the outcome. As Jonathan Anderson of Loewe and J.W. Anderson said on Instagram on Friday morning, “FEAR IS JUST A VIRUS.” But the Brexit, as the departure from the E.U. is known, could create challenges for their businesses, too, and even for shoppers.

For brands

As Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times pointed out before the vote took place, many British luxury brands, like Burberry, buy fabrics and produce clothing in Europe. A weaker pound could “send manufacturing prices soaring.” Either the brand absorbs that, or it passes the cost on to consumers.

On the flip side, the Wall Street Journal writes, that might create an opportunity for French and Italian fashion brands, which already make up half of the global luxury market, to gain further market share.

As of Friday morning, the pound had already taken a big hit. It fell over 10 percent immediately following the announcement of the result of the referendum, according to the BBC, although it rose slightly after that.

Business of Fashion noted on Friday morning that one major outcome of the Brexit is increased volatility in a market that’s already quite volatile, which could very well put a damper on British citizens’ inclination to shop, especially when it comes to luxury goods.

For shoppers

For foreigners who happen to be in London this weekend, however, it might not be a bad idea to take a shopping trip.

A pair of heeled Gucci loafers, currently available on Net-a-Porter, currently cost £420 — $580 at current exchange rates. A month ago, they would have cost you about $613. A metallic jacquard Mary Katrantzou dress from Selfridges, which goes for £1,785, translates to $2,468 at the moment — down from roughly $2,606 last month.

The Brexit may not be a positive for fashion in the medium term, least of all because, as Friedman rightly noted, creative industries like fashion thrive on open-minded and multi-cultural viewpoints. But if you’re a shopper with a bank account that’s not measured in pounds, well, get to it.