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London's Designer Showcase

Boris Johnson, London’s exuberant, said while he’s not an avid fashion follower, he does value the impact of fashion retail on the city’s economy.

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Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Special Report issue 09/08/2009

LONDON — Boris Johnson, London’s exuberant mayor who’s famous for getting around the city on his bicycle, said while he’s not an avid fashion follower, he does value the impact of fashion retail on the city’s economy.

“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,” Johnson told WWD. “[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.”

Although Johnson won’t be able to attend London’s Fashion’s Night Out due to prior engagements, he said he believes the city excels at putting on the kind of retail theater that will be showcased on the night. “[London’s] 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.”

Johnson is no stranger to supporting London’s fashion industry. The London Development Agency, which he heads, backs the Fashion Forward program to support designers in growing their businesses. Designers Erdem, Christopher Kane and Marios Schwab are the current recipients of the award. Though Johnson was reluctant to single out his favorite London designers, he did reel off a list of those he admires. “I might mention Galliano, Westwood, McQueen and people like Burberry, Giles Deacon and Jonathan Saunders,” he said.

While the mayor also declined to name-check his favorite shops in the city — “there are so many wonderful shops in London it would be invidious of me to pick them out,” he said — he did admit that he favors North London’s bustling Chapel Market to buy his cycling socks. “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,” he explained. “That’s my one concession to fashion.”

And Johnson believes his fellow Londoners are still keen to take advantage of the city’s plethora of retail experiences, despite the economic environment. “I think retail in London has been doing surprisingly well throughout the downturn,” he said. “And I think that’s possibly because for people who are in work, mortgages have remained comparatively low and there has been cash to spend.”

Johnson added that London’s famous fashion figures also bring an allure to shopping in the capital. “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,” noted Johnson. “And where does Bruno come from? The most important figure in fashion went to Haberdashers’ Aske’s school in North London,” said Johnson, referring to the posh boys’ school that Bruno’s creator Sacha Baron Cohen attended.