That Possible Brexit Effect

China’s well-heeled are currently more interested in exploring Stella McCartney Adidas athleisure wear, than they are in taking a substantive interest in the Brexit referendum of June 23.

A survey carried out by the British Fashion Council reveals that 90 per cent of British fashion designers say they will vote to remain in the EU.

Global Times China read on June 20 that the “Brexit” hashtag on Sina Weibo had thus far only attracted 2.72 million views, whereas the “US election” one gained 270 million views. The publication commented that “Chinese ordinary people either do not fully understand the significance of Britain quitting the EU or simply do not care to understand it. They figure that the Brexit has nothing to do with them, which mirrors that compared with the US, the influence of Britain and the EU on China is declining”. Somewhat harsh words, I must say.


Yet not entirely unfounded. China’s scholars are weary. The EU to this day remains China’s biggest trading partner, with the UK carrying the biggest bulk of free trade overall. Global Times continues, “The UK has always backed China’s market economy status and London is an important hub for the internationalization of the renminbi. A Brexit will undoubtedly cast a shadow on the trade relationship between China and the EU.” Somewhat likely, I — a political and economic layman by her own admission — guess.  

Mid-range brands such as GAP are still slugging it at Chinese cash registers. Though there is the obvious exception: British as bangers ‘n mash Marks&Spencer

Enter an increasingly important aspect of that trade: Fashion. Luxury labels have thrived in China, High Street brands have set out on a dauntless setting-up-shop strategy across the nation’s first- and second-tier cities, yet the mid-range brands such as GAP are still slugging it at Chinese cash registers. Though there’s one exception to the latter: British as bangers ‘n mash Marks&Spencer. With 15 shops settled in Shanghai alone, the UK food and clothing retail giant is currently on the prowl for a bigger, better and bolder client-base across Beijing and Guangzhou. Could a Brexit pose a challenge to this enterprising expansion? 


In the seemingly neck and neck race between the “Remain” and “Leave” sides, one thing sticks out: The business that is British fashion, in case of a “Leave”,  shall suffer. HSBC Holdings has predicted that “the value of the pound could drop by as much as 20 percent if a Brexit is voted through, which could pose a very significant effect on British fashion businesses that outsource their production or source fabrics abroad [i.e. from China, Vietnam, etc.]”. It suffices to say that according to a survey carried out by the British Fashion Council has revealed that 90 per cent of British fashion designers say they will vote to remain in the EU. 

If and how a possible Brexit affects the British fashion biz and its ties with China remains to be seen. That it can have an impact on the overall fashion industry, is a given. FashionUnited has explored the topic and brings us “6 effects a Brexit may have on the fashion industry“. From increased difficulties for those international (e.g. Chinese, think Uma Wang or Masha Ma) design students wanting to enter London’s renowned Central Saint Martins, to an outright loss of foreign creative talent due to limited movement… The potential Brexit may come at a high cost. With 52 per cent of voters opting to “Leave” the EU, we shall find ou sooner rather than later.

Come to think of it, I’m quite sure China’s well-heeled will have a keen interest in  holding on to that Burberry bag and remain very much IN style. We shall see.


Photos: Fashion United UK