London Fashion Week AW21: “An Opportunity For Renewal”:


After an incredibly challenging year for the industry, it’s what we all need to lift us up”. This was the significance that Caroline Rush, the Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council (BFC) attached to the latest LFW (19th – 23rd February) and the fresh scope for creativity it provided, when quoted by the Sky News correspondent Emma Birchley on the opening morning of the event. The sector, declared Rush, is reeling from what she depicted as the “disproportionate impact” of the combination of the pandemic and Brexit. This was precisely why the BFC had needed to “pivot and adapt the event very quickly”, moving the displays and catwalks to a digital platform easily accessible both to the general public and to all those working within the fashion trade.

In her report on LFW’s final day, the Evening Standard’s fashion correspondent, Chloe Street, acknowledged that although she had missed the intimacy and excitement of attending catwalks in person, the new format had not detracted from “the evident talent on show, with designers delivering exciting collections that spoke to a life post-vaccine”. She cited as examples Simone Rocha, Erdem,Preen, Molly Goddard, Eudon Choi, Vivienne Westwood,Osman and Temperley. Her counterpart at the Guardian, Hannah Marriott, had been perhaps rather more candid on 25th January when she described 2020 as “a terrible year for the world and a head-spinning one for fashion”, albeit that she still believed the industry has “a genuine chance of rebuilding in a slower, more considered way”.


There are mixed views within the sector, however, as to whether even Marriott’s cautious optimism is justified. Her colleague, Priya Elan, on 1st February speculated as whether we are “on the brink of a colourful post-Covid recovery”. This was despite recognising that the number of retailers closing down is continuing to rise – most prominent among them being Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, whose Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, Burtons and Debenham brands have been taken over by the controversial Leicester-based fast-fashion company Boohoo, which has been criticised for the allegedly poor working conditions in its supply chain. Asos meanwhile have become the new owners of Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge.


Nevertheless, reflected Elan, the Nobel-winning economist Professor Paul Krugman, has predicted in the New York Times that “things will get better” and the American billionaire businessman, Tilman Fertitta has confidently assured CNBC that “This is going to be the ‘roaring ’20’s – the consumer is coming back”. Yes, but exactly where and which ones, was the query raised by the Guardian’s Fashion Editor, jess Cartner-Morley on 6th February, when she pointed out that the “Fashion industry’s balance of power is moving to China”and that it’s estimated that by 2025, Chinese consumers will account for more than 50% of global luxury spending.


The new complications involved in accessing accessories such as zips from Germany or textiles from Italy were highlighted by the designer Paul Costelloe during Birchley’s Sky News programme and the BBC’s News at 10 on 23rd February: “They get stuck at Heathrow or Stansted airport for two weeks, and by the time I receive them the Show for which they were required has already come and gone”.


The growing anxiety felt by UK fashion retailers who now have to pay an average tariff of 12% when re-exporting to the EU has provoked 450 luminaries from within the sector, among them Dame Vivienne Westwood and the ’60s model Twiggy, to sign a joint open letter to the Government. It warns, in the words of veteran designer Katherine Hammett, that “British brands will die” without a “radical overhaul” of custom arrangements with the EU.


Organised by Tamara Cincik, chief executive of the “Fashion Roundtable” organization, it emphasises that the sector contributes “more to UK GDP than fishing, music, film and motor industries combined, yet we have been disregarded in this deal”. Moreover, that “parity in support is vital” to save the remaining 890,000 jobs in the UK fashion and textiles industry after the loss of 176,718 over the past year due to a decline by an estimated third in consumer spending on fashion.

Cartner-Morley observed on 20th February that “the fashion world has been brought down to earth”, transformed from a world of escapism into one tentatively sketching what the “new normal” may look like. She also noted that the BFC’s choice of Clearplay, a market leader in the “buy now,pay later” credit system, as LFW’s principal partner, has faced some criticism from Labour’s Stella Creasy and 60 fellow MPs.





Meanwhile, the Sunday Times Fashion Editor, Jane McFarland, on 14th February appeared ecstatic that “a famously exclusive industry” has been obliged to become more democratic: “ A ticket for a catwalk show is normally something money cannot buy – a closed world reserved for A-listers and fashion editors.” This year, however, there were no arguments about who would sit FROW (front row) as everyone or anyone could WFH (watch from home). 


This means. the designer Alice Temperely commented to McFarland, not having to turn people away from a show with limited seating. That will be welcome news to the many university arts students in Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and elsewhere in the UK whose predecessors waited patiently in long queues in the wind and rain at previous LFWs, often for more than an hour, clutching their invitations, but in the end were not allowed in.







Filed under: Media, Society | Posted on February 24th, 2021 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

“This Is Our Home”: The Europeans Who Want To Stay In The UK”:

Who would live in Britain now if they could go elsewhere?” That was the question posed by the Observer columnist, Barbara Ellen, in the newspaper on 17th January. For her, it seemed logical that many foreign-born workers might be looking at a country which is “not only undervaluing and demonising them but is also badly screwing up the pandemic” and so are concluding they should book “a one-way ticket home”. The big problem for this post-Brexit isle, declared Ellen, won’t be keeping people out but convincing (even begging) them to stay.

It appears, however, that this is not at all what has happened. On the contrary, as the Economist magazine noted in its January 9th /15th edition, although many commentators predicted a stampede of Europeans out of the UK following the Referendum on 23rd June 2016, statistics issued by the Home Office on 30th November showed that 4.48 million EU citizens had by then applied for settlement status in the UK.

As Madeleine Sumption, the Director of Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, told the Economist, “the longer a migrant stays in a country, the less likely they are to leave”. An example of this, cited later in the article, is the case of a French citizen, Caroline le Luel, who had moved with her family from Paris to London in 2005. While acknowledging that they “don’t see the UK as much of a cool place as it used to be”, she emphasised that they nevertheless want to stay here: “This is our home”.

Obtaining permission to stay in the UK on the basis of the “EU Settlement Scheme” is nevertheless not a simple matter. The website states, somewhat confusingly, that “the deadline for applying,if you meet the criteria, is 30th June 2021, but that you must usually have started living in the UK by 31st December 2020. Up to November 20th 2020, 54% (2,422,100) of the 4.48 million had been granted “settled status”, 43% (1,936,500) “pre-settlement”, 0.8% (33,700) had been refused, 1% (47,000) had been withdrawn or declared void and 1% (49,100) considered invalid.

The nationalities with the highest number of applications were: Polish, 80% of whom were given settlement status, 18% pre-settlement and 2% refused; Romanians (34%, 62%, 4%), Italians 42%, 56%, 2%, Portuguese (59%, 38%, 3%) and Spanish (46%, 52%, 2%).

Some clarification on the difference between the two main categories is provided by the “3 Million organisation”, which is campaigning to “give a voice to EU citizens in the UK”. It explains that they, along with those from Switzerland and EEA nations (Iceland, Norway & Liechtenstein) and their family members can request settlement status if they have lived in the UK for at least five years, and during that time spent less than 6 months abroad in any 12-month period. This constitutes “continuous residence” with the same rights to live, work and healthcare as UK citizens, though it can be revoked if they commit a serious criminal offence and they will lose it if they leave the UK for five consecutive years.

By contrast, as the “3 Million” points out, an “eligible applicant” who has been in the UK for less than five years will only obtain “pre-settlement status” lasting 5 years, which they will lose if they leave the country for 2 consecutive years or spend more than 6 months abroad in any 12-month period, in which case their only option will be to try to obtain a visa under the new immigration rules”. They can request “full settlement” after 5 years of “continuous residence”, but must do so before their current status expires.

The “3 Million” is particularly concerned that those in the pre-settlement category are not benefiting from the “equal treatment” rights promised in the UK/EU “Withdrawal Agreement”. This “has caused a lot of hardship, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people have lost their jobs and face destitution without access to Universal Credit and other help from the Government”.

Another major preoccupation is that EU students who enrolled with UK universities for courses starting in 2020 but have been following them remotely from their own countries due to Covid-19, could be refused pre-settlement status and so will have to apply for a visa costing £348 plus £470 a year to be able to use the NHS.

The Guardian’s education correspondent, Lisa O’Carroll, reported on 27th November that the Home Office had given “no indication it would be addressing these exceptional circumstances”. The “3 Million” consider this to be “extraordinarily unfair” as these students have been attending, via Zoom and other conference apps, the same lectures, handing in the same assignments, participating in the same groups as their counterparts already in the UK.

The Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements (IMA) based in Swansea, Wales, prior to a virtual media conference with the Foreign Press Association (FPA) on 28th January, released a statement emphasising that, subsequent to the end of the Brexit transition period, it has the responsibility and power to protect EU citizens living in both Britain and Gibraltar.

The IMA will thus be ensuring that their rights, relating to residency, employment, recognition of professional qualifications and social security, are respected by all UK public bodies – including HM Revenue and Customs, the Courts, local councils, the NHS, the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency and the Home Office itself.

Filed under: Immigration & Visas, Politics | Posted on January 22nd, 2021 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

Outdoor Festive Illuminations Help Alleviate The Gloom:

We must find new ways to celebrate Christmas this year, to minimize the risks for ourselves and those around us”. What Joan Bakewell, the veteran broadcaster and Labour peer had in mind when she expressed this view on Channel 4 News on 24th November was, for instance, that we shouldn’t on this occasion huddle together with the others in our domestic “bubble” around the Christmas tree in the living room, but instead put it up in the front garden (if we have one) and then decorate it as usual. Moreover, that the outside of the house (or flat) should be festooned with festive lights as much as (or more than) the inside.

It seems Bakewell may have been unaware that this had already start to happen around the UK. On November 29th, the Sunday Times columnist Katrina Burroughs reported that since earlier that same month “a galaxy of  outdoor glitter has exploded on to urban streets across the country, from Cornwall to Cambridgeshire and Lancashire to London”. This “garden decomania”, the New York decorator Benjamin Bradley, explained to Burroughs, represents a rational reaction to the frustrations engendered by the succession of constraints imposed on the population over the past 10 months, hence a concerted attempt to banish the despondency and look on the bright side.

As a result, observed Burroughs, by mid-November, many large-scale decorations – such as Wayfair’s “besteller”, a 243cm inflatable Christmas tree with a Santa, a snowman and a penguin – had already sold out, and although Lights4fun’s popular acrylic light-up reindeer family was no longer available, it still did have a 1.75m-high 400 LED (electroluminescent diode) acrylic stag on offer for £179.99.

The Uswitch Energy correspondent, Kasey Cassells, on 14th December cited a survey by her organisation that had found UK households have been particularly keen this year to get into the Christmas spirit, with 4 million putting up their displays earlier than previously, the most common date being November 26th, and did so because they wanted to cheer up both themselves and their neighbours during the lockdown. It appears, observed Cassells, that we’re no longer satisfied with a bit of tinsel: Fairy lights accompanied by dazzling reindeers, Santas and snowmen are the evocative items now especially in demand.

Cassells has also pointed out that most individuals don’t seem to take into consideration the impact this will have on their electricity bills, with only 39% checking the power consumption or energy efficiency of the products before they buy. She calculates that for the full holiday period, a home with 200 fairy lights and a glowing reindeer could incur an extra £11 in costs by keeping them on for six hours a night: “Multiplied by 7 million domiciles, this could add £79 million to the UK’s energy expenditure.However, if they all changed to energy-efficient LED , their outlay would only increase by an average of £1.10 over the Christmas / New Year break – a tenth of the current amount”.

It’s precisely because – as the Guardian journalist Jon Henley reported on 5th December – advancing technology has made bigger and more complex options available at an ever lower price and modern bulbs use less energy that the authorities in the Dutch city of Amsterdam have introduced new and stricter limits on their size and colour permutations.

From next Christmas, throughout Amsterdam,“solely low energy LED appliances  will be allowed and they will all have to be turned off between midnight and 6 am. Any inhabitant wanting to hang more than one square metre of these, or cover more than 10% of their facade, will be required to inform the council and obtain its permission at least 72 hours in advance.” In the 17th-century canal district, a UNESCO world heritage site, only “warm white” may be used and all garlands will have to closely follow the gabled outline of each building.

These stipulations will probably have gone down well with the contributor to the mumsnet website who complained that the people living opposite her had put up some very bright flashing combinations outside their house which were disturbing her sleep: “Surely, they could be switched off at, say, 9pm?” In fact, as the Lifestyle Daily commentator, Claire Roberts, pointed out on 4th December, an investigation by the online estate agents Emoove has shown that anyone infringing Section 3 of the Environmental Act 1990 , which regulates the safety of roadside lamps, interference with other residences and statutory nuisances such as excessive noise, could be liable to a fine of up to £20,000.

Naveen Jaspal, Emoove’s Chief Operating Officer, recommends installing a timer which will automatically deactivate the array at a reasonable hour. Above all, he urges, avoid anything that flickers continuously or noisily plays tunes on a loop: “ ‘Jingle Bells’ once will undoubtedly get everyone into the seasonal mood, but 50 times a night is sure to get the culprit onto the ‘disapproval list’ of all those nearby obliged to endure the incessant repetition of this traditional Christmas melody”.

Filed under: Society | Posted on December 21st, 2020 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

Adios Agata? The Exodus of Au Pairs From Britain:

“When our current au pair leaves, I’ll be left without child-care and will probably have to stop working” There’s no way I can afford a live-in nanny”. That’s how a Devonshire-based consultant surgeon foresees his situation if the future immigration status of au pairs has not been resolved by the time the UK’s one-year Brexit transition period ends on 1st January 2021. What particularly infuriates him, he declared to Anna Cooban, a journalist with the South West Londoner weekly newspaper, is the perception of au pairs as “an option for the upper middle classes who want to neglect their children”. This is an image which, as Cooban observed in her article, has proved difficult to dispel.

Similarly, Cheryl Newbury, a single mother-of-two, a nurse and a deputy ward manager in Weston-Super-Mare, told the Sky News correspondent Dan Whitehead that it would be “disastrous” for her if this type of domestic help is no longer available, her career would suffer, she wouldn’t be able to work and could even lose her home.

Jamie Shackell, the chair of the British Au Pair Agencies Association (BAPAA) is acutely aware of such concerns and the reasons for them, pointing out to Cooban that there are thousands of families across the UK who are key workers (such as those employed on a “shift” basis), who rely on au pairs for the flexibility it provides and who would be “financially crippled without them”. In March, the Home Office confirmed to BAPAA that the Government’s new points-based employer-led immigration system does not recognise au pairs because they are not legally classified as “employees”.

This has resulted in the International Au Pair Association (IAPA) querying on October 29th whether it in practice signalled the end of the Au Pair Programme in the UK. Quoting BAPAA statistics, IAPA noted that the estimated numbers of au pairs coming to the UK from the European Union has declined by 75% since the Brexit referendum in 2016 and that unless the government agrees to the creation of a special visa category, they could virtually disappear from the British domestic scene.

The two associations acknowledge that this sector is quite small, since only around 7% of UK families with children say they hosted an au pair in 2019 – 2020. However, they emphasise that “although this may not sound a lot, it equates to 1.4 million households”. Research conducted by the “Surveygoo”market

consultants on behalf of BAPAA has shown that 75% of parents who rely on au pairs for childcare say the other options are too expensive for them, 41% say they would have to switch to part-time employment, 26% would have to stop working altogether and 79% think the UK should adopt an official Au Pair Visa programme.

Traditionally, 24% of au pairs come from France, 13% from Germany, 12% from Spain and 11% from Italy. After 1st January, they will no longer have freedom of movement to the UK. If they are already here and they wish to stay legally, they must apply for “pre-settlement status”, along with proof of identity and address, before 31st December 2020. The Evening Standard columnist, Ana Davis, reported on 9th November that the Home Office has suggested that the Youth Mobility Scheme” (YMS) which “currently applies to citizens from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan” provides a viable alternative.

BAPAA disagrees, considering this to be “a less than ideal route for European au pairs into Britain as YMS applicants must prove that they have at least £1,890 in personal savings – a difficult requirement for young people in their late teens and early twenties to meet”.

There are those, however, who will welcome the fact that the post-Brexit regulations will put a stop to what they regard as the exploitation of a vulnerable workforce. Rosie Cox, co-author of “As An Equal? Au Pairing In the 21st Century” and professor of geography at Birkbeck College, University of London, has pointed out in an article for the Guardian that “Since 2008, au pairs have been specifically excluded from the legal definition of “worker” or “employee”: they have no right to the national minimum wage, they are not covered by health and safety regulations, there are no limits to their working hours and they have no legal right to holidays or any time off”.

Together with Nicky Busch, a fellow-academic, Cox has analysed online ads and found that the average au pair is expected to work 38.7 hours per week ( recommends just 30 pw) and although the average “pocket money”offered is £108 pw, the duties often include not only help with childcare and housework, but also shopping,cleaning windows, caring for relatives’ children, waitressing or cooking for dinner parties, gardening, teaching a child a language, and more. “” adds washing upholstery, carpets and the family car or doing the ironing and bed changing for parents to the heavier tasks that au pairs should not be asked to carry out.

In a Guardian feature captioned “Not Quite Mary Poppins” (the magical Disney nanny), Maggie Dyer, Director of the London Au Pair and Nanny Agency, admitted she is continually shocked by what some people believe they are entitled to demand of an au pair and agreed that it could sometimes be depicted as “the new slavery”.

The International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWFED) is adamant that “the first step in protecting au pairs is to recognise that they are workers so that their role is encompassed in employment laws and they can access fair pay and visa conditions appropriate to the work they do.”

Filed under: Immigration & Visas, Society | Posted on November 22nd, 2020 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The Premier League Scores A Penalty Against Football Fans:

The beautiful game has been turned, by the people who run it, into the greedy game”. That was how the Sunday Times, in an outspoken editorial on 11th October, lambasted the decision by the Premier League, Sky Sports and BT Sport to charge £14.95 each time to watch matches that they had not originally scheduled for transmission. It then cited Henry Winter, the chief football writer for it’s sister newspaper,“The Times”, as fulminating that £5 would be acceptable but that the proposed amount was “disgraceful and disgusting”. Precisely while Premier League clubs have been spending £1.2bn on buying players (declared Winter) and have handed £200 million over to agents, many families have been struggling to survive: “This truly stinks”.

The Guardian correspondent, Paul MacInnes, the previous day depicted the announcement as a public relations debacle, particularly as many fans have not only already paid for standard subscriptions to these two broadcasters but also for season tickets for their seats in the stadia which have been suspended due to the pandemic.

The Sunday Times also admonished the Premier League for having (in its opinion) become “adept at squeezing money out of fans”, for example by changing strip designs every year, which dedicated supporters feel they have to acquire in order to keep up to date.

The new levy has provoked widespread disapproval from both opposition politicians and several well-known ex-players – including BBC TV’s “Match Of The Day” presenter, Gary Lineker and the former Manchester United right-back, now Sky Sports pundit, Gary Neville.

The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) has urged BT Sport and Sky Sports to reconsider the prices and for Gary Caffel, the utilities editor at (reports MacInnes), it’s tantamount to treating fans as “cash cows”, since they either have to be prepared to fork out the extra amount or miss watching their club in action.

According to another the Sunday Times journalist, Dipesh Gadher, in a separate report on the controversy in the publication’s 11th October edition, the critics not only believe the charge is “too high” but that “it will encourage people to gather in households and pubs to watch the matches together”, hence spreading the virus.

The condemnation, however, has not been completely unanimous. The polemical contributor to the Spectator magazine and the Sunday Times, Rod Liddle, though acknowledging that, for him, the games have a feel of practice kick-arounds, an atmosphere of pointlessness and lack a communal experience, is mystified by the fury which has been aroused. He doesn’t consider the tariff to be unreasonable: “Someone has to pay for the football we’re all watching and I would prefer it to be the fans rather than the taxpayer”. The first “pay-per-view” games – Chelsea v Southampton (BT) and Newcastle v Manchester United (Sky) were shown on Saturday 17th October.

So why has the Premier League taken the risk of offending the fans? That’s because, John Purcell, the co-founder of the financial analysis firm Vysyble, explained to website, many of the clubs are in a terrible economic state and their accounts are lamentable. They are in a precarious situation, just like any other sector that depends on people being able to go out, congregate and spend freely.

Kieran Maguire, a lecturer on football finance at the University of Liverpool and the author of “The Price Of Football” concurs, emphasising that Premier League clubs have higher fixed costs – mainly wages and transfer instalments – than the rest of the entertainment industry and that they rely on the broadcasters for 60% of their income. Hence, any reduction in this would have a significant adverse impact.

Indeed, has noted that the Premier League has already had to reimburse £330 million to its broadcast partners as a result of the delayed conclusion to the 2019/20 season, with some clubs deferring part of that refund in order to spread the cost. The global consultancy Deloitte , observes theathletic website, estimated prior to the onset of the current crisis that PL clubs would earn £5.25 billion during the 20/21 season, £2 billion more than the Bundesliga and La Liga combined, but that their salary commitments would be twice those of German clubs and 50% more than Spanish ones.

Among the highest-paid footballers in England now are Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur: £600,000 per week, 50% of which is being paid by Real Madrid); Mesul Osil (Arsenal: £350,000 pw); Raheem Sterling (Manchester City: £300,000 pw); Paul Pogba (Manchester Utd: £290,00 pw); N’Golo Kante (Chelsea: also £290,000 pw).

Deloitte statistics show that eleven PL clubs made pre-tax losses in 2018/2019, the worst being Chelsea (£101.8m) and Everton (£107m), yet Chelsea still spent over £200m on transfer fees this summer (funded by owner Roman Abramovich) and Everton 67.50m.

In an interview with, Dr Stefan Szymanski, author of “Soccernomics” and a sports management lecturer at the University of Michigan, pointed out that “the Premier League has been giving people round the world what they want for nearly 30 years. But now, for reasons beyond its control, it cannot. And also because it has been perhaps a little too generous with its players and their representatives”. It’s likely that most fans these days will agree wholeheartedly with this last observation.

Filed under: Sports | Posted on October 20th, 2020 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

London Fashion Week: Confounding The Pessimists:

The headlines were dire and the predictions gloomy. “London’s fashion businesses are on the brink and many brands are in crisis”, declared the London Evening Standard columnist, Kate Finnigan in the newspaper on 15th September, just two days before the start of LFW SS (Spring/Summer)21 (17-22 September). To highlight the point, she quoted the acknowledgement by the British Fashion Council (BFC) Chairman, Stephanie Phair, that the pandemic has had “a devastating economic impact” on the industry and that it’s growth could recede back to £26 billion from the £35 billion it currently contributes to the UK’s GDP.

The designer Henry Holland had been equally downbeat in the same newspaper the previous week. The biannual LFW event, in which he has participated on 26 occasions, is suddenly no longer “the epicentre of his universe”. The official BFC list of international guests and buyers had gone from the “usual 1,000 – 1500 to none at all”, which would clearly effect the commercial agreements frequently concluded following a catwalk. There’s a reason, he asserted, why online fashion shows have never really taken off: “The industry relies on an element of personal interaction and storytelling which is more difficult to convey through the screen”.

In the Guardian on 12th September, Jess Carter-Morley mused over whether the world even still cares about fashion: “Is escapism acceptable in a pandemic?”, she queried, “Do we even need new clothes for our restricted lifestyles? And if not, then what next for a global industry that is worth £1.1 trillion to the global economy and employs 430 million people worldwide?”

Nevertheless, far more positive aspects have emerged from LFW SS21 than the sceptics seem to have anticipated. The mere fact that it took place at all, stated the BFC, was a testimony to “the industry’s resilience, creativity and innovation in difficult times”. Included in the schedule were 80 designers featuring womenswear (40), menswear (20), twenty combining the two and 5 accessory brands.

There was a total of 50 digital only activations, 21 physical and digital and 7 physical only. This meant, pointed out, that any member of the public who wanted to see the SS21 collections could do so, since most of them were being live-streamed online.

As the Elle contributor, Daisy Murray, has noted, criticisms of fashion weeks have been mounting over the last few seasons, owing to their cost (which can range from £100,000 to £1 million or more), their carbon footprint and the sheer size of production. They’ve been accused of “promoting detrimental environmental practices and ineffective business models for fashion brands”, hence moving these events online (as the Shanghai Fashion Week had already done in March) could be the viable solution to these problems, irrespective of the pandemic.

Prior to LFW SS21, the Glamour UK correspondent, Alexandra Fullerton, urged prospective WFH (watching from home) viewers to take their seats on their sofas, dip in and out as they wished and thereby observe for themselves how the traditional catwalk shows were being replaced by fashion films, panel chats and live performances.

Indeed, according to the fashion and beauty website, the Elle UK editor-in-chief, Farrah Storr, informed the Daily Mail that she would be following it all from her kitchen while wearing her cashmere joggers: “In the front row,it will be just me and my two dogs looking at clothes that I hope people can wear in six months time”.

Kate Finnigan’s Evening Standard article was not entirely negative: The Northern-Irish co-founder of the Rixo label, Orlagh McCloskey, emphasised to her that their aim at LFW was to “virtually entertain, inspire and bring joy to as many people as possible”, the English designer, Anya Hindmarch couldn’t see why this year’s LFW would actually be so “weird” at all, and the Scottish designer, Christopher Kane, reflected that without the pressures of a traditional show, they’d had time to rethink the way they do things.

This last factor was evident from the outset of LFW – for example, at Burberry’s hybrid womenswear / menswear catwalk , hosted on the Twitch app and which took place on 17th September in an unidentified forest where models dressed in white had to climb down from beds mounted on plinths. Similarly, Turkish designer Bora Aksu’s socially-distanced outdoor catwalk in Covent Garden on 18th September was described by Jess Cartner-Morley the following day as having featured “ traditional nurses’ whites, complete with starched collars, nostalgic ruffle-edged aprons and face-masks worn with pillar-box red lipstick underneath”.

In her book “How To Break Up With Fast Fashion”, published in January 2020, the freelance journalist and digital editor, Lauren Bravo, contends that, if we’re ever going to trust big brands again, “we need answers”. Where were our clothes made? she asks. In which factories? How much were their workers paid and how much is lining millionaire pockets as a result? In her opinion, full transparency – not only style and appearance – is these days what should always be expected from the fashion industry.

Filed under: Media, Society | Posted on September 22nd, 2020 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

“Home Sweet Home” – But Not If It’s Rented Or Leased:

The property market is enjoying a summer boom. The worry is a winter bust”. This was the sombre assessment by the Guardian, in an editorial on 3rd September, of the “frenzy” in house buying which has taken place in Britain during the summer. This has been due, it noted, to a combination of a rebound in transactions after the months of lock-down, the suspension on 8th July by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, of stamp duty on properties worth less than £500,000 and the Bank of England’s decision to release a “flood of ultra-cheap money” in response to the pandemic.

The Guardian also shared the view expressed by the Economist in its July 25th/31st edition, that this “fragile revival” is likely to be undermined by the forecast steep rise in unemployment (“3.5 million by Christmas”) following the phasing out of the furlough scheme in October, along with a possible “no-deal Brexit” and the rescinding of the “stamp duty holiday” on 31st March 2021.

One significant outcome of “the worst job crisis in decades”, warned the Guardian, will be that some households will struggle to keep up their mortgage instalments, hence the Chancellor should “negotiate with mortgage lenders to forestall mass repossessions” and also extend beyond September the ban on landlords evicting the many tenants around the country who are currently facing difficulties in paying their rent.

Everybody deserves to have a home that is supportive to their happiness, health and wealth”, the Irish Feng Shui expert and author of “The Happy Home”, Patricia Lohan, has declared.. Similarly, the American writer, Catherine Pulsifer, considers “Home is where we should feel safe and comfortable”. Although renters and leaseholders no doubt would agree wholeheartedly with such sentiments, that’s not at the moment the reality for a large proportion of them.

The Economist article, citing housing charity estimates, observed that around 200,000 private tenants in Britain have slipped into rent arrears over the past six months and a “host of issues”, such as repairs badly or tardily done and the frequent prohibition on keeping pets, has made it hard for them to treat their accommodation as a home. Furthermore, although the cost of buying with a mortgage is now less than renting, the rising deposit requirements mean that they are unable to get onto even the first rung of the “property ladder”.

According to the Sunday Times journalists, James Coney and Kate Palmer, on 13th September, the UK’s biggest building society, Nationwide, has placed a restriction on the use of money from parents or grandparents. Instead, an aspiring purchaser now needs to prove that 75% of the deposit has come from their own savings.

This could well exacerbate a situation whereby, as the Guardian’s economics correspondent, Richard Partington observed on 10th February, “one in three of the millennial generation, born between the mid-1980’s and the mid-1990’s, are expected to never own their own home”.

Data issued by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicates that in effect “home ownership has collapsed for adults in their prime working age”. In a press bulletin on 8th September, the “Generation Rent” (GR) organisation called for the Government to pass emergency legislation which will ensure renters who have been hit by the pandemic do not lose their homes this autumn.

The results of a survey GR conducted show that 68% of those questioned are having to reduce their spending, are getting into debt or using up their savings in order to meet their rent. Finding an alternative, affordable place to live is not always an option if their income has been cut and “letting agents automatically reject anyone on state benefits”

The circumstances appear to be no better for those who live in a leasehold property. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government calculates that there are 4.5 million of these in England – 69% of them flats and just 31% houses. Unlike a freeholder, a leaseholder only has the right to stay there for a specified period of time. As Ross Clark, a contributor to Spears Magazine, has scathingly pointed out, “this is an arrangement which is almost universal in apartment buildings in England yet hardly exists elsewhere on Earth”. It’s all too easy, he asserts, for freeholders to impose excessive, even ridiculous, service and repair charges.

The Spectator magazine’s assistant editor, Emma Byrne, in its 29th August edition, highlighted the huge financial burden which will fall on herself and the other 600,00 residents in 11,300 tower blocks around the UK where the inflammable cladding needs to be replaced following the Grenfell fire in 2017. Because she hasn’t yet received an External Wall Fire Review (EWSI) form, she can’t sell or remortgage her flat, which consequently renders it“technically worthless”.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) acknowledged in a statement published on 28th February that it had found “troubling evidence of potential mis-selling and unfair contract terms” and hence that it would be launching a probe into abuses within the industry. The National Leasehold Campaign (NLC) is advocating that the system, which “provides neither true home ownership nor real control”, should be completely abolished.

Filed under: Politics, Society | Posted on September 16th, 2020 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

Under Pressure: The UK’s English Language Schools:

If you like the idea of owning a Language School, now’s your chance. The online business marketplace, Rightbiz, is advertising 13 of them for sale, 5 of them in London. However, the now retired International House Director, David Will, has forewarned in the IH Journal that if you want to make lots of money, then investing in property or the stock market might be a better option. Running a language school “can provide a nice living, but very few who do it can retire to the Bahamas at the age of 40 – so be sure that you are living and breathing the project before you start”.

At the moment, there’s unlikely to be long queues of clients competing to purchase any of the 13. On 29th July, Pie (Professionals in International Development) News highlighted the “shocking impact of Covid-19 on Britain’s English Language Teaching (ELT) industry and cited a report published by the market research and data specialists, Bonard, which showed student numbers down by 82% and a loss of half a million pounds to the sector.

The headlines of regional newspapers throughout the summer have corroborated the accuracy of these figures. The business editor for the Southern Daily Echo group, Darren Slade, on 7th July noted that “around 90% of staff in language schools across the country are said to be in furlough, while their representative association, English UK, has predicted that around 30% of language testing centres will cease trading altogether”.

Slade calculates that the absence of the 50,000 international students who head for the Bournemouth and Poole area each year could cost the local economy £300 million.

A similar crisis scenario has unfolded in Devon where, the local journalist, Paul Greaves, has observed, many language schools in the county, such as the family-run Globe English Centre, which has been operating in Exeter since 1978, “are fearing for their future”. Foreign students, Greaves points out, not only pay their course fees direct to the educational institution, they also contribute to the surrounding economy, spending a lot of money in cafes and bars. In addition, many host families rely on the income from them to cover their mortgages.

The main problem for the smaller ELT establishments is that they have far fewer financial resources than the large language chains and hence it will be much longer before they can re-open. The Isca School of English in Exeter, for example,will remain closed until 2021 because they are unable to run their courses, activities and excursions this year, the Worthing English Language School in March made the “emotional decision” to freeze the company for a few months (as reported by the Worthing Herald contributor, Isabella Cipirska) and the Suzanne Sparrow Language School in Plymouth closed on March 23rd “until further notice”.

By contrast, in London, St Giles International has resumed face-to-face teaching at their Highgate and West End locations, as has the Wimbledon School of English. The acknowledgement by the Chairman of the London School of English (LSE), Timothy Blake, when interviewed on 24th January by “Quality English” to mark his 50th anniversary with the organisation, that “totally uncontrollable events, such the exchange rate, worries about disease and safety concerns”, can have a significant effect must in hindsight now seem somewhat prescient. The pandemic arrived in the UK just a few weeks later.

The LSE will reopen for classes on 31st August, followed by (among many others), Bayswater College in Queensway W2 (7th September), the Central Language School, Cambridge (14th September) and the British Study Centre, Manchester (12th October).

English UK has estimated that 58% of its members hope to recommence the teaching of adults by 1st October, but 47% consider it’s improbable that by 1st January 2021 they will be able to cater for new junior students, who comprise more than 50% of those enrolling for English courses in Britain.

The repercussions for market confidence, declares English UK, have been catastrophic. Many of its members face financial ruin and won’t survive the summer. ELT, it emphasises, is a seasonal activity. For many centres, missing the important Easter and summer peaks will mean little or no income and 75% of them expect no more than 40%-60% market recovery in 2021.

English UK is especially aggrieved that the 12-month “business rates holiday” which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, in March granted to the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors in England did not include ELT. This, in the opinion of English UK, is grossly unfair as “ELT is clearly part of the tourism industry”. Consequently, only 17 local authorities (in London, just Ealing and Harrow) have deemed the English language centres in their areas to be eligible.

A petition organised by the English UK interim Chief Executive, Jodie Gray, for the relief to be extended to all English Language Schools has to date attracted 6,245 signatures. Once the figure gets to 10,000, the Government is obliged by law to respond.

Filed under: Society | Posted on August 24th, 2020 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

Britain Faces Up To The “New Normal”:

Everything has changed”. That’s how the BBC’s Health Editor, Hugh Pym views the impact of the pandemic both on Britain and the international community. Life will be very different from now on, for the high street, businesses, our work routine and and the way we meet friends, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on July 19th.

The Guardian commentator, Oliver Burkeman, on 19th June, by contrast, took a more philosophical stance, highlighting what he portrayed as “our tendency to swiftly adapt emotionally to positive or negative fluctuations in our circumstances”. After the attacks of 9/11/01, he argued, we were told nothing would be the same again, and it wasn’t, “yet throughout history, each time civilization has been disrupted by a huge event, people have simply got used to it”. He did nevertheless acknowledge that a world with less human contact, or more joblessness, is “objectively worse” if it becomes normality.

Most available data, news reports and public opinion polls suggest, however, that Hugh Pym’s assessment correlates rather more with the prevailing mood around the UK. The latest Office For National Statistics (ONS) survey, for example, indicates that 67% of adults in Britain are anxious about the effect that the coronavirus could have on their future.

Similarly, a diarist for the “Britain Thinks” Insight & Strategy organisation lamented all the signs that the situation isn’t really getting any better and that this is very different from how they felt back in March when they thought that “this episode would have a beginning, middle and an end”.

Any lingering hopes that the virus could soon just “disappear” (as President Trump has frequently contended) were abruptly banished by the Oxford University immunologist and geneticist, Professor Sir John Bell, when he told Parliament’s Health & Social Care Committee on 21st July that “Covid-19 is here forever and may never be eradicated”.

The vast majority of “Britain Thinks” diarists also confirmed that they are not considering going abroad during the remainder of 2020, due as much to their unease about the journey (particularly air travel) as about the possibility of contracting the virus in another country.

World Economic Forum (WEC) research into when (if ever) we’ll get back to the previous “status quo”, disclosed on 23rd June by its “visual capitalist”, Iman Ghosh, has revealed that it could be 3-12 months before 56% of those questioned will be prepared to eat at a dine-in restaurant, 54% to work in a shared office, 46% to attend even a small dinner party and 44% to travel by plane.

Moreover, 6% of the 500 US and Canadian epidemiologists who contributed to the WEC investigation “do not expect to ever hug or shake hands again at post-pandemic meetings and over 50% believe masks will be necessary for at least the next year”.

Indeed, the Spectator Magazine’s blog on 22nd July cited the recommendation by a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine that, in Britain, handshakes should be abandoned and replaced by Japanese-style greetings to prevent future pandemics.

The Spectator also noted that the number of job vacancies in the UK dropped by 63% in the 2nd quarter of 2020 compared to last year while the application-to-job ratio rose by 84%. This is clearly of understandable concern to all those employees worried about whether they’ll be made redundant after the furlough scheme, whereby the Government is paying 80% of their wages up to £2,500 a month, ends on 31st October.

The Guardian’s economics columnist, Richard Partington, forewarned on 16th July that nearly a third of firms in Britain plan to cut jobs in the next three months. The Sunday Times journalist, Sabah Meddings, subsequently observed on 19th July, that this has resulted in a stampede for whatever work is available.The Alexandra pub in Wimbledon, for instance, has received 484 applications for a £9-an-hour bar job and a restaurant in Manchester was “inundated with 963 CVs” after advertising for a receptionist.

Amid all the gloom, there has been a glimmer of positive developments, for some at least. The Economist’s edition of July 18th pointed out that many companies are now considering a “hybrid model” whereby their staff can work partly from home and on other days go into the office, which means they will “spend a lot less time in traffic jams or on crowded buses and trains”.

Used car dealers are suddenly much busier with an influx of customers exploring alternatives to public transport and plastic-makers are having to cater for a major upturn in demand for protective perspex face shields and screens.

Similarly, according to the Sunday Times Health Editor, Andrew Gregory, on 19th July, cosmetic surgery clinics are experiencing a surge in the number of patients wanting treatment for (among others) face lifts, lip fillers, botox and nose jobs to improve their appearance on video conference apps such as Zoom.

Meanwhile, as the Guardian’s Wealth correspondent, Rupert Neate, reported on 22nd July, the fortune of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, rose in a single day by $10 billion to $189 billion.

Filed under: Healthcare, Media | Posted on July 27th, 2020 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

Myth Or Reality? : The Health Benefits Of Copper:

How many 1p and 2p coins did the UK’s “Royal Mint” produce last year? The answer; None at all. The reason for this, as the Daily Telegraph columnist, Reena Sewraz has observed, is that there’s currently a combined total of 16.8 billion of them in circulation around the country. HM Treasury concluded there was simply no need to add to the 240,990,600 1p’s and the 16,600,000 2p’s it had issued during the previous twelve months.

A proposal to get rid of them altogether, briefly considered by former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond was abandoned following concerns expressed by organisations such as the Small Charities Coalition, due to a considerable proportion of their members’ income being derived from the millions of pounds of “coppers” they collect from the public.

The Government’s decision was also welcomed by Mike Cherry, the national chairman of the Federation for Small Businesses, who emphasised to the BBC’s personal finance analyst, Kevin Peachey, that “The freedom to use pennies and to be able to charge prices that end in 99p is still important to a lot of firms”. Despite this, data provided by and cited by the Daily Mirror’s Finance Editor James Andrew, has indicated that less than 32% of people in Britain actually use copper coins. The rest don’t carry or spend them but instead put them into jam jars and around 8% just throw them away.

The only alternative to donating one’s copper coins to deserving causes would therefore seem to be to melt them down for use as personal ornaments such as bracelets or sold for a profit. That, however, is prohibited by the UK Coinage Act 1971, though this law applies only to British coins and is not enforceable if the procedure is carried out abroad. In France, for example, affirms “”, it’s not illegal to melt down coins, whether foreign or domestic – so the only question would be whether it would be financially worthwhile.

1p & 2p British coins made before 1992 (of which there are still plenty) are 97% copper, whereas modern day ones consist of copper-plated steel – hence prior to the melting process they’d need to be separated by the metal dealer, who’d also require a commission which, along with the travel costs, would further diminish the merits of doing it all in the first place.

The age-old debate about the healing powers of copper has become even more intense and polemical since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. In an article for “Organic Facts” on January 31st, the American publisher John Staughton acknowledged that although the folk medicine tradition of wearing a copper bracelet has been around for thousands of years in the belief that it may help relieve arthritis inflammation and pain, boost immunity and cure skin ailments, “research unfortunately has not substantiated this claim”.

Staughton maintained, nevertheless, that copper has “a long history of being used to sterilize wounds”, can kill 99% of bacteria within two hours of exposure and that its antioxidant properties are needed for the production of collagen, which “can help fight the signs of ageing, such as sagging skin and wrinkles”.

Dr Karrera Djoko, a biochemist and microbiologist at Durham University, concurs with Staughton that copper’s sanitizing abilities have been known since at least as far back as ancient Egypt: “Even before we had a concept of what a germ is”, he declared to the New York Times journalist Katherine J Wu on June 19th, “we were using copper to contain water and keep it safe to drink”.

An investigation carried out by the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences, however, has concluded that copper bracelets and magnetic straps are “useless” for relieving pain in people with arthritis. Any perceived benefit obtained from wearing them can be largely attributed to “psychological placebo effects”, the team leader, Stewart Richmond, told BBC News.

Irrespective of either Richmond’s judgement or the recommendation from Jane Tadman of the Arthritis Campaign that sufferers should “avoid spending a lot of money on products for which there is very little scientific evidence”, the market for these items is – as the BBC report also noted – “worth billions of dollars”. Amazon, for example, offers (for £23.99 and free delivery) a “Jeracol Copper Bracelet” which it claims “can help reduce pain, fatigue and muscle tension and improve your energy, blood circulation, balance and sleep”. The “Copper Care” company advertises, among many others, a “pure Copper Delta Bracelet with 6 Rare Earth Magnets” for £17.50.

Meanwhile, a study conducted by the New York based National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – whose Director, the now high-profile Dr Fauci, has been advising the Trump Administration on the coronavirus and the wearing of masks – has led to frenetic speculation as to whether, in the words of the “Research Arizona Edu” official Emily Litvak on 2nd April, “Copper Could Disable the Virus Behind Covid-19?” Published in the New England Journal of Medicine on 17th March, it indicated that that although the virus can survive on stainless steel for up to three days and on cardboard for 24 hours, on copper this is reduced to just four hours.

The result, in the opinion of Reuter News Agency’s Melanie Burton on May 8th, is that the metal has been given a major boost. Scientists, as Dr Djoko pointed out to Katherine Wu, were already well aware of its capacity to limit the spread of E.Coli,salmonella and influenza and that many microbes don’t like it at all. Apparently, when copper physically contacts a germ like coronavirus, it can release reactive ions that puncture the bug’s exterior”. There are many precedents for this, such as the French physician Victor Burq discovering back in 1852 that workers employed at a copper smelter in Paris had been unaffected by the cholera outbreak that had occurred that year, in 1832 and in 1849.

The firm view of William Keevil, a senior microbiologist at the University of Southampton – published initially by the Times and then reiterated by the Daily Mail Health Correspondent, Connor Boyd on 30th May – is that all door handles, shopping trolleys, handrails on public transport, screens in fast-food restaurants, cash machines and even gym equipment should be coated in the metal and that the UK lags behind other countries in using it in communal areas.

An aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties (VTIP) has queried whether copper-infused face coverings could curtail the chances of the virus getting into the eyes, nose or mouth. The main problem with this, contends Dr Djoko, could be durability, especially if the masks are repeatedly washed or disinfected, as this “could strip the copper ions off the surface”.

That hasn’t deterred the Florida entrepreneur Phyllis Kuhn, whose 25-dollar“All Copper Masks” and “All Copper Mesh Inserts” are (states “flying off the shelf”. Similarly, Myant Inc in Toronto, Canada, is manufacturing textile face masks that contain copper and silver yarn “ known to maximize protection against bacterial and viral threats”, at a price (for a pack of two) of $30.

The top five global copper producers are: Chile (latest accessible statistics: 3,405,100 metric tons pa), China (1,600,000), Peru (1,197,560), Australia (914,000), Russian Federation (883,000). Could the coronavirus change opinions about copper? According to Peter Krove of on 20th March, the Copper Development Association is convinced that’s already happening.

Filed under: Healthcare, Society | Posted on June 22nd, 2020 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »


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