The Fashion World Speaks Out: ‘Without Immigration, We’d be Selling Potato Sacks’

There is a new trend greeting shoppers this season but it’s not billowing cords or ruffle blouses: it’s the fashion industry’s attempt to counter hostility towards immigrants since the Brexit vote.

Last week the high street chain Jigsaw put its head above the parapet as it filled shop windows and billboards with posters emblazoned with “♥ immigration”. In its accompanying “manifesto” the retailer says: “Without immigration, we’d be selling potato sacks,” adding that “fear, isolation, and intolerance will hold us back”.

Peter Ruis, chief executive of Jigsaw, which has a workforce drawn from 45 countries, said: “Why has the word immigrant been demonised, when it simply means coming to live in another country? People who work for us are leaving every day. Some have had abuse in the street, either because of how they look or because of their accent.”

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, and the pro-Remain MP Anna Soubry were among the thousands who took to social media to applaud the campaign. “We couldn’t agree more that people need to see the debt that we owe to immigration,” said Khan.

Delhi-born designer Ashish, whose grandparents fled Pakistan during partition, tried to tackle the issue last year after feeling that he was “not welcome” in the UK, despite having lived here most of his adult life. In protest he took to the stage at his London fashion week show wearing a T-shirt with the word “immigrant” across the front.

“There is a wave of racism and xenophobia sweeping the world, even more so now after the US election,” the designer said at the time. “If I can use my work to voice my dissent, that is my way of speaking up.”

Ruis said that the reaction to Jigsaw’s campaign had been overwhelmingly supportive, with one fan hugging him in the street.

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