As an OBE international interior designer and business woman, how do you feel this moment of Brexit deep uncertainty?
I have always been a great supporter of Europe and that we should trade together as we are governed by European Law so for me that meant it was both safe and provided an advantage to do so but now, I am very much of the opinion that the world is the trading platform and that we will no longer be restricted by some of the rules that the Union created. For example I feel that had the seven initial countries that created the EU remained as the EU ‘Board’ on decisions for EU payments we would have a healthy union now but as every country has an equal vote on contribution and as the UK is the second largest economic country and contributor to Germany, I am very much of the opinion that the continued imbalance of British contribution pro rata is no longer sustainable. I am also of the opinion that with the amount of propaganda wheeled by governments politicians and personal opinion that nobody truly yet knows what the effect of the outcome will be.
How is Brexit affecting your work?
It has stopped a lot of external investment into the property sector at the super luxury end and so over the past two years a slowing down in the residential high end London markets has been very evident however as soon as the indecisiveness ends, people will flood back once more to invest in a country with laws and standards that are second to none. We are known for our good name and safety. As with all business threats I have diversified, I am currently working on a range of hotels with a twist to be launched in 2020.
Are you finding more difficult to deal with stakeholders such as investors and developers?
Yes, I can feel the squeeze as the market tightens people fail to pay their bills on time and try to wriggle out of commitments. I have had five cases to bring about enforcement for breach of contract which I have never faced before. Investors are watching risk for exit not investment, by that I mean who will buy the investment when the project is complete and that doesn’t mean there is a lack of buyers, in fact far from it, the risk is the ability to take money from one country and invest it in another and countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and USA have put stringent restrictions on overseas investment. A willing and able investor who is prohibited by his own countries laws from investing in the UK is the biggest barrier to the UK property market as we have previously known it. In addition, at the other end of the scale the government introduced new laws for Landlords investors which came into force in April this year which makes armchair property investment less attractive. The reasoning behind that heavy taxation adjustment is to provide an opportunity for owner occupiers to get a foot on the housing ladder. Let’s hope that works and young buyers are the investors otherwise a growth industry will have been unnecessarily destroyed as investors bailed out which helped to lower property prices.
In your opinion, will British interior designers be more isolated from the international scene?
I have been asked by many investors where we see the next hotspots in the global markets and the statistics show two locations that match the environment and lowest human rights risks equal to the UK. They are; Texas in the USA and Shanghai. The issue with both is that neither have the lifestyle, the fashion and the energy that London has and so I think like all blips, people will either hold or invest in the lows when the market begins to climb again and then they will offset any losses. I think that we have reached the end of the risk and we are about to break through the opportunities in the next six months so although for manufacturers it has been difficult in recent months those who planned and diversified are doing well and unfortunately we have seen many companies fold in this market. We just need to stay calm and focus on value and making sure there is a mechanism to recover the payments agreed. That is probably the biggest risk that designers face rather than a lack of projects.