17th June 2011 New York, USA

British entrepreneurship – inspiring Ga Ga and creating Zsa Zsa

The UK’s reputation in innovation is longstanding, well-founded and diverse – reaching back to the industrial revolution and still going strong.  

At New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Costume Institute’s Alexander McQueen – Savage Beauty, celebrates the work of one high profile, provocative, innovative, rule breaker. A Londoner, McQueen learnt his craft on Savile Row, a community of skilled tailors and craftsman based in Mayfair for more than 200 years. He worked with and inspired many of today’s fashion icons including New York aristocracy Lady Gaga. Despite his untimely death, McQueen’s influence and legacy lives on.  The design label he founded, now under the leadership of Sarah Burton, maintains an impressive and diverse client list including Michelle Obama and Kim Kardashian. Most famously, the house of McQueen created the most anticipated wedding dress of recent times for the Duchess of Cambridge. McQueen and Burton graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, a place where generations of internationally renowned artists, designers and performers began their creative journeys. McQueen said that “you have to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition.” The UK has a rich history in entrepreneurship, dynamism and produces many such characters with an “enquiring spirit”.  

The Costume Institute curator, Andrew Bolton created a remarkable sensory experience which captures the mastery of McQueen. One particularly memorable element recreates an episode from the 2006 ready-to-wear collection – the Kate Moss “hologram”, not a hologram at all but an illusory technique called a Pepper’s Ghost.  

Peppa of a different kind – Recently Entertainment 1 sealed a deal with Fisher-Price for a range of toys based on the pre-school TV series Peppa Pig. Those of you with 3 year olds need no introduction to the power of Peppa, an amorphous Pig who has adventures, such as jumping in muddy puddles, with family and friends one of whom is Zsa Zsa the Zebra. The show debuted on Nick Jnr in February. The character netted £200m in sales last year, analysts at Cannacord Genuity were backing Peppa to crack the US market which could lead to annual merchandise sales of around £1bn. Companies doing business overseas tend to achieve stronger financial performance, experience longer lifespan for their products and have higher innovation and productivity levels than non-exporters.  

No argument that British entrepreneurship is diverse.  

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About Dominic Meiklejohn

I was born in Woking, outside London, in 1967 and attended Merton College, Oxford University, graduating in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

After university, I worked for HM Customs and Excise before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1990. After working for the European Community Department, I learned Polish and began a posting at the British Embassy Warsaw, where I headed the British Know How Fund for Poland (1993-96). In 1997, I worked for the OSCE Mission in Albania, before heading up the India team in the South Asian Department of the FCO. In 2000, I was posted as First Secretary to the British Embassy Warsaw, with a particular focus on European Union issues in the run-up to Poland’s accession to the EU. In 2003, I returned to the UK as Deputy Head of the Environment Policy Department. From 2004-2005, I led the FCO’s Knowledge Management Programme. During this period, I led two deployments of the FCO’s Consular Rapid Deployment Team– to Sri Lanka, after the tsunami in 2004 and to Pakistan, after the earthquake in 2005. From 2006-2007, I served as Deputy Consul-General, Basra, Iraq. From June 2007 I worked with the FCO’s Change Unit.

I took up my current appointment on 22 January 2008. My wife Joanne and I are the proud parents of Olivia. Outside of the office, I cycle around Manhattan, play soccer (football) and, when parenting duties allow, enjoy the cultural riches offered by New York. I try hard to understand baseball.

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