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Manufacturing Futures: Shortlist Announcement!

Fashion District has announced the shortlist of 10 start-ups and SMEs in its coveted Innovation Challenge: Manufacturing Futures programme.

As part of the programme, the brands have the chance to win a £15,000 cash prize to develop their sustainable manufacturing business to make an impact on the fashion industry, chosen by a judging panel of experts in July.

The shortlisted start-ups are:

Helen Lax, Fashion District Director said:

“It is incredible to be part of something that has the potential to change the way an industry works and make a real impact for future generations. The shortlist of brands in this iteration of Manufacturing Futures is spectacularly strong, and one can’t help but be amazed by the sheer talent and innovation held by the next gen of changemakers.”

The shortlist was chosen by the Manufacturing Futures judging panel, consisting of industry experts Ella Gould, Head of Sustainability and Innovation at Selfridges; Chelsea Franklin, Head of Advanced Concept Design at PANGAIA; Adam Mansell, CEO of UKFT, Gillian Lipton, Sustainability Director at Alexander McQueen; and Matthew Drinkwater, Head of Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion, UAL.

Winners from the previous Innovation Challenges include Lone Design Club, a platform where independent brands and conscious shoppers meet; Sparkbox, a retail planning and optimisation platform powered by machine learning; and Biophilica for their entirely plant-based, compostable leather alternative, Treekind.

Fashion District was founded in 2018 with a goal to bring together fashion, technology, business and education in east London to meet, compete, collaborate and innovate. Fashion District works with a number of different partners to facilitate support programmes helping to develop a strong, sustainable network within the UK fashion industry. Spearheaded by Director Helen Lax, Fashion District is supported by London College of Fashion, UAL, and the Mayor of London.


MEET THE SHORTLIST

Arda Biomaterials
Arda Biomaterials transforms globally abundant waste and co-product streams into scalable, animal, and plastic-free biomaterials. Arda’s first transformation is turning spent grain from the beer brewing and whisky distilling industries into a novel, leather-like material called New Grain, for use in fashion, automotive, and other sectors.

Fab Materials
Fab Materials are on a mission to deliver planet scale upcycling of the world’s post-consumer fashion waste. Our breakthrough solution addresses the 90M tonnes of clothing that’s sent to landfill or incinerated annually. We convert hard to recycle fashion waste into valuable boards and composites.

Fibe
Fibe is revolutionising the industry by engineering cutting-edge technology to extract cellulosic fibres from potato harvest waste. This untapped waste, which amounts to 150M tonnes annually and cannot be fed to livestock or compost, has the potential to provide 70% of global non-synthetic clothing demand. Our fibres use 99% less water, produce 82% less CO2e and require no land compared to cotton.

Fiiba
Fiiba is a next generation textile developer, scaling sustainable materials for the fashion industry made from 100% agricultural waste. Fiiba fibre has 1/10 the carbon footprint of conventional cotton and a 100% transparent supply chain. Fiiba raises low-income farmers out of poverty by paying for their waste and providing free organic fertiliser (a natural by-product of Fiiba’s innovation) that promotes long-term soil health.

Oxford Biopigments
Oxford Biopigments (OBP) mission is to solve key problems associated with sustainable textile dyeing. To this end we have developed a world first in plant-based, sustainable dyes: naturally lightfast dye molecules, modified to work without additional binding agents, that are easily blended to generate new colours and are compatible with existing dyeing machinery. Crucially, our dyes have equivalent technical performance to modern synthetic dyes without the harmful environmental impact.

PACT
PACT designs elegant biomaterials made in harmony with the planet Earth. We’re committed to helping the world’s most innovative companies dream without boundaries. Our first biomaterial Oval is inspired by generations of leather artisans and master craftspeople, Oval is a supple material made from collagen sourced from industrial by-products. It’s a highly scalable material that offers designers unparalleled flexibility whilst minimising environmental impacts across the entire production process.

Sequinova
Sequinova is a pioneering biomaterials company, revolutionising the textiles industry with cutting-edge biodegradable sequin materials. Plant-based, non-toxic, and available in a variety of colours and effects, we’ve partnered with the world’s leading manufacturers in Europe and Asia to deliver production-ready eco textiles at scale.

The Seam
The Seam delivers wardrobe care & repair at scale, pairing local, specialist Makers with people and brands to keep fashion out of landfill, and in the loop. The Seam is the fastest growing care and repair service in the UK powered by intelligent tech. Their network of specialists includes tailors, cobblers, leather restorers, knitwear menders, skewer cleaners, embroidery artists and so much more.

TRUSS
TRUSS is a London-based fashion technology SME focused on enhancing the second-hand fashion market through AI solutions and in-depth research. TRUSS aims to simplify the resale process through instant access to actionable data, removing the need for online research and manual data entry, while prioritising information and narratives.

Zori Tex
Zori Tex is a climate tech start-up on a mission to drive circularity in the hugely resource intensive fashion and textiles industry through innovative AI-powered technologies – combining machine vision and the latest deep learning networks to optimise the sorting and availability of complex non-reusable feedstocks, ready for closed loop recycling.


This year’s Manufacturing Futures prize will include:


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Evo Fashion Applications for Round Two Opened at Tech Talks

Last week, we hosted Evo Fashion: Tech Talks in collaboration with Evo Learning at The Trampery Fish Island Village.

Celebrating the launch of applications for the second round of Evo Fashion, specifically tailored to fashion technology businesses, attendees found out more about the programme and specialist facilitators, experienced rapid-fire talks on all things fashion tech, and connected with industry peers.

Kicking off the evening, we heard from leading industry experts as they discussed the latest trends and developments in fashion technology. From the dynamic intersections between technology and sustainability, to delving into the realms of digital and phygital fashion, read on to find out what went down at this jam-packed evening event.  

Fashion Tech Trends and Developments with The Fashion Innovation Agency

First up, Lisa Chatterton, Business Manager at Fashion Innovation Agency, took to the stage to present the latest trends in fashion tech with a focus on innovations that could support the transition towards a more sustainable fashion industry.

Speaking about the FIA’s latest work, Lisa dived into a range of topics including photogrammetry, digital humans, deepfake technology and generative AI. ‘You no longer have to fly a model up a mountain, you can do it all virtually,’ said Lisa. ‘By taking a digital asset into a virtual environment, one photoshoot can have endless possibilities.’

‘With digital fashion improving, exciting virtual experiences will be on the cards. This will lead to expansive fashion communication with potential for widespread impact. For example, moving beyond the walls of physical catwalk shows which are often limited to a certain number of people, designers can have real time AI generated catwalks which can be open to everyone.’ 

After her presentation, Lisa took questions from the audience. When asked to pick one area of technology that would be most useful for the future of the fashion industry, Lisa didn’t hesitate. ‘Generative AI is going to have the most impact,’ she told the audience. ‘As I’ve shown, it can be used as a creative tool and it can help behind the scenes. You can use it to be an expert consultant in a particular field, whereas previously you’d have to spend thousands of pounds to get that advice.’ 

‘I think people are nervous of AI because they don’t necessarily understand it and people think it will take their jobs. But at the same time, the genie’s out of the bottle now. If you don’t start getting your head around it and how you can deploy it within your business, you’ll get behind because everyone else will be catching up!’ 

Phygital Fashion with Stephy Fung and Muchaneta Ten Napel

Next, Muchaneta Ten Napel, Founder of Shape Innovate, hosted a conversation with trailblazing digital artist Stephy Fung. Having just been included in Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Art and Culture, Stephy introduced herself by highlighting her USP: ‘digital first, physical second.’

Speaking about her background in graphic design, Stephy said, ‘I did not set out to become a fashion designer, but I took an interest in 3D and 3D animation. I have always naturally gravitated towards animation and storytelling. I think you can see that in my work. The clothes aren’t just garments. I like to put them in a scene and give them a ‘home.’ I love to tell a story.’

When asked by Muchaneta about challenges she’s faced in the industry, Stephy admitted she’s struggled with turning her 3D animations into physical designs. ‘I’m currently working with a company called Phygital Twin. They’ve got incredible fashion knowledge, from pattern-making to manufacturing connections. Because I don’t come from a fashion background, I need help to make my designs physical. The way I design on a programme might not necessarily work or be practical for physical production. That’s one thing that I’ve struggled with and I’ve had to learn along the way whilst working with Phygital Twin. Also, in my opinion, creating digital pieces will always be a lot cheaper compared to making physical ones, so that’s another challenge.’ 

In response to Muchaneta’s question about the link between digital fashion and sustainability, Stephy remarked, ‘I think a lot of brands will take on digital and replace some parts of their pipeline to speed up testing or use AI to conceptualise and visualise. Even with 3D avatars, you don’t need to get a model to come in, you can test online or change the cut, it’s a lot quicker and more efficient than the regular process.’ 

To wrap up the conversation, Muchaneta posed one last question. ‘What about companies who can’t afford to use digital technology, what would you recommend?’ 

‘There are a lot of free AI programmes out there that you can test out,’ answered Stephy. ‘Before you pay for anything, look for free programmes first and make sure to use all the free trials they offer!’

Manufacturing Tech with Shana Chu and Muchaneta Ten Napel

After a quick interval where attendees tucked into delectable canapes and grabbed a drink at the free bar, we were back for another conversation hosted by Muchaneta Ten Napel with Shana Chu, Founder of Tailr, who hopes to redefine garment production by using AI technology. 

Having worked as a brand technologist for a number of years, Shana saw first-hand how disconnected brands were from their supply chains. ‘A lot of things get lost in translation,’ said Shana, ‘which is where I got the idea for my business.’

‘Essentially, we digitise the nuances of how the fabric is actually created. We get down to the yarn, the composition, the finishing, the spinning, the weaving, the make of the machine, the tension, the density of the yarn. We even look at where the yarn came from – for example, how was the cotton grown? How was the season? Are things consistent from last season? How is all of that going to affect production for the brand?’

‘Ultimately we aim to reduce waste by making sure nothing goes wrong. Did you know, on average, 20% of production comes in wrong for brands? That 20% is often shipped to landfill. Our goal is to remove that element and we will do that by ensuring that things are perfect at factory level.’ 

Offering advice for emerging brands and startups, Shana said, ‘Don’t be bullied when you know what’s best for your company. It’s important that you have the guts to say no, I don’t want to do it that way. When you’re starting out, you try to listen to all the advice people want to give you, but it can be overwhelming. Listen to what resonates with you.’ 

When asked by Muchaneta about emotional challenges she faced, such as imposter syndrome, Shana responded candidly, saying, ‘You know that saying ‘fake it til you make it’? It did help. Sometimes I do have to pretend that I’m super confident. But what I’ve learnt along the way is this: don’t be shy of your vision, don’t be afraid to be ambitious, and don’t be afraid to sell what you want. If AI has done anything, it’s shown us that those big visions are absolutely possible.’

From securing £700,000 as a sole female founder, to assembling a team of eight people and presently raising £5 million, Shana’s insight on funding was invaluable. ‘Before you get to the investor stage, try to take part in competitions. I won the best new startup company in Ireland and I got £50,000. I got that to build my MVP. You don’t necessarily need to go straight to investors to get funding. There are a lot of opportunities out there.’ 

Introduction to Evo Fashion for Fashion Tech Businesses

To conclude the evening, Helen Lax, Director of Fashion District, took to the stage to present a comprehensive overview of the Evo Fashion programme.

Designed to fit in with work commitments and delivered by experts, the fully-funded five-month programme consists of a two-day intensive launchpad and four full-day masterclasses which will focus on different aspects of learning, including environmental and ethical practice, business and financial planning, marketing and storytelling, founder wellbeing, sustainable growth and much more. 

‘Peppered in amongst the sessions and masterclasses,’ Helen told the audience, ‘there will also be panels and talks, a 1-2-1 business diagnostic, three peer-to-peer learning workshops, a creative photoshoot, and the chance to present your brand at an industry showcase.’ 

‘To be eligible you must be a registered business based in London. You must employ 2-5 people and you must have been trading for 18 months,’ said Helen. ‘You must also have turnover or investment of a minimum of £50k in the last financial year. If you’re unsure about whether you’re eligible, please get in touch with the Fashion District team.’ 

With an incredible selection panel for the second cohort, including Brooke Roberts-Islam, Founder of Techstyler; Tom Adeyoola, Entrepreneur, Investor and Advisor; Lisa Chatterton, Business Manager, Fashion Innovation Agency; Charles Armstrong, CEO of The Trampery, and Helen Lax, Director of Fashion District, applications are now open and will close at midnight on 3rd June 2024. 

Find out more and apply for the second round of Evo Fashion now via the button below.


Got a question? Please get in touch with us at fashion@evolearning.co with any queries about the programme, content, facilitators, application form, and eligibility.

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Evo Fashion: Cohort One Announced!

As we anticipate the arrival of Spring, we’re gearing up for new opportunities, and one that we’re most looking forward to at Fashion District is our Evo Fashion Programme.

This comprehensive five-month experiential programme caters to emerging brands and fashion technology ventures. After calling for applications throughout December and January, we’re now thrilled to unveil the first businesses selected for the programme.

What is Evo Fashion?

With a holistic approach to business strategy, the Evo Fashion programme focuses on supply chain sustainability, ethical working standards, market channels, and investment readiness. Activities include a two-day intensive launchpad, masterclasses, and peer-to-peer learning, designed to accommodate work commitments and culminate in an industry showcase. Co-delivered by Fashion District and Evo Learning, Evo Fashion will run twice, with the first programme tailored for emerging designers and fashion brands, and the second programme spotlighting fashion technology businesses.

Evo Fashion is part of the Grow London Early Stage programme, powered by London & Partners – a business support programme for early-stage growth companies active in high growth sectors that support sustainable and inclusive growth in London. The programme is funded by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Meet the Selection Panel

With an esteemed selection panel of industry leaders, including Helen Lax, Director of Fashion District; Charles Armstrong, Founder and CEO of Evo Learning and The Trampery; Vanessa Podmore, Founder of Podmore Consulting; Bianca Saunders, Founder, Creative Director, and Designer of Bianca Saunders; and Yvie Hutton, Director of Designer Relations & Membership at the British Fashion Council, each member was strategically chosen for their unique expertise. 

Bianca brings invaluable experience in fashion brand development, while Yvie has a rich background in nurturing emerging designers within the BFC community. Vanessa’s expertise lies in fashion sustainability. Together, the panel’s collective insight enabled them to assess applicants’ potential for business success and their commitment to integrating sustainability into their ventures. 

The panel convened at The Trampery Fish Island Village in early February to meticulously review each submission, individually score the applications, and select the inaugural cohort of successful businesses for the programme.

Introducing the Inaugural Cohort

After much deliberation, here are the sixteen businesses selected for the first Evo Fashion programme: 

ANCIELA

ANCIELA is a London-based sustainable luxury womenswear label that blends South American folklore with an outsider’s perspective living in London, offering experimental tailoring and Ready-To-Wear pieces inspired by art, literature and historical costumes. Committed to sustainability, the brand champions hand-crafted designs and supports Latinx creatives, showcasing cultural diversity through fashion.

Asmuss

Asmuss, founded by sisters Clare and Fiona, crafts ethically and environmentally responsible garments for the modern active woman, blending innovation and nature to design versatile, sustainable pieces. Committed to inclusivity and ethical production, Asmuss offers technically intelligent, renewable fabrics and season-less silhouettes, all made in the UK by social enterprise Making for Change or co-founder Clare, ensuring kindness to both body and planet.

BEEN LONDON

Hailed as ‘one of the most innovative fashion brands in the world’ by British Vogue, BEEN LONDON creates versatile, timeless accessories from discarded materials, challenging fashion sustainability norms. Founded by ex-BBC journalist Genia Mineeva in 2018, the brand’s mission is to divert waste from landfill, crafting beautiful, high-quality products with minimal environmental footprint. 

Clara Chu

Clara Chu, founded by London-based multidisciplinary artist and designer Clara Chu, specialises in redefining fashion accessories. Through a unique blend of everyday mundanity and vibrant pop art, the brand transforms overlooked items like mops, toasters, and toothbrushes into wearable accessories. Merging mass production with hand-craftsmanship, Clara’s visionary products challenge conventional fashion norms, blurring boundaries between high and low culture while highlighting the importance of community involvement in creating a sustainable fashion ecosystem.

Colèchi

Colèchi is a research and events agency dedicated to advancing sustainable development in the fashion industry by working to humanise clothing through curation, workshops, and insight. Collaborating with a collective spanning growers, weavers, designers, and recyclers, they deliver research projects, curate events, and are currently expanding their product range, which includes their debut print journal AGREENCULTURE and a forthcoming capsule collection featuring UK alpaca wool.

Everyday Phenomenal

Everyday Phenomenal is a sustainable womenswear brand based in London that harmonises style and comfort with the ethos of wellbeing and mindfulness. Their collections feature essential wardrobe staples crafted with quality, accessibility, and empowerment in mind, inviting women to embrace their best selves. Each garment is paired with a QR code linked to their wellness hub, “THE CIRCLE OF FEELING GOOD,” promoting mindfulness and holistic wellness.

Fashion Meets Music

Fashion Meets Music is a community interest company led by Lizzy Lambie and Dennica Abdo, based in the Croydon Creatives zone, that transforms unused spaces into vibrant retail and event experiences. They fuse runway shows, live music acts, art, pop-up vendors, and networking to engage underrepresented communities in enterprise, education, and employment while offering end-to-end guidance and support for individuals or brands aiming to elevate their ideas and dreams.

Isla de Gar

Isla de Gar is a slow fashion handbag brand founded in 2020 by award-winning designer Emma Garner that infuses joy, togetherness, warmth, and humanity into its sculptural, tactile creations. Handmade to order in their London studio, each piece is inspired by the natural world and invites wearers to a realm where art is wearable and happiness knows no bounds.

Kyle Ho

Kyle Ho is a luxury menswear brand dedicated to elevating traditional tailoring through intricate details and a revolutionary design philosophy, with an eco-conscious, made-to-order business model. Operating on a pre-order system, each custom-made item significantly reduces environmental impact and resource usage, while sourcing materials from local UK vendors supports local merchants while reducing the carbon footprint. 

Mirla Beane

Mirla Beane is an ethical brand offering inclusive prices and sizing, supporting the next generation of designers while delivering sophisticated yet fun, sustainable designs with bold prints and pops of colour. Named after their children and grandchildren, each piece is made with care, ensuring uniqueness and kindness to the planet through small production runs and attention to sustainable and ethical accreditation of fabrics and makers.

NEW STANDARD

NEW STANDARD footwear embodies sustainability as the standard, drawing inspiration from Joe Strummer’s ethos of rejecting substandard quality for a better world. With a focus on longevity, high quality, and timeless design, each pair is crafted using non-plastic materials and durable construction techniques, ensuring minimal environmental impact and a timeless aesthetic that complements any capsule wardrobe. Situated in Hackney, London’s historical shoe-making hub, their expertise, honed through designing for renowned figures and legends in various fields, ensures a deep understanding of footwear craftsmanship.

OMNISS

OMNISS, an ethical fashion and lifestyle brand rooted in character-driven storytelling, is based at the heart of London’s Fashion District in Hackney Wick. Founded by Asya Ter-Hovakimyan and Francisco Zhou, their commitment to transparency in the supply chain and collaboration with women-led small enterprises in Armenia honours craftsmanship while creating products that transcend conventional demographics, designed for dreamers, zeitgeists, and visionaries. The brand has earned recognition at London Fashion Week and in notable publications like Forbes and Drapers. 

Percy Langley

Percy Langley offers beautiful clothing for real women from a collective of independent designers championing the slow fashion movement, showcasing seasonal edits that embody a modern British aesthetic with investment pieces designed to endure and British-made garments renowned for superior quality. With a focus on sustainability and conscientious consumerism, they empower customers to make informed and responsible buying decisions while supporting designers dedicated to slowing down clothing production and prioritising eco-conscious practices.

Pomi and Seeds

Pomi and Seeds revolutionises lingerie by offering sustainably made, inclusive, and empowering solutions for women using design thinking, technology, and circularity approaches. Recognising the dissatisfaction with conventional offerings, Pomi and Seeds meets this demand with a diverse product line, featuring lingerie made from sustainable fibres and catering to cup sizes DD+ and up to size 24. Beyond comfortable and ethical lingerie, they prioritise diversity, inclusion, and global initiatives that empower women and promote social impact, envisioning a transformative future for the industry.

ZERØ London

ZERØ London creates quality menswear using innovative zero waste design techniques, reducing fabric waste by up to 15% compared to traditional methods and aligning with the UK’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050. Motivated by the 60 billion square metres of fabric wasted through the cutting process annually, the brand is on a mission to end fashion waste. Their products are internationally available and proudly crafted in London, employing a local supply chain to ensure accountability and minimal carbon impact.


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Inside the Launch of Manufacturing Futures 2024

Last week we celebrated the launch of Manufacturing Futures 2024 at a sold-out event at The Trampery.

Marking Fashion District’s sixth innovation challenge, this year the focus is on technological innovations and sustainable solutions that are solving any of the complex fashion manufacturing challenges facing the industry. Helen Lax, Director of Fashion District, described the event as a gathering of individuals that share ‘the same ethos, values and ideas for the future of fashion and sustainability.’

GANNI: Fabrics of the Future

Kicking off the event was keynote speaker Lauren Bartley, Chief Sustainability Officer at GANNI, who gave insight into GANNI’s strategy and how they work with innovation. ‘GANNI has a very very ambitious goal to reduce its carbon emissions by 50% by 2027,’ Lauren said. ‘The materials we use account for 50% of our carbon impact, making this our primary window of opportunity. It’s also where Ganni should focus as materials represent one of our most significant decarbonisation levers.’ 

Lauren also highlighted GANNI’s Fabrics of the Future initiative. ‘Fabrics of the Future is an internal research and development hub that scans the market for fabrics that will change the industry. At this point we’re working with thirty different material creators that have solutions or new innovations for materials. By 2025 the goal is that 10% of our materials should be coming from fabrics of the future.’ 

The Need for Partnership: Modern Synthesis x GANNI

One of the material creators GANNI have collaborated with is London-based biotech company Modern Synthesis. Lauren invited Jen Keane, CEO of Modern Synthesis, on stage to discuss their recent partnership.

Having developed a new class of biomaterials, Modern Synthesis works with bacteria to produce a type of non-woven textile that can be used to displace materials like leather, and in the future replace a wide variety of coated textiles. Modern Synthesis partnered with GANNI to reimagine their staple Bou Bag in their new innovative bacterial nanocellulose material. The handbag was unveiled at the London Design Festival 2023. 

Explaining why Modern Synthesis reached out to GANNI to propose a potential collaboration, Jen said, ‘As a startup that makes materials, we can’t do it all. We need to actually make the impact that we want to drive and so we have to get it into a product. We need brands and partners across the whole supply chain to make that possible. We contacted GANNI because they have such a strong perspective in this space and actually take action. Very few brands have innovation departments.’

Lauren rounded up the conversation by saying: ‘I hope that what you’ll take away from our talk today is that GANNI relies heavily on innovations like Modern Synthesis to meet our sustainability goals, and vice versa. Jen needs brands like GANNI to secure investment and effectively implement these technologies. It’s important not to underestimate the value of partnership.’’ 

Offering one final tip to the audience Jen said,Don’t give up! It’s hard but we’re gonna get there. My biggest advice is to collaborate as much as possible. You can’t do everything yourself. Figure out what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, and find friends to do the things you’re not good at.’

Introduction to Manufacturing Futures 2024

Helen Lax then took to the stage to introduce this year’s innovation challenge, Manufacturing Futures 2024. ‘This year, we’re seeking innovative ideas, businesses, and startups that can benefit the fashion industry by offering sustainable solutions for various aspects of the supply chain.’

To be eligible for the challenge, applicants must have a tech-based solution, be a registered business, and either be operating in the UK or have plans to pilot or operate in the UK. The winner will take home £15,000, as well as receiving business support from PANGAIA, one-year complimentary UKFT membership, one-year workspace membership at The Trampery and one-year platform membership from Common Objective. The runners-up will receive £5,000 each, one-year UKFT membership and one-year platform membership from Common Objective. 

Finalists will attend a one-day event in May where high-level industry professionals will act as ‘critical friends’ to support and challenge their business proposition, and provide constructive feedback; as well as two Development Days focused around production and investment. Finalists will also be invited to join the celebratory Fashion District Innovation Awards and Investment Supper in July, attended by influential members of the fashion, tech and investment industry.

Meet The Judges

After running through the details of this year’s manufacturing challenge, it was time to hear from our incredible judging panel: Chelsea Franklin, Head of Advanced Concept Design, PANGAIA; Adam Mansell, CEO, UKFT; Gillian Lipton, Head of Sustainability, Alexander McQueen; Ella Gould, Head of Circularity and Innovation, Selfridges, and Matthew Drinkwater, Head of Fashion Innovation Agency, UAL: London College of Fashion.

Discussing their criteria for the challenge, Matthew Drinkwater said, ‘Above all, I want to feel excitement for an application that I’m reading. It’s that magical moment…you want to transform the innovation into a real thing.’

Ella Gould added, ‘I’m always sceptical when someone comes to me with big tech and they only talk about the technology. Come to me with a problem, tell me the problem that you’re solving or why you’re doing something better. That for me is when the juices start flowing and I get really inspired.’ 

Gillian Lipton stressed the importance of time. ‘For me it’s all about finding a solution that is scalable, but also that I don’t have to wait too long for. I’m aware that things take time, in terms of innovation and new materials, but we don’t have time!’ 

Adam Mansell stated the biggest problem for him was volume. ‘I love new materials, new materials are fantastic, but if someone came up with a concept that would allow us to take all the cotton, polyester, and wool that we use, capture it, recycle it, get it manufactured in the UK, that gets my vote. You’d get lifetime membership to UKFT if you can solve that! But genuinely that’s where the problem is. That’s where the focus really needs to be.’

Chelsea Franklin urged applicants to consider the customer. ‘Functionality is obviously very important in terms of innovation performance, but also understanding how to convince a consumer to buy something, such as an alternative fabric – why? If the price is so much more significant, why should they purchase it? How do you tell that story? Build that narrative?’

The event concluded with key advice from the judges. Matthew Drinkwater advised applicants to think about clarity of message. ‘What problem are you solving? Answer all of those questions fully and critically, and you stand a really good chance of getting through.’

Chelsea Franklin echoed this. ‘Articulating your vision is a skill in itself. We want to know what problem you’re solving, problem solution framing, and why we should care. If you can answer that clearly and visually that’s my top tip.’ 

‘Don’t bring me something that’s been done five years ago,’ Adam said. ‘Do your homework. Do proper market research. Also read the application questions carefully and answer them clearly. Look at the finances bit, because it’s really important that you’re thinking beyond the initial. Think about what the future looks like, and don’t tell me that you’re going to be a billion pound turnover company in five years time. It’s hard work. It takes a lot of effort and collaboration and that should not be why you’re in this space, you should be in this space to solve a problem.’

Do you think you’ve got what it takes to manufacture a new sustainable solution? Want to be in with a chance of winning £15,000? Applications for Manufacturing Futures 2024 are now open!


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Fashion District Festival Returns for 2023!

The Fashion District Festival is making a highly anticipated return for its second iteration at Spitalfields from 11-16 July 2023. 

Taking over the vibrant east London destination, the six-day festival will be a celebration of fashion, sustainability, innovation, and community. Featuring over 40 events, including pop-ups, swap shops, styling masterclasses, upcycling workshops, and interactive experiences, visitors will have the chance to explore, learn, create, and network with leading conscious brands and digital fashion businesses.  

This year’s festival covers four themes — WATCH, SHOP, MAKE, and GROW

The Fashion District Festival will kick off on Tuesday 11 July. As part of the WATCH programme, the launch show, curated by Lee Lapthorne from On|Off and AGRO Studio, will introduce some of London’s most promising emerging designers, combining physical and digital installations, to create a truly unforgettable experience. The week will see further digital showcases and styling events from charity partner Give Your Best.

The SHOP series will feature a collaborative retail pop-up located in a brand-new building at Number 1 Lamb St in Spitalfields – the first event to take place in the contemporary building designed by Foster + Partners. Featuring emerging and planet-positive designers and start-ups, the brands on show specialise in preloved, swapped, rented, and upcycled fashion, such as The Alterist, Loanhood, The Cirkel, Verte London, Circular Threads and The Seam.

SHOP events:

The MAKE space offers a diverse program of interactive events and workshops for all ages, encouraging participants to explore sustainability and innovation in fashion via the three Rs: Repair, Reuse, and Recycle.

MAKE talks and workshops:

The GROW programme is dedicated to supporting fashion start-ups and SMEs through a series of roundtables, talks, and workshops that delve into the ideas and innovations driving change within the industry, including themes such as the circular economy, regenerative materials, digital fashion, design for the metaverse, early-stage investment and more. 

GROW talks and workshops:

Jason Dervin, General Estate Manager at The Spitalfields Estate, says, “We are proud to host the ever-inspiring Fashion District Festival and donate four spaces for the events in our newly created units and basement studio space. Celebrating and supporting multiple sustainable start-ups, emerging talent and brands in this dynamic way sits perfectly alongside our existing retail and F&B operators, and we hope to see everyone at the Festival in Spitalfields this July.”Bookings are now open! Don’t miss your chance to secure a spot at each of the incredible events – click here to see the lineup so far. Stay tuned for more event announcements and exciting speakers coming soon!

Bookings are now open! Don’t miss your chance to secure a spot at each of the incredible events – click the button below to see the lineup so far.

Follow our socials to stay tuned for more event announcements and exciting speakers coming soon!

Fashion District Shortlisted for Small Business Charter Excellence Awards

We’re excited to announce that Fashion District has been nominated for not one, but two Small Business Charter Excellence Awards!

We’re thrilled to have been shortlisted for both ‘Outstanding Support for Small Business’ for our Fashion District Festival and ‘Outstanding Stakeholder Engagement’ for our Covid Recovery of SMEs initiative.

The Small Business Charter Excellence Awards recognise the most innovative and impactful initiatives that have supported small business growth during 2021/2022. We’re proud to have been recognised for our efforts to nurture start-ups and enhance SME growth through dedicated, collaborative, and impactful activities.

The Fashion District Festival, a week-long event celebrating London’s vibrant and innovative fashion industry, provided a fantastic platform for small businesses to connect, exchange knowledge, and collaborate. The festival, which took place in September 2021, featured a range of activities, including workshops, talks, and live pitching, as well as networking opportunities for entrepreneurs and professionals in the fashion industry. The festival also showcased the incredible sustainable talent and creativity that London has to offer, and helped to raise the profile of many businesses in the Fashion District community.

Our Covid Recovery of SMEs initiative at The Lab E20 was another key focus for us, as we recognised the significant challenges faced by small businesses after the pandemic. We worked closely with 253 businesses and organisations to offer opportunities for income generation, brand exposure, innovation support, and routes to investment. Additionally, our initiative enlivened the expansive Stratford-based space with extensive community activity, creating a hub for collaboration and connection.

The winners for each of the three categories in the Small Business Charter Excellence Awards will be decided by a panel of judges, comprising business school leaders, SME business leaders, and other SME experts. The results will be announced at the Small Business Charter Summer Reception on 22 June at the House of Lords.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Small Business Charter for nominating us for these prestigious awards, as well as to our valued community and partners who have continuously supported us. As a business hub dedicated to supporting the growth and success of the fashion industry in East London, we’re committed to continuing our work with small businesses and entrepreneurs in the area.

For more information on our initiatives and how we support small businesses, head to our What We Do page or follow our socials to receive the latest updates:

Celebrating Sustainability, Community and Innovation at Poplar Works’ 3rd Birthday

It was inspiring to see so many of you at Poplar Works’ on Thursday 2nd March for our 3rd birthday celebrations!

As part of the festivities, the wonderful community of small businesses showcased their work during open studios and offered events for local residents to participate in. The programme for the day was truly a celebration of all the people that make Poplar Works a thriving hub of sustainability, innovation and social enterprise.

Once disused garages, Poplar Works now offers over 40 affordable studio spaces for start-ups and SMEs and is home to a diverse range of businesses, from sustainable fashion start-ups to not-for-profit organisations. Blossom Young, Head of Operations at Poplar HARCA, guided groups throughout the space and gave them a glimpse into the lives of the business community that reside here, including Birdsong, More Life Home, Post Carbon Lab and more.

Engaging with the local community has been integral to Poplar Works’ success, and there’s no better evidence of this success than the many families and local residents that joined in the celebrations at craft workshops throughout the afternoon. The Reclaimery taught techniques to customise your clothes using fabric paint, community member Asma Begum provided family-friendly crafting sessions in The Works Café, whilst Wax Atelier demonstrated the art of candle dipping.

The brilliant Making for Change team opened up their production hub to host a weaving workshop that repurposed textile waste to create one-of-a-kind keychains. Both the workshop and guided tours enabled visitors to see behind the scenes at Making for Change – a social enterprise that offers a production training programme and works with designers, industry, and early-stage businesses to produce orders using sustainable and ethical practices.

We rounded off the day with a gathering in The Works Café for the members and partners that have been part of Poplar Works’ journey over the last three years. Whilst sharing a celebratory drink and getting stuck into nibbles, courtesy of The Works team, we heard from Blossom Young – Head of Operations at Poplar HARCA, Claire Swift – Director of Social Responsibility at London College of Fashion, Rachel Arnold – Creative Director at Renew East London (RenewEL), and Helen Lax – Director at Fashion District.

Each of the speakers acknowledged how incredible it has been to see Poplar Works develop into a nurturing and supportive ecosystem of businesses that places people and planet at the centre of everything that they do. There was a sense of excitement surrounding the future of Poplar Works and its potential to continue forging valuable connections and fostering innovation over the years to come.

Keen to settle into a studio at Poplar Works? You can check availability and apply here.

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Sparking collective action at Becoming Circular: Revaluing Waste

Last week, we hosted our Becoming Circular: Revaluing Waste event in collaboration with London Borough of Waltham Forest’s Green Business Network at the Hackney Brewery in Walthamstow.

Designed to spark collective action and provide attendees with the tools to embed circularity in their businesses, the event focused on three key approaches to eliminating waste textiles: Repair, Resale and Redistribution. Read on to find out what went down at this very special evening.

INTRODUCING TEXTILES 2030

Kicking off the event with a fantastic keynote speech was Sarah Robins, Associate Sector Specialist at WRAP UK – a climate action NGO working around the globe to tackle the causes of the climate crisis arising from the fashion industry.

Since launching in April 2021, Sarah has been working extensively on WRAP’s Textiles 2030 initiative, a UK textile sector collaboration making rapid, science-based progress on circularity and climate action. The initiative focuses on how brands can redesign products, reuse them and recycle them to reduce environmental impact and use resources more efficiently. 

In the past two years, the initiative has received commitment from 120 signatories from across the textiles supply chain, including 62% of the UK’s market share of brands and retailers and the UK’s biggest charities. 

For every industry to move towards a circular economy, Sarah broke down three key targets to make it more manageable for businesses:

I want to highlight how critical circular business models are,” Sarah told the audience. “We need to encourage both businesses and citizens to extend the life of the clothing they already own and to use circular business models because we can’t make the changes needed by focusing on one area. It needs to be a holistic, whole lifecycle approach.”

To find out more information about Textiles 2030 and to access WRAP’s reports and guides, please head to their website.

THE SEAM: CULTIVATING CARE CULTURE

Layla Sargent, Founder and CEO, and Bronwyn Seier, Head of Brand at The Seam – a game-changing repair and alterations app – then took to the floor to present a case study of her business and how they operate using a circular business model. Frustrated with the tailoring industry and the lack of messaging around repairs, Layla felt compelled to help make a difference. 

“In a nutshell, The Seam’s approach to circularity isn’t about creating new models for manufacturing,” Layla said. “It’s not to create new fabrics, it’s simply to help us as a community care better for the garments we already own. Since the 1970s, textile waste has increased by 800%, and in the UK alone, 30 million items of clothing are sent to landfill every week. The Seam’s main mission is to reduce the number of garments that end up in landfill by helping people to extend the lifecycle of their garments.” 

When it comes to circularity, here are The Seam’s key takeaways for the future of their business: 

REPAIR, RESALE, REDISTRIBUTION 

The remainder of the evening was spent partaking in roundtable discussions chaired by sixteen local business founders and entrepreneurs. The tables were categorised under the themes of repair, resale, or redistribution and attendees had the choice of sitting at the table they felt most drawn to. The group discussions were designed for attendees to brainstorm what actions could be taken by Waltham Forest to encourage businesses to repair and resell garments/products and redistribute textile waste. Afterwards, groups fed back their thoughts to the rest of the room.

REPAIR

The first group, chaired by Layla Sargent, Founder of The Seam, discussed providing pricing guidelines for repair services, as sometimes independent services find it difficult to price. They suggested that having a guideline as a baseline could give confidence to pricing decisions.

The second group, chaired by Tessa Solomons, a reuse and repair consultant, suggested that retailers form a dialogue with designers and manufacturers to understand whether their products can be repaired in the future, allowing them to make informed purchasing decisions and to better educate their customers.

RESALE

On the children’s resale table, Louise Weiss, Co-Founder of dotte, discussed visibility, accessibility and attitudes towards second-hand clothing. They also felt the messaging behind buying second-hand garments needs to be inclusive and considerate of the motivation behind these purchases, as different connotations of ‘second-hand’ come with different budget availability.

On the second resale table, Jessica Brunt from Verte London said that her group felt that destigmatising second-hand shopping was important, and they suggested working with the London Borough of Waltham Forest to enable vacant retail spaces on high street to be used for sustainable businesses.

REDISTRIBUTION:

Piarvé Wetshi, Co-Founder of Last Yarn and Colèchi, said that there needs to be more visibility on the process of what happens to clothes when we recycle through charity shops and highlight the process of what happens to clothes that don’t sell. The group felt that some trust has been lost for charity shops with prices increasing and charity shops cherry-picking products to sell on other platforms at market rate. 

Kaela, Founder of FibreLab, said that her group focused on pre-consumer textile waste. They proposed incentivising businesses to redistribute pre-consumer textile waste with initiatives like a discount on business rates. They also highlighted that encouraging businesses to sort at source, i.e. separating by fibre composition, and having exchange points for textile waste could increase the potential to redistribute and reuse fabric massively.

The last table, chaired by Sol Escobar, Founder of Give Your Best, and the Forest Recycling Project team, discussed the importance of raising awareness of sustainable initiatives with millennial and Gen-Z audiences. Sol stressed the importance of inclusion when discussing circularity, as five-and-a-half million people in the UK are living in clothing poverty and are unable to access second-hand selling platforms or be part of the fashion conversation.

BUILDING CONNECTIONS AND CIRCULAR SYSTEMS

Afterwards, guests carried on their conversations, networked, and grabbed a slice of pizza and a drink from the bar. 

Huge thank you to our guest speakers, Sarah Robins and Layla Sargent, as well as our fantastic table hosts:

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A Look Back at Fashion Circle: Impactful Storytelling

Last week we held our first in-person Fashion Circle event in collaboration with The Trampery. Designed to enable fashion businesses to learn and develop their network, Fashion Circle: Impactful Storytelling brought together industry experts, founders and fashion professionals at London’s brand-new fashion campus – The Trampery Fish Island Village.

The theme for the evening focused on greenwashing and how to communicate sustainability claims without misleading consumers, which has been a hot topic since the launch of the Green Claims Code in September 2021. In order to provide our community with a well-rounded and informative understanding of the theme, we brought together an incredible line-up of speakers with expertise in impact policy, ESG communications, corporate responsibility and conscious advertising.

CEO and Co-Founder of Compare Ethics, Abbie Morris, kicked off the evening with an overview of the Green Claims Code, it’s six key principles, and guidance on how to meet these principles using data as evidence. Abbie’s key tips included:

Next up the audience heard from Valentina Okolo, Environmental Manager at PANGAIA, who talked through the company’s sustainable and ethical goals as outlined in their Earth Positive Philosophy. From water health to elevating human potential, Valentina provided a deep-dive into the practices, partnerships and ambitions that makes PANGAIA an exemplar of good practice, which can be explored further in their annual Impact Report.

During the evening, a member of the audience posed the question of how PANGAIA has been able to implement such a thorough impact strategy. Valentina attributed this to the development of a dedicated impact team, who could ensure that the UN’s SDGs remained central to their purpose and growth, and to contribute towards accurately communicating their current practices and goals going forward.

George Harding-Rolls, Campaign Manager at Changing Markets Foundation, reiterated the importance of accuracy and transparency to avoid greenwashing, since falsifying or overstating green credentials stunts progress where it is most needed. Phrases such as ‘carbon neutral’, ‘better for the planet’ and ‘conscious’ were highlighted as examples of statements that were ambiguous and lacked clarity, which draws directly from one of the six principles to avoid greenwashing, as outlined in the Green Claims Code.

The audience were tasked with listing their sustainable practices and ambitions, taking into consideration the tips and advice provided by our expert speakers. This sparked further conversation about the challenges of marketing, how to juggle multiple roles as a founder, and the potential to collectively create positive change in the future.

Through developing clear communications with consumers and following the guidance of campaigns, such as the Green Claims Code, we can all contribute towards building more trust in sustainability claims. In the meantime, as consumers, we can approach sustainability claims with a critical eye and check whether brands and businesses are supporting their claims with reliable evidence.

Interested in joining a thriving fashion community? Discover The Trampery Fish Island Village – London’s newest campus for fashion, innovation and sustainability. Check out the co-working, studios, event space and manufacturing facilities open now. Learn more here.

Photographer: Christian Sinibaldi


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Becoming Circular: Revaluing Waste

With spring on the horizon, the team at Fashion District can’t wait for longer, lighter days and our upcoming event: Becoming Circular: Revaluing Waste, taking place on March 1st, 18:00 – 20:30, at Hackney Brewery & High Hill Taproom.

Presented in collaboration with the Green Business Network, we’re bringing you a roundtable event like no other. Designed to spark collective action and provide you with the tools to embed circularity in your business, the event will focus on three key approaches to eliminating waste textiles: repair, resale and redistribution. 

Kicking off with a keynote speech from Sarah Robins, Associate Sector Specialist – Textiles at WRAP UK, afterwards Layla Sargent, Founder of The Seam, will take to the floor to deliver a case study presentation focusing on how repair and alterations can contribute to eliminating waste textiles. 

Following Layla’s case study, you’ll then have the chance to share your thoughts in roundtable discussions chaired by over ten carefully curated table hosts. With a selection of tables each categorised under the themes of repair, resale, or redistribution, you’ll have the choice of seating yourself at the theme that you’re most drawn to. Our table hosts will then get the roundtable discussion going and feedback key takeaways to the room.

To round off the evening, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with like-minded professionals over a drink or two. Following the event, attendees will also receive an exclusive document of key takeaways from the night. 

AGENDA



MEET OUR SPEAKERS + TABLE HOSTS

Sarah Robins – Associate Sector Specialist – Textiles, WRAP UK
For the past eight years, Sarah has run multiple circular fashion businesses and currently serves as Associate Sector Specialist at WRAP, working on the award-winning voluntary agreement Textiles 2030, which aims to accelerate the UK textile sector on circularity and climate action. In her role, Sarah works on the circular business models workstreams, citizen behaviour change and supporting businesses across the agreement.

Layla Sargent – Founder + CEO, The Seam
Founded in 2019, The Seam brings accessible, on-demand tailoring services to Londoners’ doorsteps while harnessing the skills of talented Makers in every neighbourhood. Recognised as a leading clothing care and repair company, The Seam services customers across the UK and partners with some of the world’s largest retailers and brands.

Tessa Solomons – Craftsperson
Specialising in hand embroidery and visible mending, Tessa Solomons is challenging the culture of overproduction and throw-away trends in the fashion industry by taking private commissions, consulting brands, and teaching workshops. Driven by the desire to make repairs visible, Tessa is on a mission to encourage brands to incorporate repair and reuse into their design process and make it accessible and affordable to all citizens. 

Louise Weiss – Co-Founder, dotte
Louise is the Co-Founder of dotte, the UK’s largest and fastest-growing peer-to-peer marketplace for children’s fashion. dotte is on a mission to build a community of families who want to share their kids’ wardrobes to help better the planet. A simple one-stop-shop where parents can buy, sell, donate and recycle outgrown children’s clothing, dotte provides a full circle remedy to the fastest area of fashion. 

Sia Grenkova – Sustainability Manager, Oxwash
Sia is responsible for setting and developing the sustainability strategy and circular practices at Oxwash – a B Corp Certified and carbon-neutral wet cleaning service. An alumnus of The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership’s course in Business Sustainability, Sia has previously worked as a consultant for numerous tech startups and large FMCG companies, where she has helped them on their sustainability journeys.

Jessica Brunt – Founder, Verte
With over seven years of experience in marketing and sales, Jess founded her business Verte in 2019 to encourage a more sustainable approach to consumption and shopping. Dedicated to building Verte’s community, Jess has plans to develop her business into a permanent swapping and second-hand space and build an app to encourage a wider variety of items to be swapped. By focusing on swapping versus buying new, Jess hopes to help the world move towards a more circular shopping economy.

Kaela Katz – Founder + CEO, FibreLab
FibreLab is an award-winning textile recycling start-up based in east London. They utilise a custom-built mechanical shredding machine to turn post-industrial textile waste, including off-cuts from garment manufacturing and damaged linens from the hospitality sector, into valuable recycled fibre. FibreLab’s approach to the circular economy is hyper-local, ensuring the entire waste collection, sorting and remanufacturing process takes place entirely within the U.K. 

Sophie Rochester – Founder, Yodomo
Sophie Rochester is an advocate of the power of making and champions Yodomo’s mission to grow participation in making to increase the reuse of materials, helping us all to shift more readily to a circular economy. In 2022, Sophie launched the Yodomo Circular Hub in Hackney, which has over 1,000 active ‘creative reuse members’ and has diverted nearly three tonnes of materials from landfill and incineration.

Sol Escobar – Founder + Director, Give Your Best
Sol Escobar is the Founder and Director of Give Your Best, an award-winning tech-for-good non-profit offering the first platform where people and brands can donate clothing online so that refugee women and children can shop for free with the choice and dignity they deserve. Sol is on a mission to tackle clothing poverty while improving circularity in the fashion industry and empowering people affected by displacement. 

Piarvé Wetshi – Co-Founder, Last Yarn + Colèchi
An advocate for reducing textile waste in the fashion industry, Piarvé co-runs the fashion collective and agency, Colèchi, and the fabric resale platform Last Yarn. Her background is in digital marketing across interior design and events. Piarvé also works with local groups and cultural venues to bridge the gap between fashion, making and education.

Mika Sembongi – Accessory Designer + Mending Expert
Born in Japan, Mika brings Manga influences to her hand printed designs and is highly skilled in the traditional mending technique, sashiko. Mika co-runs The Monday Mending Club, a monthly social sewing night at Big Penny Social, and holds monthly family sewing mornings at Leyton Green Studios, which aim to encourage families to enjoy mending clothing together as a weekend activity.

Judith Agwada – Founder, Maison Archives London
Judith Agwada curates regular vintage drops inspired by the seventies era for her online boutique, Maison Archives London. Maison Archives started out solely as a vintage platform, but has recently expanded to include hand crafted, vintage inspired pieces. Judith also sells vintage and pre-loved pieces at markets and pop-ups in east London – all in addition to her day job, working as a doctor at Whipps Cross hospital!

Samson Soboye – Founder, Soboye
Samson is the founder of Soboye, an African fashion and homewares brand, which offers both ready-to-wear collections and a bespoke design service that serves many celebrity clients, including Michaela Coel, Nile Rogers and John Boyega. Samson has a longstanding relationship with two main factories in Waltham Forest, providing him with expert knowledge on the measures they’re taking (and challenges they’re facing) to eliminate fabric waste in the industry.

Nicola Joseph – Founder, Uniform Choice
Nicola Joseph is an NHS health visitor who also runs pop-ups selling surplus school uniform stock that would otherwise be destined for landfill. Nicola works together with high street brands to sell these unsold uniforms (that are still packaged and in perfect condition) at affordable prices. She sells regularly at Host in Leyton and via ebay.

Gosia Rokicka – Retail + Operations Manager, Forest Recycling Project
Gosia is responsible for everything retail-related at Forest Recycling Project, a registered charity and social enterprise that sells reclaimed paint, fabric and wood and works with volunteers on structured upskilling and upcycling projects.

Anita Earp – Fabric Retail Co-ordinator, Forest Recycling Project
Anita’s role encompasses the reclamation of fabrics from companies or individuals that are looking for an environmentally sound method of fabric disposal. Fabrics are either sold or used in FRP workshops. Anita has an environmental degree and has been a lifelong creator of textile items.

ABOUT THE GREEN BUSINESS NETWORK
The Green Business Network is for businesses from all sectors that are keen to learn how they can improve their environmental performance and cut their business costs, as well as those with an interest or who work in the low carbon or environmental sector. Members include cafes/bars, brewers, fashion designers, renewable energy installers, retailers and freelancers.

In previous events, businesses have heard about the low-carbon transport options for the borough’s businesses (including zero carbon delivery), learnt about finance options for going green and heard from speakers including ReLondon, TSB Bank, Enjoy Waltham Forest and many more.


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