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Waltham Forest Fashion drop in – networking, business support, promotion

Are you in the fashion and textiles industry in Waltham Forest? Join us to learn about a few incredible resources at your disposal…

About this Event

The London Borough of Waltham Forest is buzzing with creativity!

A Fashion District hub has been created at Market Parade in Leyton Green, providing co-working spaces for designers and upskilling workshops to the public. Applications are open for the new support programme, Forge Fashion, which will help local fashion and textile businesses via networking events, 1:1s with expert advisors, and a tailored workshop. And last but not least, a Waltham Forest Fashion Instagram has been launched to promote individuals and businesses in the fashion and textiles industry, and to help nurture a sustainable network and community.

Get involved

If any of these exciting initiatives are of interest of you, we would like to invite you to join us for a drop in session where you can find out more about how to get involved. There will be time for you to get to know the people leading on each project, and to ask questions. Keep it casual and bring your lunch or a cup of tea.

The agenda on the day

Once you have booked a free ticket, a Zoom link will be emailed to you on the morning of the event. We hope to meet you soon! For any questions, please contact

This summer fashion designer Sabinna is partnering London College of Fashion to inspire young people on the ‘East Summer School 2020’. With her studio in the heart of the Fashion District at Trampery Fish Island Village, and her commitment to sustainability and community, she will work with 12-17 year olds from east London Boroughs with a curiosity for fashion.  

Sabinna Rachimova @ JC CANDENEDO

The programme, supported by Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, will encourage the next generation to think about a sustainable fashion future and innovate future change. They will explore the how fashion is damaging the environment and through Sabinna’s career story, and experience of running a fashion brand they will also imagine a fashion future, presenting their ideas as placards to shape the ‘New Now’ for fashion.  

Justine Wright as Head of East London School Engagement, LCF said:

“It’s a pleasure to be working with Sabinna, to inspire schools and young people and support their creative education. They will develop essential creative skills for their future employment and explore their own future beyond school and into a career in fashion”.

Sabinna Rachimova said:

“The way we look at fashion and the creative industries is deeply rooted in the mindsets of people. The earlier we start the conversation about sustainable practice, the use of tech in fashion and the current inequalities of our industry, the bigger the chance that we will be able to reshape it. I think it’s fantastic to have the opportunity to talk to young people about these topics and get them engaged as early as possible”.

LEFT: Sabinna working with a model | RIGHT: Sabinna’s studio at The Trampery

Innovation is a core value of SABINNA, her brand, which thrives on exploratory fash-tech collaborations. It’s most recent project is RYOT’s ‘The Fabric of Reality’, a first-of-its-kind VR fashion show in collaboration with the Fashion Innovation Agency at LCF. SABINNA was one of three designers that created a storyworld in collaboration with VR artist Vladimir Ilic, from VRHuman. It is a truly influential project that rethinks digital fashion, 

“Finally an immersive (XR) brand experience worth the hype”.

Katie Baron, FORBES


SABINNA is a conscious lifestyle brand with a focus on storytelling, handcraft and innovation, offering products and experiences. The brand is based in London and has a small knitwear studio in Vienna. We explore SABINNA is a conscious lifestyle brand with a focus on storytelling, handcraft and innovation, offering products and experiences. The brand is based in London with a small knitwear studio in Vienna. It explores sustainability beyond the product by being mindful about all aspects of our business. It aims to create ethical fashion without compromising the aesthetic and putting people and the environment at the forefront. 
SABINNA stands for its signature handcraft, strong silhouettes and vibrant colour palettes as well as being a modern storyteller for women. It is well known for forward thinking, challenging the status quo of industry and has been featured in Forbes, VOGUE, Huffington Post, ELLE, WWD, Eco-Age and more. In 2017 it won the Fashion Futures award presented by Decoded Fashion and the British Fashion Council for a collaboration with FIA and ‘Reactive Reality’. 


Sabinna Rachimova graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She worked for Parisian fashion house Christian Dior and London brand Mary Katrantzou. As a double immigrant woman, she is incredibly passionate about inclusivity, equal opportunities and being an opinion leader for the future generation of creatives. 

Sabinna is a public speaker, about both FashTech and sustainable fashion, as well as a consultant for fashion start-ups and education. She lectures at the University of Arts London, on the MA Fashion Entrepreneurship & Innovation course and in 2019, Sabinna was named one of Forbes 30under30 DACH.

Depop is the fashion marketplace for the next generation, offering a platform that is inclusive, diverse and less wasteful – with transformation at it’s heartKnown as an innovator and disruptor in the marketplace themselves Depop are in a prime position to forecast the retail horizon. As a partner in the Fashion District Innovation Challenge Prize, they also have the insight to spot the next generation of retail solutions. What do customers want? How far will our fash-tech propositions satisfy this? And how can we support and develop new interventions that could propel the market?  

Helen Lax, Director of Fashion District, spoke to Remo Gettini, CTO, and Dominic Rose, COO, to glean their insights on the competititon from their market perspective, bearing in mind the current  challenges facing retail.  

Remo is curious and hungry for new advancements – focussed on the big issues that affect the retail environment but also atuned to the motivations and passions that drive SME founders. The central question to answer for Remo, as a Retail Futures 2020 Judge, is how far the fash tech solutions proposed by the applicants could influence and lead the future of retail. His line of enquiry when he is judging the applications is how they imagine they contribute to a new role for retail; 

“What is retail’s new role when brand loyalty shifts to
experiences and communities set fashion trends?”
Remo Gettini, CTO at Depop

For Dominic, being a successful SME is about being able to adapt quickly to changes. And no better time than now to test an start-ups ability on that one, with the landslide of changes coming their way. As a Retail Futures 2020 Critical Friend he will be imparting his industry experience and constructive feedback to the shortlisted applicants as part of the Retail Development panel. What an opportunity! 

Helen Lax: What will you be looking for when you meet the shortlisted SME businesses? 

Dominic Rose: I am looking for teams that have a passion for transforming retail and have developed innovative, practical and commercial solutions to tackle the biggest needs of the changing industry and consumers. 

HL: What do you think will be their key factors for success? 

DR: A clear focus on the problem they are solving rooted in deep user insight and understanding, combined with a tenacious team, a scalable distribution strategy and a differentiated & defendable product. 

HL: Are there any specific challenges the retail environment is currently facing that fashion tech SMEs are well placed to address? 

DR: Almost any challenge faced by the changing industry will be best solved by SMEs who can be agile and adaptive. Consumer behaviour is changing faster than ever and retailers need to keep up. Particularly top of mind right now is sustainability, community, machine learning and digitally integrated supply chains. 

This has got to be both useful and provocative advice to any start-up, willing to listen, who think they have retail’s next evolution. Thank you Depop.  

Petit Pli is based in the Fashion District in one of the new studios at The Trampery Fish Island Village. Ryan has been chatting to businesses thinking of applying for the Forge Fashion business support programme in Waltham Forest about using tech innovation to create sustainability. An unfolding success, the company uses aero-space engineering and design to tackle sustainability and push circularity in the fashion industry. 

LEFT: A demonstration of Petit Pli’s patent pending technology
RIGHT: Ryan Mario Yasin – CEO & Founder of Petit Pli.

Petit Pli is a material innovation and Fash-Tech startup that creates clothes that grow together with children. Imperial College London and Royal College of Art graduate and trained Aeronautical Engineer Ryan Mario Yasin founded London-based Petit Pli in 2017, at the age of 23, while he was still a Global Innovation Design Student, with the vision of designing innovative & sustainable garments for our world’s most extreme athletes: children.

His inspiration came from deployable nano-structure from satellites he worked on at Imperial, as well as his new-born nephew Viggo.

Children are extreme users of fashion, growing through 7 discrete sizes of clothing in their first two years. The design opportunity envisioned by Ryan was to embed to children’s clothing a material that expands bi-directionally to fit little ones aged between 9 months and 4 years. Petit Pli’s rainproof machine washable designs reduce waste, costs & pollution in childrenswear on account of designs being able to grow through 7 discrete sizes, streamlining the manufacturing process.

Combining design and engineering, Petit Pli adopted human centred design principles to draw upon prior research knowledge gained by Ryan at Imperial College London into origami & deployable structures for small cubesat satellites. After much R&D and product testing, Petit Pli’s rainproof, windproof outerwear suits are now available to order. 

Petit Pli’s designs also work to reduce inefficiencies for retailers with respect to inventory size requirements and stock management efficiency. 40% of all e-commerce fashion is returned back to the retailer, the largest pain point being in size-discrepancies. Petit Pli aims to mitigate this inefficiency too to the benefit of retailers and the environment.

Petit Pli contributes to making the fashion industry circular and reduces waste by:

Petit Pli is partnered with UAL’s Centre for Fashion Enterprise Pioneer Programme, of which Bethany Williams is a member. Along with this, Petit Pli has won 11 awards which include Fast Company’s 100 World Changing Ideas, 2019 Red Dot Product Design Award, 2017 UK James Dyson Award and recently beat Google for the 2018 Dezeen Award for Best Wearable Design.

Petit Pli has been working with NB Studio in London to develop a well thought-through brand identity and reusable, recyclable and gamified packaging.

To celebrate the launch of Forge Fashion, the new business support programme in Waltham Forest, Ryan was interviewed by Sarah Thirtle from Creative United UK. You can hear Ryan’s approach to how he grew his innovative brand here.

Sustainability Facts

Social Media

Facebook: @petitpli

Instagram: @petit.pli | Ryan Mario Yasin: @ryanmarioyasin

Hashtags: #petitpli #clothesthatgrow

Visit & purchase:

For more information, please get in touch with the Petit Pli Press team at



Today, Forge Fashion launches, and will help 30 of Waltham Forest’s fashion and textile businesses to thrive sustainably.

Delivered by Creative United in partnership with Waltham Forest Council and The Fashion District, Forge Fashion will provide tailored business support through workshops, one-to-one advice and networking. 

Waltham Forest has a rich heritage of artisans, craft and manufacture. Inspired by this and the urgent need to reduce the negative environmental impact of fast fashion, Waltham Forest Council and the Fashion District have joined forces to make it a place where fashion businesses can thrive. With supportive networks, affordable workspace and business programmes that build resilience and sustainability, we will encourage a connected, diverse and environmentally conscious fashion and textile business community in the borough. 

Forge Fashion forms part of this mission. It will support a mix of new and existing businesses from across the fields of fashion and textiles. Each will gain a better understanding of the strengths in their businesses, the chance to extend their network and create a bespoke action plan for sustainable growth. 

Am I eligible? 

To be eligible for the programme you must: 

The programme starts in October 2020 and will end in December 2020. 

Applications to join the programme are now open

Application deadline: 18 September 2020

How to Apply

More information about Forge Fashion and how to apply is on Creative United’s website: 

The Launch

To celebrate the launch of Forge Fashion, Creative United will be hosting Instagram live events at 7pm each evening on 20, 22, and 24 July, where they will be joined by special guests from across the industry.  Timings below:

Each event will start promptly at 7pm. There will also be time for our audience to ask questions to the guests in a live Q&A and to find out more about the Forge Fashion programme. 

#ForgeFashion Instagram Live will be here: @CreativeUnitedUK 

A word from the partners

Sarah Thirtle, the Director of Business Support Programmes at Creative United, said: 

“Building on the successes of our popular business support programme for creative enterprises in Blackhorse Lane – Forge – we are thrilled to be working closely again with Waltham Forest Council on Forge Fashion, and with new partner the Fashion District. 

Enabling businesses to grow, instilling confidence in the people that run them and enhancing the positive social benefits of creative enterprise are at the core of Creative United’s purpose. That’s why, at the heart of Forge Fashion, is the goal to build the skills and capabilities in the borough’s fashion and textile designers and makers so they can become leaders in sustainable business practices.” 

Councillor Simon Miller, Member for Economic Growth and Housing Development at Waltham Forest Council said: 

“We recognise that our borough is home to a diverse number of creatives and small businesses, and we value their innovative, thoughtful and engaging contributions to our community. It is with great enthusiasm that we are launching the Forge Fashion programme with Creative United and the Fashion District, from London College of Fashion UAL, further strengthening our Borough of Culture legacy. 

Our hope is that this initiative will provide local designers with the support needed to thrive, and to shine light on important industry issues such as environmental sustainability. As the programme progresses, we will be eager to see how it inspires and facilitates growth within our local fashion economy.”

Helen Lax, Director of The Fashion District, said: 

“Waltham Forest is alive with creative fashion businesses, emerging and established, that together create a unique fashion story for the Borough. Working with Waltham Forest Council and Creative United, Fashion District is committed to supporting their business development and working towards the ambition of building a connected, diverse and resilient fashion sector to bring innovation and sustainable change to the industry.”

SME R&D Support Programme – Funding Call Round 2

The Business of Fashion, Textiles & Technology (BFTT) SME R&D Support Programme is open for Expressions of Interest (EOI).

Image Source: Crowdsourcing creative platform, “Chasing Clouds”  ©AWAYTOMARS Ltd, Photograph by Gleeson Paulino 

£1.5m available to invest in your transformative ideas. 

The fashion, textiles and technology related sector (FTT) is buoyant, innovative and multidisciplinary, informing many adjacent sectors in the wider industry. Quite literally, spanning agriculture to advertising.

This funding call is looking to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the development of the next generation of products, services and experiences in the fashion, textiles and technology sectors – with sustainable innovation at their core.

SMEs, with or without associated industry partners, that are already working at the developmental stages of testing an innovative product, service or concept prototype are eligible to apply. R&D projects may also be at an earlier scoping stage (pre-prototyping). In both cases, for the project to be successful, itwould benefit from specialist support across a range of fields that could be provided

by the BFTT partnership, including: new materials design & development; application of less accessible and cutting-edge technologies; novel applications of digital technologies; business model innovation.

We look forward to hearing from FTT companies, and those in the wider STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts andMathematics) fields interested in collaboratingwith the FTT sector- who would like to achieve a step-change in their business trajectory.

You can find more information about the programme, including eligibility, selection criteria, core funding themes and key dates here. We are also keeping an up-to-date list of FAQs.

Who should apply?

Why apply?

You have until 7 September 2020 to submit your Expression of Interest.

You can learn more about the 10 R&D projects funded during the Funding Call Round 1 here.


The experience of the Fashion District Innovation Challenge Prize, the benefit to start-ups, and a few words of advice for this year’s competitors.

From left to right: Lindsay Fisher, Co-Founder at Sparkbox | Joanna Chen, Chief Executive Officer at Gibbon | Taylor Semelberger, Founder at Miro Solutions UK


So what happened to the three start-ups from the Fashion District Innovation Challenge Prize 2019? Helen Lax, Fashion District Director caught up with them and asked them for their perspective on the innovation competition, how it impacted their business and their journey since. 

The competition is for fashion-tech start-ups with innovations that could transform the future of retail, and the range of applications from last year certainly showed that tech start-ups can have a deep and expansive impact on the industry. This year, there is even more of a need for fresh tech approaches to solve real industry issues. 

Lindsay Fisher from Sparkbox was the winner of 2019, with Joanna Chen from Gibbon and Taylor Semelberger from Miro Solutions joint runners up. Together they have painted out the advantages that the competition can bring, from spending time with the Fashion District Critical Friends, to exposure to investors, alongside a cash injection and insights advice to help them along the way. 

I highly recommend Retail Futures to all retail tech and fashion tech start-ups – everyone should apply!”.

Lindsay Fisher, Sparkbox, 1st prize winner of Retail Futures 2019

HELEN LAX: What difference did being a winner of Retail Futures 2019 make to your start-up?

LINDSAY FISHER: Winning Retail Futures in 2019 accelerated Sparkbox’s growth. The competition was a fantastic opportunity to showcase what we’ve built, to grow our network, and to get valuable feedback from retailers, industry experts, and investors. After the competition we raised investment, won Tech Nation’s Rising Stars competition, and our founders made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for 2020. This year, we’re continuing to help our fashion clients maximise the value of their inventory and we’ve built an exciting new product based partially on feedback from Retail Futures “Critical Friends”!

JOANNA CHEN: Winning brought awareness to the company due to the large network from Retail Futures and Fashion District. It opened many doors and brought initial discussions with many fashion stakeholders subsequently.  We are also very thankful to be able to be selected as finalist, and also awarded as the runner up amongst many outstanding innovative firms. This recognition from the panels who are veteran in the fashion industry serves as a constant drive and motivator for the company to progress further.

TAYLOR SEMELSBERGER: The Retail Futures competition brings together the most impressive players in the fashion and tech industry. I think this category is one that’s rich with opportunity for innovation and competitions like this are going to play an integral part in building the future of fashion. Since winning, we’ve had the opportunity to pitch enterprise brands as well as major players in the venture capital space. Most importantly, we’ve grown our team of 3 to a team of 9 and are fast approaching our commercial launch date. 

HELEN: What was the most useful part of the innovation challenge prize for you?

LINDSAY: We were bootstrapping when we won Retail Futures, so the cash prize was especially impactful for us. We used it to make a key hire earlier than planned, and she has boosted our pace of product development at a critical time. Beyond the prizes, the “Critical Friends” sessions were really helpful – they gave us the chance to refine our pitch and gather feedback on our product and value proposition.  

JOANNA: The prize money is definitely an encouraging push and support which is often helpful to startups. However we found the subsequent network and engagement that came from the event to be helpful in building a network and presence in the fashion industry.  

TAYLOR: The Critical Friends day was one of the most important things Miro did last year. We were able to get feedback from industry experts on several key aspects of the business, from software deployment to cost per user. These conversations have specifically influenced the decisions we’ve made over the past 6 months and I’m proud to say that it’s led us to a commercially viable product that our retailers are excited about.  

HELEN: What would be your words of advice to start-ups entering Retail Futures this year?

LINDSAY: Last year’s competition included a wide range of start-ups – from pre-revenue with a promising product to more established and funded companies. I’d highly recommend Retail Futures to all retail tech and fashion tech start-ups – everyone should apply!

JOANNA: Embrace the event with an open mind and heart. Build as many relationships as you can during the event. And of course, have fun!

TAYLOR: Miro is a unique company in that we’ve bootstrapped the entire development by building a strong network of stakeholders. I think that the judges saw the passion we have as a team to take this to market, despite lack of formal funding that’s often seen in SaaS companies. I think articulating our plans for success, as well as acknowledging our weak points was key in persuading the judges. 

About Gibbon: Gibbon is a sustainable rental platform for travellers so they can travel light, fuss-free and in style

About Miro Solutions UK: Miro is an e-commerce solution that uses Augmented Reality to digitise in-store shopping. Our proprietary software provides footwear retailers with a solution to increase positive customer experiences online, reduce physical returns, and provide data for hyper-accurate merchandise planning.

About Sparkbox: Sparkbox helps fashion retailers sell more inventory more profitably by optimising pricing and trading decisions, using machine learning to understand customer demand and make pricing recommendations that are tailored to business goals.



Katie Baron, Director of Brand Engagement at Stylus and one
of Retail Futures 2020 Critical Friends

There is no doubt that COVID 19 has brought unprecedented challenge to the retail industry, prompting a feeling of ‘reset and rethink’. In many ways Retail Futures 2020, the Fashion District Innovation Challenge Prize, couldn’t be happening at a more relevant time. The competition, for fashion-tech start-ups with innovations that could transform the future of retail, is also a window of opportunity for both the start-ups and retailers. Unearthing the founders and bringing them together with industry experts, Critical Friends, will allow them to test the potential and explore the application of their ideas, possibly resulting in a wave of new thinking. 

Stylus, are the trends partner for Retail Futures 2020, and they are offering the winner a 12 month membership of providing access to essential cross-industry consumer insights and free entry to Decoded Future London. Fashion District Director, Helen Lax, asked Katie Baron, Director of Brand Engagement at Stylus and also one of the competition’s Critical Friends, about her expectations of the applicants, especially in the context of the current retail environment. 

With lockdown raising anxieties about the
physical brand environment there are also numerous
opportunities to elevate the way technology is used in-store to
add practical, personal or theatrical value”.

Katie Baron

HELEN LAX: What will you be looking for when you meet the shortlisted SME businesses? 

KATIE BARON: Either originality – a totally new ‘product’ or initiative that’s responding to new appetites – or something that improves, evolves or perfects existing genres (such as virtual fit, to name just one) by embedding new tech, connectivity or interfaces etc. that acknowledge the user’s perspective more deeply. 

I’ll be looking for people that have observed how consumer attitudes and behaviours have shifted over the last year or so – in retail but also in wider terms as regards how people are now consuming, engaging with brands or indeed interacting with one another within retail or social media, to ensure that their idea genuinely responds to the prevailing mood and needs.

I’m also most excited by people who are willing to consider collaborative partnerships, including those with sectors beyond retail, that may be the key to unlocking their idea in full. This is equally true regardless of whether the tech is consumer-facing or more operationally focused. We often see decent ideas that become great when a pivot or partnership is suggested.

HELEN: What do you think will be their key factors for success?

KATIE: It’s important that the idea can really hold its own – that it’s something that has the capacity to be evolved by the team that has devised it and won’t become usurped or could simply be replicated by a brand’s in-house team in a couple of months. Understanding how the idea may be freshly iterated is key, alongside a degree of agility to cope with a landscape that’s constantly in flux. 

The ideas need to have a very clear benefit to either brands or consumers. This may sound obvious, but we sometimes see some very clever uses of or development of technologies that are largely irrelevant in terms of real-world usage. 

An idea that’s possible to deploy at scale is also likely to be key.

HELEN: What challenges facing the industry can fashion tech SMEs address?

KATIE: While lockdown has been great in terms of spurring a huge uptick in digital engagement it’s also shone a spotlight on how lacklustre many digital brand experiences really are, how poor many brand omni-channel strategies are and the soaring need to reimagine data to ensure relevancy online.  There is now a brilliant opportunity to dive into those spaces and make a massive difference. 

On a practical level for fashion brands there are also numerous issues including virtual fit and product trialling/testing, sensory engagement, how to deal with overstocks, connecting online search to physical spaces, how to navigate and embrace online communities. Delivering retail tech that serves to better humanise the brand experience is another excellent area to address. 

With lockdown raising anxieties about the physical brand environment there are also numerous opportunities to elevate the way technology is used in-store to add practical, personal or theatrical value – from pre-booking concierge tools to zero-touch technologies that will maintain top tier experiential concepts while still in ‘safe social’ mode.

HELEN: What is your advice to a growing retail tech SME in this time of COVID 19? 

KATIE: Feel optimistic about having hit a highly unusual period in time where consumers’ affinity with technology has never been higher. The key is to look at which areas of retail have experienced an acceleration since Covid-19 struck, and why, and draw on those appetites.