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Fashion District Highlights 2018 – 2019


“Fashion District successfully launched on September 10th 2018, bringing together a founding 18 partners with a joint vision to make London the global capital of fashion technology and innovation. Together, we will nurture talent to create new jobs and innovative products. We will drive economic and social transformation, and create a legacy to be proud of.
This short paper provides a snapshot of Fashion District’s main achievements in its first year and an overview of future plans for we hope, with your support, it can go next.”
Helen Lax, Director, Fashion District


2018 – 2019 Snapshot: A Year in Numbers

2 Innovation Challenge Prizes Launched

A Schools Innovation Challenge launched this year focused around “A Store of the Future” alongside a Retail Futures Innovation Challenge Prize for industry.

Over 1000 attendees to 11 Fashion District events held this year

64 Applications from London start-ups seeking to revolutionise retail as we know it to the Retail Futures: Fashion District Innovation Challenge Prize 2019, sponsored by Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.

9 Finalists selected by a panel from Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, John Lewis, Farfetch, True, and Fashion Innovation Agency to pitch in the finals and receive bespoke business support from industry experts at a “Critical Friends” day.

£25,000 worth of cash prizes awarded to Sparkbox (1stPrize), GIBBON & Miro Solutions (Joint 2ndPrize) at the Fashion District Innovation Awards & Investor Supper as winners of the Retail Futures: Innovation Challenge Prize 2019.

4 Fashion District sites completed ArbeitStudios Leyton Green launched this year alongside Phase 1 of The TramperyFish Island Village, the FashionCapital: Tailoring Academy at Fashion-Enter, and Poplar Works by Poplar HARCA.

11,500Sq ft of fully equipped manufacturing space to teach up to level 7 apprenticeships at the Tailoring Academy.

66 studios are currently available across the three Fashion District workspace sites, with more to come in the next phase of The TramperyFish Island Village.

2019 Fashion District Highlights

Since our official launch on September 10th 2018 at Christopher Raeburn’s studio in The Textile Building in Hackney, Fashion District has spent the first year growing its community.

Across our five workstreams, we have piloted events and projects to build our networks in fashion design, retail, manufacturing, tech, investor, business incubation, property, and public/third sector communities.

This year has also seen physical milestones in the development of four Fashion District spaces, and the successful launch of an industry and schools innovation challenge prize, themed around retail innovation.


Fashion District Industry Supper

In May 2019, over 80 members of the fashion, manufacturing, tech, public, and property sector joined us for the first Fashion District Industry Supper held at The Boundary Project, Shoreditch.

There was great spirit and support for the Fashion District throughout the event, with speeches from:

• Frances Corner, former Head of London College of Fashion, Pro-Vice Chancellor of UAL
• Adam Mansell, CEO, UKFT
• Nick Keyte, CEO, Gieves& Hawkes
• Jamie Gill, CEO, Roksanda
• Helen Lax, Director, Fashion District

Image Description: Women sit around a round table at a Fashion District event, they are listening to a speech and looking towards the speaker who is out of shot.


Image Description: A full crowd is seated. They are clapping.


The Fashion District Innovation Challenge Prizes are designed to find solutions to current industry issues, develop new innovations, support SMEs.

Sponsored by Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, this year’s theme focused on “Retail Futures”, hoping to uncover and support businesses with ideas that could change the way we shop in the future, and revolutionise any part of the retail supply chain. Over 120 start-ups attended the launch event held at Workable, Lendlease’s new workspace at IQL Stratford.

Over 60 fashion & retail tech start-ups applied for a chance to pitch their business as the next disruption in retail to heads of industry, and win a £15,000 cash prize & Stylus membership.

From AI personal stylists, smart-fit software, price optimisation, and loyalty solutions, nine disrupters in retail were selected as the start-up finalists: Duel, Loyalize, Gibbon, Intelistyle, Miro Solutions, SKMMP, Smartzer, Sparkbox, Superpersonal.

Image Description: Critical Friends and the Fashion District team stand together for a photo at the awards supper.

Start ups were invited to a “critical friends” day to receive feedback from industry specialists ahead of pitching their business in the finals to the judging panel: Myf Ryan, Chief
Marketing Officer, UnibailRodamco-Westfield, Carol Hilsum, Director of Innovation at Farfetch, Richard Bonner, Head of Development, John Lewis & Partners, Carien Beyer, Innovation Programme Manager, True and Matthew Drinkwater, Head of Fashion Innovation Agency, London College of Fashion, UAL.

Lindsay Fisher was awarded the prize with a £15,000 to invest into their company Sparkbox; a service that reduces stock, improves profitability, and helps retailers avoid over-discounting by optimising their pricing at the product level. Sparkbox also won a 12-month membership with trends partner Stylus who provide essential consumer insight into the industry.

After seeing such a high quality of entries across the board, two additional runners-up prizes were awarded to Joanna Chen from Gibbon and Taylor Semelsberger from Miro Solutions who were each given a £5,000 cash prize.



Communicating Fashion Careers


Sponsored by Unibail-RodamcoWestfield, a school’s innovation challenge prize was run this summer, challenging school children aged 8 – 14 years old to develop their own retail concept for a “Store of the Future”.

Image Description: A headshot of Gavin Williams from Farfetch. Gavin is a white man with brown hair and a salt and pepper beard. He wears rectangular glasses with thick dark frames.

Developed in collaboration with London College of Fashion, UAL and London Legacy Development Corporation, the competition was designed to stimulate creative thinking, develop teamwork, problem-solving & digital skills, and introduce students to new tech concepts and areas in fashion. Schools could win cash prizes totaling £5,000 input back into the creative curriculum.

Image Description: A big group of school children and their teachers smile for the camera, many of them have their arms in the air in celebration.

Resources were developed to support teachers undertaking the competition including a challenge pack which featured lesson plans, resource links and a video to use in the classroom with industry experts explaining AI, Blockchain & retail technologies.

Developing Talent Pipelines


Over 50 members of industry joined us at a consultation event at The Stratford hotel in July to shape an employability programme that will provide the fashion industry with a pipeline of young, local, diverse creative talent for entry-level head office & digital roles.

Image Description: A woman speaks to a seated crowd. The woman is black and wears an orange long-sleeved top, we see her from behind as she faces the audience.

Matches, Farfetch, Ralph Lauren, Pentlandwere amongst the mix in attendance to discuss how we as an industry can nurture young east Londoners, stimulated by insights from Sarah May-Brown, Commercial Director, Christopher Kane.

The event, run in collaboration with LLDC and a New Direction, provided great insights into key areas and skillsets to focus on in the development of the “STEP into Fashion” Pilot Programme.

Delivered across three pathways, Commercial, Image & Product, the shared internship programme will provide bright young stars from under-represented and disadvantaged communities access to a career in fashion. Paid the London Living Wage they will take on multiple roles in different organisations, as well as participate in master-classes, mentoring and a peer group project.

For companies, the programme will help them to improve diversity & inclusivity, and build a local recruitment pipeline for in-demand roles.

Enterprise & Business Support


The Trampery launched its Sustainable Fashion Accelerator this year, a bespoke support programme designed to tackle the obstacles facing emerging fashion labels in London.

With an intricate focus on integrating sustainability at startup stage, the course is led by Vanessa Podmore, an independent expert in global supply chain and sustainability initiatives (Burberry, Coach, Jimmy Choo) and Tom Farrand, a leading mentor and coach focused on circular economy and sustainability (Nike, Ikea).

The six-month programme will run over the next three years, supporting over thirty founders to sustainably develop their workforce and their brand, and is funded by the London Legacy Development Corporation.



The London Fashion Fund officially opened to applications in July during the Retail Futures launch event held in Workable, Stratford.

The fund has currently received over 150 applications and is in its second round of investment. By April, LFF will have levered vital
funds from other private investors to boost the growth of ten promising London start-ups.

Image Description: A speaker talks to a crowd, she holds a microphone and wears a navy blue jumper with navy blue trousers.


In conjunction with the awards for Retail Futures, Fashion District held an Investor Supper at The Stratford in November.

The event convened over 90 influential members of the investor, fashion, retail, tech community, connecting London’s most innovative start-ups with opportunities for investment and growth.

Image Description: Three women chat at the investor supper at The Stratford.

The purpose of the event was also to build an investor pipeline from pre-seed to series and profile the potential of Fashion to the wider London investment sector.



Building a legacy for the London Borough of Culture, Fashion District has been working closely with the Waltham Forest Council and London College of Fashion, UAL to drive the long-term development of the local fashion industry.

A New Direction was commissioned to create a framework for the joint vision. Through workshops and consultation with local industry, education and community groups, we explored what was needed to support businesses to thrive and talent to flourish.

The resulting Partnership Plan has three crucial priorities:


Communicating Waltham Forest’s reputation and unique talents in Fashion, attracting new makers to the borough and building the community of existing makers and businesses.


Supporting local businesses & makers by creating opportunities for networking, training, access to funding, & promoting sustainability and new approaches to making and selling.

Image Description: A woman works on her laptop at a high bench in the window of a cafe. There are several plants in the window in front of her.

Image Description: A garment with intricate embellishment.


Promoting access to advice and skills development to promote creative careers across the education system and inspire the
next generation of talent.

Image Description: A crowd mingles inside Leyton Green Studios.


Arbeit Studios Leyton Green was the first Fashion District workspace to launch in October 2019 in collaboration with Waltham Forest Council & London College of Fashion, UAL. Converting a former supermarket into 13 affordable fashion studios for local makers, it is now a hub for business support, local networks and community activity.

Image Description: A large white neon sign is shown in a window, there is a crowd gathered inside below the sign.


Fashion Enter & Haringey Council launched the fully equipped 11,500 sq ft Tailoring Academy this November. Speakers included Nick Beighton, CEO of, Debbie Jackson, Greater London Authority, and Jenny Holloway, CEO, Fashion Enter. The Academy will create 50 jobs, and offer apprenticeships in Tailoring, working with industry (inc. the Savile Row Bespoke Association) to provide the next generation of talent. N17 Creative Callings skills programme was also launched at the event.

Image Description: Poplar Works is seen from the outside.


Poplar HARCA has completed the construction of over 40 colourful and affordable studios for fashion creatives. Poplar
Works is currently open to applications ahead of its official launch in early 2020. London College of Fashion, UAL has also
selected seven London designers to incubate within their spaces in the development. Additionally their Making for Change Manufacturing Unit will provide training programmes with Newham College to upskill local people.

Image Description: A view into The Trampery Fish Island Village – studio space is seen through the glass doors.


The first residents of The Trampery Fish Island Village have moved in, as Phase 1 (of 2) prepares for opening in early 2020. Once complete, it will be the largest campus in Europe for sustainable fashion offering over 50,000 sq ft of space.

What's Next for Fashion District?

What’s next?


  • Continue to build a sustainable ecosystem for fashion innovation, maintaining a 360° approach across the industry creating purposeful interactions by partnerships and connections.
  • Roll out The Beat, the Fashion District Annual Programme to aid the development of each workstream (see next page for indicative programme).
  • Explore strategic alignment between Fashion District partners’ objectives to understand how Fashion District’s developments can fit with partners’ ambitions and how Fashion District can create value for its stakeholders.
  • Recruit new Fashion District partners that add value to advocacy, resources, insights and delivery.


An element of Fashion District’s success to date has been interventions aligned with the rising importance of the creative industries in delivering Good Growth, the Industrial Strategy and enterprise and skills agendas. To maximise current interest Fashion District seeks to:

  • Increase communication tools to deliver key messaging to politicians, government and the public sector.
  •  Support borough plans to deliver their community and economic agendas.
  •  Tap into regional and national funding and resource opportunities that target relevant policy developments.


Now that the Fashion District has launched and is operational, it is time to increase industry representation to maintain relevance and drive strategic direction.
Fashion District seeks to:

  • Appoint a new Fashion District chair from the fashion industry.
  • Actively engage and recruit key fashion and tech industry advocates & partners from across the supply chain.
  • Build industry collaborations & projects to increase impact.


  • Explore the creation of a space brokerage service between councils, developers, workspace providers and prospective tenants to grow the Fashion District community.
  • Create a digital platform to digitize the co-ordinating function of the Fashion District team to grow and self-serve the Fashion District community.
  • Measure the impact to demonstrate the results of the combined interventions of Fashion District partners and the associated social and economic benefits of the clustering effect.
  • Establish an independent organisation in order to create revenue and achieve growth and establish Fashion District as a significant fashion tech hub and innovation leader.

Fashion District Annual Beat


FEB – Stakeholder Board

MAR – Manufacturers Network Event & Stakeholder Forum

APR – Space Network Event

MAY –  Collaborative Industry Project, Innovation Challenge Launch & Industry Supper

JUNE – Stakeholder Board & Step into Fashion Shared Internships Annual Intake



SEP – Space Network Event

OCT – Innovation Awards & Investment Supper

NOV – Collaborative Industry Project & Manufacturers Network Event

DEC – Stakeholder Forum & Emerging Makers Programme Annual Intake

This programme is indicative and subject to relevant partnerships & funding. The programme will also incorporate events with key Fashion District partners e.g. Poplar Works & Trampery FIV launches