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Manufacturing Futures 2024 kicks off with Critical Friends Day at Plexal

Last week, we gathered our 10 shortlisted businesses at Plexal’s Innovation Centre for Critical Friends Day, officially launching our 2024 programme.

Taking over the spacious venue, the day was meticulously organised for our 10 shortlisted businesses – Arda Materials, Fibe, Fab Materials, Oxford Biopigments, TRUSS, Sequinova, Zori Tex, Fiiba, PACT, and The Seam – to present their businesses to industry experts and receive valuable feedback ahead of their final presentation to the judges.


Our Expert Lineup:

Manufacturing Innovation and Sustainability

Manufacturing Production

Investment Insights

Marketing Insights

Business Growth and IP

Empowered by real-time feedback on their businesses, many of the startups left with actionable steps outlined by the critical friends to help elevate their growth. Throughout the day, breaks in the timetable provided ample opportunities for the businesses to get to know each other, fostering the exchange of ideas, opportunities, and mutual support.

Fuelled by the high energy in the room, the day proved to be a resounding success, leaving our shortlisted businesses eagerly anticipating our upcoming event, the Development Day on 30th May. Closing the event, the startups were given the opportunity to offer feedback about their experience. Woody Lello, CEO of TRUSS, spoke on behalf of them all, saying, ‘It was a really fun day!’ 


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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.


Want to stay informed about the latest developments in the Evo Fashion programme? Subscribe to the Evo Fashion newsletter: 

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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Come to the launch of our new Innovation Challenge: Manufacturing Futures 2024

Thursday 8 Feb | 18:00 – 20:30
The Ballroom, The Trampery, 239 Old Street, London, EC1V 9EY

We’re delighted to announce the launch of our next innovation challenge Manufacturing Futures 2024, hosted in partnership with The Trampery, a purpose-led enterprise providing workspace, training and management for London’s trailblazing businesses. Join us on 8th February to find out more about next year’s challenge, hear from leading figures in fashion sustainability, and network with London’s fashion, tech and innovation communities.

To help us launch the challenge, we’ll be hearing from Lauren Bartley, Chief Sustainability Officer at GANNI and Jen Keane, CEO of Modern Synthesis, one of our Manufacturing Futures 2021 winners. Lauren will present a keynote on embedding innovative sustainable solutions into a large brand, followed by a discussion with Jen about how the GANNI x Modern Synthesis partnership came about.

Afterwards, we’ll launch next year’s challenge brief, followed by a ‘meet the judges’ panel, where attendees will get the opportunity to learn more about our judges and find out their criteria for selecting the winners. The evening will conclude with networking, drinks and nibbles.

Agenda:

About The Challenge

Fashion District’s annual Innovation Challenges are designed to find solutions to current industry issues, while supporting new innovations and SMEs. Next year, we’re running our second ‘Manufacturing Futures’ challenge, to support technological innovations and sustainable solutions which are solving any of the complex fashion manufacturing challenges facing the industry. This could include anything from:

We also seek to encourage tech solutions, perhaps from other sectors, that could be applied to fashion manufacturing and create interdisciplinary connections between technologists and engineers, and fashion creatives and manufacturers.

Applicants will be in with the chance of winning cash prizes, business support, and the opportunity to pitch to some of the industry’s leading brands and innovators.


MEET OUR JUDGES

Manufacturing Futures 2024 brings together high-profile fashion, technology and sustainability experts committed to supporting the next wave of innovation. Come along to the launch to hear from our esteemed judging panel, including:

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Evo Fashion Launch at The Trampery, Fish Island Village

Last week we launched Evo Fashion, our free five-month business support programme that will be running throughout 2024.

Taking place at The Trampery Fish Island Village, the event offered attendees the chance to hear from industry experts, learn more about the Evo Fashion programme and network with London’s sustainable fashion community over drinks and delicious canapés from Palm Greens.

Speaking to the crowd, Helen Lax, Director of Fashion District, said ‘We are looking forward to the next evolution of fashion and the power of fashion designers and fashion technology businesses who are thinking about embedding sustainability into all of their business practices.’

The programme, which is part of the Grow London Early Stage programme by London & Partners, and funded by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, is designed to help early stage fashion businesses drive growth and integrate sustainability into every aspect of their businesses.

Image credit: Christian Sinibaldi

Evo Fashion in Action

Kicking off the event, Safia Minney, Founder of Fashion Declares, took to the stage with Debbie Luffman, Director of Think Circular, and Ngoni Chikwenengere, Founder of We Are KIN, for the ‘Evo Fashion in Action’ conversation. 

Giving context to the need for sustainable innovations, Safia spoke about fashion’s impact on climate ecosystems. ‘We all know that overconsumption is driving a desperate situation. Currently, five percent of greenhouse gas emissions are said to be produced by the fashion and textile industry. That’s set to increase to twenty-five percent by 2050. We can’t let that happen. Fashion needs to move now.’ 

Talking about the ethical and sustainable practices she uses in her clothing brand, We Are KIN, Ngoni Chikwenengere told the audience, ‘One of the first things I wrote down when writing my business plan was my mission statement: ‘people and planet over profit.’ That’s my ethos and it’s what the entire brand is built on.’ Since launching five years ago, Ngoni is still staying true to her brand’s message with all of her clothes being manufactured in East London. ‘I want to know exactly what’s going on so I often drop by the factory because I want to see the conditions people are working in. The people who work there are paid a living wage, they look happy and the environment is clean. In terms of the fabrics, the cotton, linen, and wool are all sourced in the UK. We also use deadstock fabrics.’ 

When asked for her tips on securing deadstock fabric, Ngoni said, ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get. It’s important to talk to people and ask lots of questions.’ 

Debbie Luffman, Director of Think Circular, echoed the same sentiment. ‘To become fully sustainable as a brand you have to ask questions and refuse to settle for anything less.’ 

‘Change in our industry needs to be louder, because the larger organisations are listening – they really are well aware of the issues – but it can be harder for them to change. That’s why I say don’t rush to be a professional outfit too soon. This is your moment to get things right from the beginning stages of your brand and think about embedding sustainability into every aspect of your business, which many big brands are struggling with now.’ 

Afterwards the floor opened to questions, with one audience member asking whether consumers were ready for change. ‘Consumers are definitely ready,’ Ngoni said. ‘Shoppers love being at the forefront of innovation. If someone is offering you something new, shiny and sustainable or the same old thing, we all know we would choose the first option. Last November, I sold 800 units in one month, all made to order. The demand is there.’  

Debbie said, ‘I think you have to think about the way you make your customer feel. I’m not sure if they care about fabric if I’m really honest with you, but how does it make them feel? Your job is storytelling. Tell the story. Where did it come from? What’s the provenance? What’s it going to do for them? That’s the narrative.’ 

Another audience member asked whether the panel thought there was competition between small sustainable fashion brands which creates contradiction when setting out to build a better planet. ‘If you share the same value models then you shouldn’t be in competition,’ Debbie answered. ‘In my opinion, IP doesn’t make sense anymore. We should have open source material that’s shared and serves each other. Different brand identities is the creative difference. I think we need to unpack the word ‘sustainable’ and have that open source collaborative mentality to break down those boundaries. You need to build opportunities where you both win.’ 

Introduction to Evo Fashion

Next up, Helen Lax took to the stage to present a comprehensive overview of the Evo Fashion programme. ‘There will be two programmes running throughout the year,’ explained Helen, ‘the first for fashion designers and the second for fashion technology businesses. Both are tailored to support innovation across the different subsectors of fashion.’ 

Designed to fit in with work commitments and delivered by experts, the programme will consist of a two-day intensive launchpad and four full-day masterclasses which will focus on different aspects of learning, including environmental and social governance, exploring new business models, production and innovation, sustainable growth and investment, finance and business planning, and founder wellbeing, leadership and impactful teams. Peppered in amongst the sessions and masterclasses, 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 Fashion District’s Manufacturing Futures 2024 Industry Showcase to a room full of investors, brands, startups and innovators. 

‘In terms of eligibility, 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. ‘We have to be able to tell from the application that you want to grow. By this I mean, growing to the scale that you want to grow to in the way that you want to grow. We want to see that you’ve got the ambition to make your business work and succeed sustainably and financially.’ 

With an incredible selection panel for the first cohort, including Vanessa Podmore, Founder of Podmore Consulting; Yvie Hutton, Director of Design Relations and Membership at the British Fashion Council; Charles Armstrong, CEO of The Trampery, and Helen Lax, Director of Fashion District, applications opened last Wednesday and will close at midnight on 18th January 2024

Closing the event, Deborah Latouche, founder of luxury modest wear brand SABIRAH, joined Helen on stage to discuss her experience of our previous sustainable accelerator programme. ‘Despite being held during the pandemic, the programme was really great,’ said Deborah. ‘It solidified for me a lot of the things I was already thinking about. I had always questioned the wholesale model, and so after doing the course I knew it was right for my brand to continue being demi-couture – made to order, made to measure. The fabrics are also all predominately end of life too.’ 

Speaking about her experience with Vanessa Podmore, who will be one of the Evo Fashion mentors next year, Deborah said, ‘My 1-2-1 masterclass with Vanessa was mind-blowing. She has a world of knowledge and I definitely think the course is well worth applying for.’

Are you ready to take your business to the next level? Applications for Evo Fashion are now open!

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All images by Christian Sinibaldi

Apply Now: The Trampery Fish Island Village Fashion Studios

On July 26th, creative workspace specialist The Trampery and the Fashion District held a studio preview and launch event for applications to be one of the first 23 residents of the fashion studios at Fish Island Village​.

The project aims to bring together London’s hottest fashion businesses, ranging from luxury labels to disruptive software platforms, and provide everything needed to help them grow. Running alongside the canal in Hackney Wick, the 50,000 sq ft campus is perfectly in located one of London’s most important hotspots for the creative industries, offering fast transport links and the vast creative community that east London offers.

Charles Armstrong, Founder & CEO of The Trampery, said:

“Fashion is emerging as one of London’s most important sectors. It thrives on the city’s diversity, creativity and inter-connectedness with the world. With The Trampery Fish Island Village we’re taking the vision to the next level, creating an amazing new campus for fashion innovators. Through Fashion District we’re also part of a much greater endeavour to turbo-charge London’s fashion economy. I hope fashion labels and startups of all kinds will submit applications and join us on this great adventure.”

The campus comprises of 11 buildings over 6 acres, and features high-spec studios, a fully-equipped sampling suite, a co-working facility, a members lounge plus venues for sample sales and catwalk shows. A range of on-site business support and advisory services will be available free of charge to businesses, made possible by funding from the London Legacy Development Corporation. Across the entire site, 25 percent of the studios will be prioritised for people from under-represented communities including ethnic minorities and disabled entrepreneurs.

The project has also received support from the European Regional Development Fund and the Mayor of London, and is a part of the Fashion District. Frances Corner, Chair of Fashion District and Head of London College of Fashion (UAL), said:

“A vital facility within the Fashion District, the studios at The Trampery Fish Island Village are a real opportunity for talented designers to flourish inspired by the creativity of Hackney Wick. Housed within purpose built studios and with access to practical business support, they will have great conditions in which to create their best work and expand their labels. In 2022, London College of Fashion UAL will be just a stone’s throw away as part of the Mayor’s East Bank vision on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Together, this will create a hotbed of fashion innovation that will bring opportunities to learn and work, attracting new businesses, supporting local people and growing our industry.”

The wider Fish Island Village scheme is a unique collaboration between social housing provider Peabody, The Trampery, and top 20 UK housebuilder Hill. Interested high-growth fashion businesses can apply online at: thetrampery.com/fishislandvillage