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