July 1, 2015 

Sustainability: Grow a Garment

Not many of us know where the garments we buy on a weekly basis were made, let alone what they are made from. To challenge this modern problem, LCF teamed up with Cordwainers Community Garden (whose members use LCF land to grow food crops) and the artist Zoe Burt, to grow and manufacture an item of clothing entirely within London.

Groups and individuals from across London used spare growing spaces, from large communal plots to small balcony pots, to sow flax – the plant from which linen is made – as part of the Grow a Garment project.

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Harvesting flax at Cordwainers Community Garden on LCF’s Mare Street site. Image via UAL News Blog

Urban locations were embraced and the project used the attributes of city living – lots of people and small, disparate areas of land – as an advantage, rather than seeing it as a barrier to sustainability.

Seventeen sites successfully grew flax during spring and summer 2014. The flax was harvested, and community workshops held at LCF and primary schools taught participants to break, scutch, heckle and spin the flax into linen threads.

The linen was eventually designed and knitted into the final garment by LCF students and staff in February 2015. The project took hundreds of hours of labour over an entire year and involved more than 500 people, including primary school children, community groups, growers, craftspeople and LCF staff and students.

The project was created as a way to highlight the environmental and labour costs of growing fibre and to inspire people to connect with the environment. When so much time and labour are invested directly into clothing we are far less likely to throw it away at the first sight of a hole. It teaches us the value of what we wear and encourages us to be sustainable. Sustainable projects like this have the potential to inspire more of us to build the stories of our clothes.

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The finished garment. Image credits: Ryan Saradjola – BA Fashion Photography, Quentin Hubert – MA Fashion Media Production, Ka Hei Law – Hair and Make up for Fashion

 

June 26, 2015 

Fashion & Technology

“Only with technology can you create new things in fashion. Everything else has been done.”

-Hussein Chalayan

Yesterday I took part in a thought-provoking workshop organised by the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, on the subject of how technologies can affect our wellbeing throughout our lives and how they are going to evolve in the future.

There was a particular focus on the rise of our ageing population and interesting statistics suggesting that babies born today can expect to live to around 103 years old.

This is surely going to present society with a new set of challenges which the fashion industry needs to embrace, as it offers huge opportunities.

I was at the event to offer a piece on ‘wearable’ technology.  Fashion always needs to be at the heart of social, political and environmental discussion, as what we wear affects almost all of us and in so many ways. Fashion can and should play a significant part in future technological innovation.

At LCF we have already begun to explore the possibilities of ‘wearable’ technology. Our Digital Anthropology Institute are involved in some key projects that demonstrate the potential for fashion to embrace technology.  Recently, seven MA students created and coded:

-A garment washing system which detects the level of pollution in your clothes and links to your wardrobe and washing machine.

- A performance music jacket which allows remote users to ‘feel’ performances, interact with the performer and participate.

- An artistic interpretation of a puppet which moves to data feeds, and explores notions of privacy in the digital space.

These exciting projects will be launched shortly with accompanying films, which I hope to feature on the blog too.

Richard Nicoll’s Tinker Bell Dress. Image via Fashion Innovation Agency

LCF’s Fashion Innovation Agency (FIA) has also been challenging the boundaries of technology. The FIA were involved in the creation of the Richard Nicoll Tinker Bell dress for his London Fashion Week show in 2014. Made from fibre optic fabric, activated by high intensity LED’s tailored within the dress, it created a magical digital pixie dust effect down the catwalk.

This ultimate, modern take on Tinker Bell and her signature pixie dust gave people a glimmer into the future and possibilities of wearable technology.

The Head of The FIA, Matthew Drinkwater said: “Our work has focused on changing the way that designers make their collections through smart processes and smart materials; changing the way they show those collections at London Fashion Week and ultimately changing how they sell their collections.

“What we have seen is a huge gap between designers with traditional making skills and coders/engineers with little knowledge of the fashion industry. It has been our aim to be a bridge between those areas and bring the two industries together.”

Bringing technologists and designers together to work alongside each other will be crucial in making further advances.

He says: “Collaboration remains key but even more so would be the idea of co-creation. Our greatest success was with the Tinkerbell dress where we had pattern cutters and coders/engineers working together in the same room. If we can bring the industries together under the same roof then we will begin to see genuine change in the wearables market.”

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Professor Storey’s ‘Catalytic Clothing’ project. Image via UAL News Blog

Not only collaboration but also multi-skill development will be important. If our designers are aware of technological processes like coding, future collaboration can only be more effective. Our students can be inspired by the work of Professor Helen Storey, Professor of Fashion and Science at LCF. Her pioneering work over the last decade has brought the worlds of art and science together, producing hybrid projects such as her “Catalytic Clothing” which aims to purify the air around us, and products that have broken new and award winning ground.

It is certainly time for the arts and science to work together more closely to produce technological innovations which can support our future social challenges.

June 24, 2015 

Sustainability: Teaching and Learning

London College of Fashion has been working to integrate sustainability across the areas of learning, teaching and research. This is taking place through our Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF), formal curriculum, informal extracurricular and learning activities, and via collaborations with partners – including the recent five year partnership with Kering to offer yearly awards, paid internships, and co-created validated curriculum which is a major step forward in sustainability education.

Sustainability content is exciting, relevant, useful, and supports employability in an educational context. At LCF we are guided by our core Better Lives values which sets the scene for the way we teach, learn and conduct research. Due to the dynamic nature of sustainability, education and fashion, this will never be ‘completed’ but a continuous journey towards this goal.

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Image by Fiona Bailey for CSF’s Local Wisdom project.

A large number of staff have worked to integrate sustainability into courses/activities with students, staff and collaborators. This is an organic, grass roots growth of sustainability in the curriculum, clearly a key area where integration of sustainability is essential in order to equip our graduates to take their skills, knowledge and experience and change industry for the better. Dr Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas, Course Leader for BA (Hons) Fashion Marketing, developed lectures, seminars and an assessment for the Specialism Unit on BA (Hons) Fashion Design Marketing that introduce students to the key areas, challenges and opportunities of internationalisation, digital innovation and sustainability in fashion:

“The fashion industry has a massive challenge around issues of sustainability and I believe it is our responsibility to engage our students with these in ways they can respond to creatively. [...]  Students were asked to select an emerging London-based fashion designer, carry out a sustainability audit on the brand and propose design and marketing strategies which used sustainability as a key source of differentiation and added value. I invited a guest speaker from the British Fashion Council who highlighted their ethical initiatives. My colleagues Tim Williams and Mark Hambly worked with the students in their design studio classes to develop ranges of sustainable/ethical clothing and some of the students held an exhibition in the gallery at High Holborn. The second iteration (2014-15) built on the first experience and expanded external collaborations [...] The marketing strategy curriculum included: textile waste, sustainability & design aesthetics, ethical & business drivers, green marketing, competitive advantage & transparency & included case studies on ethical fashion brands.”

Programme Director Jessica Saunders has brought sustainability into the International Preparation for Fashion course through a project working with Amnesty International and a sustainable fashion workshop earlier this year. After being Highly Commended at the 2014 Green Gown Awards for Courses and Learning, Jessica has also brought in a new component to the Flexible courses, working on a collection with Sue Ryder using stretch fabrics upcycled from old clothing. Business students are looking at how to manage capsule projections and how to expand this, and Visual Merchandising students are designing pop up spaces to market the collections, whilst Media students look at how to develop a fashion label to sell the items.

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Image from a 2013 LCF upcycling project with Sue Ryder.

Second year students on the BA (Hons) Creative Direction for Fashion course have been working on a live project with H&M and their sustainability team. Course Leader Jason Kass explains:

“The project is for students to design creative window displays for H&M stores around the UK to promote the brand’s Global Garment Collection initiative. The brief is for students to use old garments to create the displays and celebrate H&M’s three tenets of ‘re-use, re-wear, re-cycle’. The students’ window displays will be installed in 7 H&M shops in the UK during the first week of September. This is the first formal sustainability content for the course and also the first time we are working with CSF, who arranged and are co-coordinating the project as well as teaching on the unit. We have just revalidated the course and have added a unit called ‘Future Directions’. The unit will focus on key themes integral to the future of fashion and fashion communication: sustainability, technology and globalisation.”

Another LCF Course Leader who has been working to embed sustainability in the curriculum is Jane Francis, who runs the BA (Hons) Fashion Jewellery:

“During term 1 of year 2 we have integrated an ethically focused project into our curriculum: Future Proof. The project asks learners to consider ethically sourced materials and processes, up-cycling, and sustainable methods of production, awareness raising and marketing fashion jewellery products. Students are introduced to methods of creating their own composite materials and using natural dyes from the Mare Street dye garden. The project culminates with a pop-up shop at Christmas (students making and selling their projects) as a way to foster enterprise and direct marketing within the curriculum. In the 13/14 academic year, we exhibited the student work as part of Green week at LCF Mare street site.”

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Image from the BA (Hons) Fashion Jewellery pop-up shop.

In addition to formal curriculum, students have many opportunities to develop sustainable practice. Embroidery Technician Rachel Clowes, who was Highly Commended in the 2014 Green Gown awards as a sustainability champion, has run workshops such as natural dyeing and works with students to grow natural dye plants. Students on the MA Womenswear and Menswear courses use an Iron Timer (which won the Green Gown Award for Technical Innovation last year), so that sustainable practice becomes part of their usual workshop experience. LCF’s Sustainability Coordinator Rosemary Willatt gives inductions and lectures to as many students as possible, introducing them to LCF’s sustainability principles right from the start. We also receive trade waste – including fabrics, buttons, leather – from industry, and distribute this to students, demonstrating our principles around waste and resources.

Find out more…

June 18, 2015 

“More important perhaps than the technological innovation of which they [personal fashion blogs] are the outcome is the new outlook on the field of fashion they allow, a fashion that is not centred on a producing elite and ruled by the male gaze only but a fashion open to appropriation and interpretation, including that of women’s visions of themselves and by themselves.”

Dr Agnès Rocamora, writing for Fashion Cultures Revisited (2013)

June 17, 2015 

Better Lives: building a sustainable future

I am really passionate about my ethos of ‘Better Lives’, which has become one of the cornerstones of my headship at the London College of Fashion. It is a wide agenda that I feel encapsulates how we need to work as educators; it is a dialogue between staff, students and the wider community to develop an understanding and definition of what sustainability and diversity mean to us.

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Nayana Kodesia’s collection (BA Hons Fashion Design and Development) on the LDNY runway at the Women Inspiration Enterprise Awards. Image by by Fi Anderson, BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism.

The thinking behind fashion as a discipline needs to extend and expand its influence, to counter the traditional stereotype of fashion as a lightweight subject not quite worthy of research, and instead to clearly make the case and set the pace for developing areas of research that extend fashion’s influence. Areas such as health, textiles, sustainability, ethical design, science, (including nanotechnology, medicine, engineering and cosmetic science) and well-being are presenting fashion with a paradox. How do we bring these issues into the mainstream whilst also meeting the fashion industries’ need to be ever changing and consuming?

Better Lives is a term we use at the London College of Fashion to describe the work we do that uses fashion, as a discipline, to drive change, build a sustainable future and improve the way we live. Through a wide agenda, which includes social responsibility, awareness-raising and collaboration, we encourage dialogue between staff, students and the wider community to develop an understanding and definition of what sustainability means to us. You can find out more about the projects, initiatives and collaborations that reflect our belief in using fashion as a catalyst for change over on the LCF website, and I will be highlighting some of our work around sustainability on this blog over the next few weeks.

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Professor Helen Storey in conversation with Caryn Franklin. Image via LCF Press Office

LCF works with charities and foundations in schools and prisons, offering fashion education and opportunity and raising social awareness. We build sustainability into our curriculum through learning and collaboration, in which staff and students carry out research, to address the many challenges facing our wider fashion industry. We run a number of outreach activities, social enterprise projects and community partnerships so that we can learn from a varied group of people and share our knowledge. Community is also about how and why we work with external partners, using fashion to address the challenges of ethical responsibility and sustainability.

I know first-hand how fashion can be used to transform people’s lives. Whether it’s through retraining female offenders in machine skills or collaborating with communities in Ethiopia and Mongolia on design projects, fashion has an incredible way of communicating to people. By challenging the status quo and making our world a fairer and more equitable place, fashion can play a vital role in showing us what’s possible. If we look at fashion in its broadest sense, beyond clothing and fast fashion, and look at the power of fashion to communicate some of the biggest problems of our times, we have incredible opportunity. Our students represent the future of the fashion industry and they have the power to change it from within.

June 15, 2015 

A student perspective on #LCFBA15

As well as opening the London College of Fashion BA15 catwalk show, BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles: Embroidery final year student Nathalie Ballout has also been awarded the prestigious People’s Choice #DiversityNOW prize, in collaboration with i-D magazine and All Walks Beyond The Catwalk. BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism student Grace Molan chatted to Nathalie about her whirlwind last few weeks and her time studying at LCF.

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Nathalie Ballout’s work on the BA15 catwalk. Photography: Anders Birger.

Grace Molan: Describe the inspiration behind your graduate show, what influenced your designs?
Nathalie Ballout: I like to source inspiration from everywhere. The biggest inspiration for my collection came from wires- I’m obsessed with wires! I notice them everywhere and see the beauty in them whilst others can not. I wanted to create a collection of worn installations that would raise awareness of the global issue of energy poverty where the wires would represent a decentralised world, free of rule and structure. When creating the worn installations, I kept the strict rules I would follow to a minimum. I wanted to destroy old ideas of clothing and I wanted to redefine the idea of fashion. The pieces show processes of nature that are both destructive and reconstructive.

GM: How do you feel knowing that you have opened the LCF catwalk show and have also been awarded the iD magazine people’s choice award #DiversityNOW?
NB: It feels amazing and almost surreal! I am overwhelmed with such honour and humbled to have been the first thing for everyone to experience amongst all the other astonishing collections.

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Nathalie’s winning image for #DiversityNOW. Photography Ruari Meehan, model John Somerville.

GM: How have you found your time at LCF? How has it helped you get where you are today?
NB: I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at LCF, I couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable university experience. I have made friends for life and taken away more than I could have ever imagined!

GM: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to other design students at LCF?
NB: Make the most of every second at LCF! Take advantage of all weird and wonderful advice and opportunities at your fingertips!

GM: Is there a certain woman that your designs are aimed at?
NB: I don’t think of a specific person or figure while designing my pieces but instead I imagine a world with a different past and therefore a different idea of the present and a different idea of the future. This allows me to think totally outside the box free of common rules and structure.

GM: What has been the highlight from your time at LCF?
NB: That’s a tricky one. If I had to pick just one highlight it would have to be the whole press show journey and experience!

The word on everyone’s lips is that, Nathalie is set to revolutionize the world of fashion. Her enthusiasm is electric and press were wowed by her eye-catching designs at last week’s catwalk show. This girl is one to watch.

June 12, 2015 

Craft at London College of Fashion

From the craft of production through to the craft of use, designers and researchers at London College of Fashion work to ensure that craft still has a strong place in the digital age. This week’s #LCFBA15 exhibition highlights some of the fashion production skills that our students learn during their time with us – including pattern cutting, metal work, leatherwork and embroidery – on courses with varied outputs including fashion fabrics, clothing, footwear, accessories, jewellery and bespoke tailoring.

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Images taken at the LCF BA15 exhibition, which runs until Saturday 13th June at 3/10 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6PG.

The knowledge, skills and ideas of the Craft of Use are part of a body of work conceived of and developed by Kate Fletcher, Reader in Sustainable Fashion at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. The satisfying and resourceful practices associated with using clothes – the ‘craft of use’ – aim to challenge the dependency of the fashion industry on increasing material throughput and to propose alternatives based on sustained attention to tending and using garments not just creating or buying them. After all, owning a garment, does not mean we know how to use it. The craft of use’s goal is to change our garment-related visions, ideas, habits, skills and stories to be shaped by our capabilities, experiences and achievements as well as our commodities.

June 11, 2015 

“For the digital image can turn the clock back, scramble time, fast forward, reverse, and then cut to the chase. It can impose a riot on a fashion scenario or a fashion scenario on a riot. Digitalization reduces the image to a scrapyard, a jumble of shards and fragments to be cannibalized and made into new forms.”

Caroline Evans, Fashion at the Edge: Spectacle, Modernity and Deathliness (2003)

June 9, 2015 

Working in London’s East End: Fashion Means Business, Beal Academy Trust

The School of Management and Science, within the Fashion Business School at LCF, are taking part in the 14-19 Beal Business Innovation Hub, Evolution Sessions where the College delivers a series of collaborative events, such as presentations, visits to LCF campuses, workshops and taster sessions. This work helps pupils become aware and understand that they could potentially have a successful career path and business/science designation within the Fashion Industry.

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Beal Academy Trust comprises of:
• Beal High School, Woodford Bridge Road, Ilford
• Beal Business Innovation Hub, Woodford Bridge Road, Ilford
• Forest Academy, Harbourer Road, Hainault

The Beal Academy Trust also supports The Forest Academy in Ilford, in collaboration with partners including: Mayfield High School, Ilford County High School, Oakdale Juniors, Bancroft’s and Little Heath; as well as several universities including: The Institute of Education, King’s College, Middlesex University (they have established the North East London Teaching Alliance, which extends out beyond Redbridge to including: Redden Court School, Stratford Academy and West Hatch High school).

The Beal Academy Trust is the lead school in the North East London Teaching Alliance (NELTA) and delivers high quality support for teachers and leaders at all stages in their career. The successful partnership with Beal Academy Trust and provides further opportunities for further collaborative partnerships in the wider North East London area.

June 8, 2015 

Celebrating #LCFBA15

This year, for the first time, London College of Fashion are showcasing the work of final year undergraduates across all disciplines under one roof. Beginning today, a week of events will present our students’ work to the fashion industry.

Visit the LCF Channel for a live stream of the catwalk show later today, and a full events listing.


© 2015 Frances Corner