November 11, 2014 

Neals Yard Annual Lecture 2014

I invited Prof. Avner Offer and Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, two renowned thinkers and doers to talk at this lecture. This year the topic of conversation was addictive behavior and myopia, or nearsightedness, and provided an very interesting debate for our students interested in psychology, sustainability and social responsibility.

Neal Yard

This exciting Lecture will bring together two renowned thinkers and continue the debate on how we use our creative and design talent to work towards sustainable solutions for the social and environmental problems in our world today.

Professor Avner Offer is a leading authority on social and economic history at the University of Oxford. He challenged the assumptions we make about how the world works and open our eyes to new ways of thinking. Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones is a Psychiatrist and neuroscience researcher at Imperial College London. She is a specialist in behavioural addictions and decision making, and challenged us to re-consider the reasons for why we do things like impulse buying.

Students are offered a unique opportunity to author their own brief in response to the lecture, and there is the chance to win £1000 for the winning submission. Find out more…

Read more here – written by one of our BA Fashion Journalism students, Fi Anderson…

November 7, 2014 

The Art of Dress and Dubai

I recently returned from Dubai for the opening of a selection of work from our Art of Dress exhibition. We were also hosting a series of panel discussions with Caspian Arts Foundation as part of the Creative Circle Symposium.

The whole experience was a revelation. In many ways Dubai is a city where there are many preconceived ideas and misconceptions and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was fascinated to go and it didn’t disappoint. Yes, there were the soaring skyscrapers, major freeways, building sites, marble, fast cars and over 70 shopping malls. There was also great hospitality, thoughtfulness and energy. It is a city that like Shanghai is positioning itself to have a major global impact into the rest of the century. Dubai is a major transport hub with a projected 200 million visitors through its airport by 2020. It has the largest retail space of any airport in the world and is a major architectural, business and trading city.

With a history of trading in pearls and gold it is nevertheless focused on creating the infrastructure that will make sure it is a key city on the 21st century Silk Road of major fashion cities.

It has recently established a Dubai Design and Fashion Council and has regional impact and increasing global presence through its Fashion Forward events. This year Chanel has shown its cruise collection and a series of Vogue Fashion talks hosted by Italian Vogues editor Franca Sozzani had taken place just before we arrived.

It is a city hungry to learn about how fashion works and to explore ways it can begin to define its own approach. It was this questioning and exploration that formed the basis of all the discussions from how to nurture and support the emerging designers of the Middle East, to what sort of creative educational system should be established. The panels drew on the expertise of panelists from across the region. Issues about modest fashion, skills, how fashion is crucial at a time of conflict and dispossession, the empowerment of women and the establishment of an approach to Middle Eastern fashion design that recognized and built on its culture, history and global presence it was stimulating visit, and we are already planning our next visit.

October 30, 2014 

Kering and Sustainability

The Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion and Kering, the world leader in apparel and accessories, have announced a five-year partnership to support sustainable practices and innovation in the fashion industry. Engaging LCF students, as well as designers, teaching staff, researchers and industry experts, the partnership will play a key role as an incubator for new ways of thinking about sustainable fashion.

Read more…

Read my speech here…

October 28, 2014 

My Kering Talk

In welcoming Francois Henri Pinault to the College, I want to take a few minutes to show why the collaboration between London College of Fashion and Kering is a match that will not only be a unity of complementary strengths but means together we can lead the way to give fashion a sustainable future.

Neither side of this partnership lacks ambition: we want to change the world and possibly save it. This is no empty rhetoric: looking to the future we know that we have to take action now.

Alexander McQueen RTW S/S 2015 Paris
Alexander McQueen – A Kering Brand

Geologists say that we are living in the Anthropocene age – which means that human activity is the dominant influence on climate and the environment. Since the industrial revolution people have had more effect on the atmosphere than it has had on us. In the last 50 years we have stepped up our use of energy and plundering of the earth’s resources and are now pushing at planetary boundaries.

At our peril we are interfering, with a delicate, incredible, life-reliant design system developed over millions of years, unable to predict the scale of devastating effects of our actions on our planet – or even ourselves.

We know that we must act and that education has a critical and urgent role to play in the challenges and possibilities of our times.

We also know that human ingenuity has no such boundaries and that it’s up to us – to those teaching and learning now – to mark a path for our collective futures. Ingenuity needs the space to conceive, develop and apply its possibilities in considered ways. The university environment creates the conditions for critical thought, informed decision making and cross pollination of ideas. Education is vital in order to develop the skills, mindsets and focus needed to make appropriate, creative decisions that will develop the abilities to change culture, economy and society.

At its best, fashion is a means to connect, create and fulfil – individually, economically and culturally. We see this vividly through the designing, making and communicating of distinctions and connections of fashion. Providing livelihoods for millions of women, fashion has the ability to create independence.

Yet, at its worst, fashion takes away dignity, freedom, safety and wellbeing.

As fashion educators, it is our ambition and duty to prepare students to be contributors to all that fashion might be, not to its negative elements.

The ethos that underpins our approach, practices and creative ventures is based on the contribution that fashion can make to individual lives, to communities and our wider cultures and societies. Our ambition – as a leading educator for fashion, as part of Europe’s largest specialist arts and design university – is to ground our curriculum, research and outreach in fashioning the future through sustainability principles such as holism, empathy and resilience using a range of ecological and social design methods.

Christopher Kane A/W 2015 London Mens
Christopher Kane – A Kering Brand

We understood that this meant far more than hoping our students would put their skills and talent to good use – so we established the Centre for Sustainable Fashion to offer vital leadership and commitment to society now and in the future, thereby creating a new starting point for fashion.

The centre’s creative quest involves questioning our current ways of seeing, knowing and doing, to explore the possibilities for fashion through a sustainability lens. We have worked hard – some might say struggled – to match the centre’s clear and bold purpose of dealing with the ecological and social impact of resourcing fashion while honouring the complexity of fashion’s artistic and business practices.

I came to this college because I believe that fashion is a delightful and vital part of our lives, in both the pleasure and identity that clothes gives us. I do not want to make fashion dull – far from it. The very point of it is to encourage innovative and creative thinking. In developing new ideas about fashion and sustainability, the centre finds itself in a network of the leading idea makers of the world from locations across the globe and across disciplines, working with a plethora of organisations, governments, media creators and product makers.

Led by Professor Dilys Williams, CSF starts where it counts; in developing new ideas about what it means to be alive here and now and to develop ways to represent ourselves individually and collectively so that we can thrive in the world.

Importantly for the College, these ideas permeate across our courses and practices so that we can offer each student here the opportunity to learn about sustainability and so engage new thinking in a range of ways.

Collaboration is vital to our work. So we are delighted to partner a visionary, world leading and hugely inspirational ‘organisation.’ Kering represents the integrity, artistry and acumen that best defines fashion’s role in contemporary life. Our students and graduates aspire to practice their professional skills in environments that can empower their imagination. They want their future employers to act with sustainability and integrity.

The far sightedness of Kering is far from usual in business. Their distinction is not only in a vision and commitment to a system’s view of life as a basis for prosperity, but also in its ability to shape sustainability in distinctive ways across its brands. This demonstrates leadership in business, in the arts, in society and for our times.

This partnership will offer unique learning outcomes for both of us.

We are proud that the leading experts in fashion and sustainability in this creative business – Kering – and the leading researchers and tutors in design for sustainability – ourselves – are coming together to influence the world’s leading creative and conscious minds – our students. For our future lies with them.

This collaboration brings to the college a balance between possibility, equity, viability, desirability and feasibility. We are sure it will bring informed design for better fashion systems, practices, collections and experiences. It will allow us to offer an innovative and ground-breaking curriculum which will act as a marker to educators and businesses across the world. And will provide our graduates with the skills and abilities to navigate a contingent world. We see it as part of a process that will change culture towards a more resilient society.

This partnership is a critical opportunity to shape and respond to the real context of our times. Its legacy will be in the creativity that conceives and realises the better lives that we can make for ourselves and for our descendants.

Together with Kering, we are fashioning the future – a sustainable future.

Thank you so much to Francois Henri Pinault, and everyone at Kering for making it happen.

Watch the video of the talk here…

October 21, 2014 

Discussing the Future of British Manufacturing

This morning I was at the Westminster Media Forum: Prospects for the British fashion industry – domestic manufacturing, skills and wearable technology We will examine the next steps for policy and business practice to ensure continued economic and creative growth in the British fashion industry.

It will be a timely opportunity to consider how the British fashion industry can maintain, grow and widen its markets – particularly in terms of facilitating the return of manufacturing to Britain.

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Foyodor Golan – Centre for Fashion Enterprise

This is a topic which is central to my work at the college, as demonstrated through some of the enterprise initiatives we have set up such as The Centre for Fashion Enterprise, and the Designer – Manufacturer Innovation Support Centre

October 14, 2014 

The Business of Fashion

This evening I will be inconversation with Imran Amed, Founder and Editor of The Business of Fashion.


Bringing a unique understanding of the creative and commercial sides of fashion, Imran Amed has emerged as one of the fashion industry’s leading writers, thinkers and commentators. In 2007, he started up The Business of Fashion (BoF) from his sofa just as social media and smartphones were about to explode onto the scene, new markets were rapidly emerging in China, India and Brazil, and the financial crisis threw the industry into a tailspin. Five years on, with its award-winning editorial franchises and a global reputation for intelligent, analytical content, BoF has grown into the pre-eminent daily destination for the global fashion community.

As well as being named one of GQ’s 100 Most Influential Men in Britain, Imran’s name also appears in British Vogue’s 25 New Fashion Faces to Watch, Wired UK’s 100 Most Influential Figures in Britain’s Digital Economy and GQ India’s 50 Most Influential Global Indians.

Have a look at our business related courses here.

October 11, 2014 

Fashion Matters Gala 2014

Last night we had a successful Fashion Matters Gala dinner to celebrate our Fashion Matters fundraising campaign – an initiative that raises money for scholarships and bursaries. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who contributed to this campaign, your involvement will help to support future generations of designers, makers, entrepreneurs, commentators and industry specialists.


BFC chairman Caroline Rush, ASOS non-executive director Hilary Riva, and Whistles chief executive Jane Shepherdson.

September 30, 2014 

Why Fashion Matters. One Londoner’s Perspective by Vanessa Kingori

VK head shot
Vanessa Kingori is Publisher of British GQ Style & Associate Publisher Fashion, British GQ

Frances and I have often found ourselves in deep conversation about the many reasons why fashion is more than the sum of its parts, more than simply the clothes on our backs. Essentially, why does fashion matter?

What better place to consider this than London, one of the world’s few, true, melting pots.

This thought is shaped by two main influences – my work, which closely follows the business aspects of Fashion, and the evolution of my own personal style in the London context.

To the latter, presentation – and therefore clothes – has always been an important part of my life. Not from a purely superficial point of view – though it has to be said my enjoyment of fashion cannot be denied. I am not a follower of trends but I was always taught that what one wears can have social, psychological and economic significance (though perhaps not in such grand terms).

Successive waves of immigration and migration have thrown the best and brightest of myriad cultures together here. The result? London is arguably the global epicenter of individual style and fashion commerce.

I am a product of the city’s melting pot. Pre the globalized world we now know, where else but in London would my mother – a beautiful; wide-eyed; small-island Caribbean nurse – meet my father – a well spoken; immaculately suited; worldly; Kenyan scientists? Highs, lows and adventure ensued, and though 1970s London provided the setting and catalyst, it was not always an easy place for my parents and their cohorts.
Vanessa Kingori
Unlikely match:my mother and father with my sister, Patricia

During the ‘Windrush’ period, Commonwealth immigrants, invited to the UK to bolster the welfare state, often used immaculate and occasionally flamboyant personal presentation as part of the arsenal of defense in the sometimes-hostile reaction from portions of established British society.

Such factions reacted with fear to the influx of immigration in the late 1940s, 50s and 60s and the rapid change to their established way of life. The reaction of many black migrants was to ‘peacock’. To don their Sunday best and be so well presented that the taunts of their aggressors were invalidated. How could they be called dirty, irresponsible, dangerous or a drain on society when they were wearing hand-made suits (always worn with their own personal twist and flair)? How could they be accused of laziness when they had clearly taken hours to fix their hair and hand-sew their dress? Being better dressed than those firing insults became a matter of personal pride and emotional protection.

Fashion is the source of fun and unifying force that created modern Rude Boy style, Buffalo style and many other trends. The music of the soundtrack to this mindset meant these trends eventually infiltrated the mainstream. Using fashion as a response to such social issues has inspired countless books, albums, exhibitions, and fashion collections since.

From the moment we were born, my sister and I were dressed up. My mother and grandmother invested vast amounts of time and large dollops of pleasure in coordinating us. With the combined effort of my grandfather (whom is still the most dapper man I have ever encountered) they would preach various mantras and proverbs as our handbags were being matched to the ribbons in our hair – ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression Vanessa’; ‘people reflect back what you present to them’; ‘when you feel your worst is when you should look your best’; ‘clothes maketh the man’; ‘if you look like you can conquer the world, you’ll feel like you can conquer the universe’… and so they would continue until we were suitably jazzy and ready for the day’s events.

In my parents’ and grandparents’ eyes, fashion matters. Survival, success and mental resilience are inextricably linked to the way one dresses. These mantras have never left me. They, coupled with a strong determination to validate the challenges endured by previous generations, still guide me and have played a strong part in my successes to date.
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My sister and I in typical coordinated flare

And so to the world I operate in today and my work. Fashion as business. As Publisher of a style magazine, the performance of fashion brands and the health of the global fashion industry are integral to the success of the title for which I work. Monitoring this is somewhat of a necessary sport.

From the London vantage point fashion is big business. As in the case of ‘Windrush’, waves of social and economic shift in the UK’s long and rich history have spawned countless fashion trends and given birth to iconic talent. The tremors are felt on a global scale. Punk, Teddy Boys, Mods, Dandies, New Romantics, Sixties hipsters, Sloanes, and the afore mentioned Buffalo movement have given rise to some of the fashion trends Britain has given the world.

London today acts as the pounding heart of global fashion. The place where UK trends are honed, poured over, repackaged and presented, ready to pump into the wide veins of the international fashion set.

This phenomenon largely guided the current issue of GQ Style’s theme – the London issue. A celebration of the incubator of global style and the people who bring this to life.

The issue observes the high stakes ‘fashion exchange’ that London has become. British fashion and talent are exported to the world, whilst international brands are keen gain the approval of the city’s zeitgeist-setting audience by setting up their stalls here.

The former element of this exchange is not only evident in the global trend setting already explored but is also powerfully illustrated by the number of British designers at the creative helm of Global fashion brands. Kim Jones at Louis Vuitton, Phoebe Philo at Celine, Jonathan Anderson at Loewe, Stuart Vevers at Coach… Each of these brands remains strongly linked to their heritage country yet Brits are the shaping their destinies.

And as if in exchange – an enviable number of fashion brands have shunned the recession and austerity to open impressive new retail spaces in London. It can often feel I’m at an ever more elaborate brand launch/re-launch/expansion event from evening to evening. From John Varvatos’ rock-royalty adorned boutique on Conduit Street (the Klaxtons, Hives, Paul Weller, Miles Kane and campaign model Ringo Star were all flying the flag for British style on launch night), to Fendi’s power-glamour launch on Bond Street, To the Pradasphere at Harrods and everything in between. The desire to retail in London is irresistible.

The recent launch that had us all talking on GQ Style was that of Rick Owen’s residency at Selfridges. At a summer lunch at Selfridges’ roof top restaurant, the retailer’s Buying Director, Sebastian Manes, enthused about the plans for the ‘World of Rick Owens’ takeover at the London department store. To compliment Owens’ existing Mayfair stand-alone boutique, he and Selfridges promised to create one of the most elaborate retail experiments we had encountered in some time.

Talk of a 20-foot statue of the designer with 6-foot torch burning at the retailers’ main entrance was peppered with mentions of book signings, an exclusive Selfridges collection, key window takeover (with art installations featuring no sellable product!), a new menswear shop-in-shop, and a new women’s wear concept. The excitement was infectious.

What could encapsulate the daring spirit of London’s style savvy better than the risky nature of this project and the designer’s desire to thrill the London crowd? Arguably there are few other places in the world where this could happen. At a time when many in fashion and business more generally are applying caution – Rick Owens and Selfridges filled their windows with installations that aren’t even for sale. The mere choice of designer to collaborate with is bold. Owens has long been a successful brand at Selfridges but he himself admits he may ‘alienate people’ whilst Manes reflects that Owens ‘avoids the mainstream’.
Rick Owens and his Selfridges Statue
Rick Owens and his Selfridges Statue

If there is one city in the world where an arguably divisive designer can be given such a large platform it is here – trusting the London population to make up their own mind whether to adopt, adapt or avoid can and according to initial reports, is having great results for the brand and Selfridges.

This is the reason why we at GQ Style have celebrated this maverick move with a special collectors cover of the autumn winter 2014 London themed issue. Two hundred limited edition and individually numbered copies celebrates Rick and his muse, Beniot Taupin. The issues are exclusively available in the Selfridges Concept Store. Of the 200 copies produced, Owens himself has signed 30. Readers learn if they are one of the extra lucky ones once they are in possession of a copy and the specially commissioned sleeve is removed.

So here in London fashion matters because it allows the taking of creative chances, even in a challenging economic environment. Fashion electrifies the city with each London Fashion week, each London Collections: Men, every ever-more exciting store launch, party, collaboration and all the fantastical spectacles and opportunities these create.

Fashion matters here because ‘UK cool’ remains a significant cultural exports and a lucrative one at that. It keeps the world striving to get the London look…. whatever that may be.
It matters as a means of expressing ones social, and even political position. It can be a means of reflecting one’s musical taste, or personal ambition. And though trends are important, for many Londoners fashion is very much about expressing their individuality.

So fashion really does matter. It is an industry that continues to thrive during economic downturn and austerity. Hordes of professions rely on the fashion economy for their livelihoods – designers, stylists, cutters, photographers, models, bloggers, vloggers, sales people, editors and, indeed, publishers. So it certainly matters to me.

GQ Main Edition
GQ Limited Edition

GQ Style autumn winter 2014 issue is on newsstands now or download the digital edition here:
200 Limited Edition Rick Owens collaboration issues are on sale in the Selfridges London Concept Store – £20 per copy. 30 random issues are signed.

© 2014 Frances Corner