July 30, 2015 

SALT Magazine

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This week I wrote a post for SALT magazine about the environmental issues the fashion industry must address.

In a world with rapidly depleting resources and increasing insecurity both politically and environmentally, I discuss what role, if any, the fashion industry can play in changing our course. Have a read here.

SALT is a new magazine exploring compassionate business thinking. It provides a platform for business leaders to change the collective mindset of the global business community and promote a more compassionate world, where business is a force for good.

Over the next few months, in the lead up to the UN Climate Conference, our Centre for Sustainable Fashion will be submitting pieces on a monthly basis setting out our work and vision on sustaining the environment.

Have a look at the rest of Salt Magazine’s offer – it’s an intelligent and thought provoking magazine and one that we at LCF hope to be working with on a regular basis going forward.

 

July 29, 2015 

Sustainability: Kering Partnership

One of the most important developments in our support of sustainability is our partnership with fashion conglomerate, Kering.

Kering own some of the world’s most recognised brands, including Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, so the partnership presents a fantastic opportunity for our students to learn more about how sustainable practices can be implemented into the industry.

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Both Kering and LCF recognise that sustainability is the greatest imperative of our time and share a sense of urgency to utilise our creativity in order to transform fashion’s practices and culture.

Kering have already taken steps towards improving sustainability within its brands, such as Gucci’s zero-deforestation handbag, Volcom’s 100% organic cotton denim collection, and the Kering Environmental Profit and Loss Account, a tool which calculates the monetary value of any environmental damage caused along their supply chains.

This is why we have agreed to work together over the next five years to support further sustainable practices and innovation. Engaging LCF students, as well as designers, teaching staff, researchers and industry experts, the partnership plays an important role as an incubator for new ways of thinking about sustainable fashion.

Kering Talk at The London College of Fashion.

With François-Henri Pinault, Chief Executive Officer of Kering. Image via LCF News Blog  © Alex Maguire

One of the key ways in which Kering is supporting LCF over the next five years is in co-creating our curriculum.

This is equipping a generation of our graduates with ecological literacy and skills for design, which we hope will create new habits, practices and values.

The partnership also includes The Kering Talks, which take place every October, where business leaders from the fashion industry will speak on the latest developments in the area of sustainable fashion, sharing new thinking and breakthroughs in best practice.

The final aspect of the partnership is the Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion, an annual competition, which I recently blogged about here, open to third-year BA and Masters students. Two winners are awarded a monetary grant and an internship placement within Kering brands, a fantastic prospect.

This partnership offers an unparalleled opportunity, not only to create new ways of educating our students, but also encourage discussion around the issue of sustainability, and honour student work which demonstrates sustainable innovation.

Together we plan to build Better Lives.

July 24, 2015 

Sustainability: Research

Research is vital in any educational setting, as it is ultimately what challenges preconceptions and expands our imaginations.

At LCF, the pioneering research of staff such as Dr Kate Fletcher, Professor Helen Storey and Professor Lucy Orta, is challenging fashion’s environmental footprint and inspiring dialogue around the issues of sustainability.

Dr Kate Fletcher, reader in Sustainable Fashion at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, is responsible for the Local Wisdom project, started in 2009, which explores resourceful practices associated with using clothes.

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Local Wisdom portraits. Image via Centre for Sustainable Fashion by Paul Allister

She aims to challenge the fashion industry’s dependency on continuously making more products, by encouraging the sustained use of garments, giving them substantial attention and encouraging their longevity.

Local Wisdom gathers stories and images from the public of how people use their clothes and tries to integrate these use-practices into new business models.

I took part in this project myself, when the project came to London, I spoke about alternative dress codes and how my style has evolved over the years to involve key peices of clothing that I always return to.

Kate’s research is ultimately making us re-examine our relationship with what we wear and challenge the ease with which we discard our clothing.

Another member of our Centre for Sustainable Fashion, Professor of Fashion Science, Helen Storey, has been using fashion and technology in revolutionary ways with the aim of improving our wellbeing.

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Helen Storey’s catalytic dress. Image via Centre for Sustainable Fashion by Trish Belford

Her current project, Catalytic Clothing seeks to explore how clothing and textiles can be used as a catalytic surface to purify the air around us. Her pioneering work, has brought the worlds of art and science together, producing hybrid products which challenge the status quo.

We believe that collaboration between the arts and sciences will be critical in inspiring progress in environmental and social issues. Fashion can no longer be exclusively for the young and glamorous, with an ageing population and pressing environmental concerns, future fashion needs to become more practical; Helen is paving the way for this to be the case.

Finally, Professor Lucy Orta, Professor of Art and the Environment at LCF, in creative partnership with Jorge Orta, is another eco-pioneer who uses art as an agent for awareness and change on issues of sustainability.

Together, they have exhibited projects such as such as OrtaWater which highlighted the corporate control over clean water, and Refuge Wear, which involved creating temporary shelters that could be transformed into clothing to offer protection in emergency situations, in a bid to highlight the plight of the homeless.

Their international shows, have called a global audience’s attention to environmental or social problems and encouraged constructive dialogue around these issues.

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Refuge Wear. Image via London College of Fashion Research Publication

Our academics’ projects have already begun to enhance public awareness and understanding of major sustainability issues. They have proved that by asking original questions, together with creative and rigorous research, we can bring Better Lives to life.

July 23, 2015 

Savage Beauty with Claire Wilcox

On Monday I was treated to a tour of the V&A’s brilliant Savage Beauty exhibition. I was guided by our own Chair of Fashion Curation at LCF, and the V&A Museum’s Senior Curator of Fashion, Professor Claire Wilcox.

The exhibition, showing the work of the late, visionary designer Lee Alexander McQueen, only has a couple more weeks to run, but there were still hundreds of people queuing for tickets.

The exhibition has proved so popular the museum has decided to open its doors for 24 hours during the final two weekends of its run, but already most of these tickets have gone, so I felt fortunate to be getting my own private tour.

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Claire’s knowledge and insight made the tour a fascinating experience, hearing her thoughts on McQueen, his relationship with art, and her vision for curating the show was a real privilege.

The exhibition itself was also a real visual treat, and testament to one of the most innovative designers and creative talents in UK fashion history.

Although the show began its life at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, it seems apt that the exhibition was expanded and edited to be brought to London, where McQueen was born and learned his craft.

As McQueen is quoted saying in the exhibition : “London’s where I was brought up. It’s where my heart is and it’s where I get my inspiration.”

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Claire mentioned that McQueen used to come to the V&A archives regularly and he was very knowledgeable about fashion history.

This is easy to see in his designs, which often had multiple influences and layers, attempting to make their own mark on fashion history

He is also quoted stating: “I want to be the purveyor of a certain silhouette or a way of cutting, so that when I’m dead and gone people will know that the twenty-first century was started by Alexander McQueen.”

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During his lifetime, McQueen managed to combine an eclectic range of influences with a mastery of tailoring and respect for traditional craftsmanship – a combination that often led to such thought provoking designs that were close to being works of art, not just items of fashion.

It becomes clear walking through the exhibition that McQueen’s work was not only beautifully crafted, but that the narrative was also very carefully considered. He was interested in exploring the potential of fashion to be theatrical; to stage an event, much like a performance art.

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Savage Beauty is a very moving exhibition, not just through its theatricality and intense creativity, but because you are left feeling both sadness at the loss of such an inspiring artist, and also celebration of such incredible talent.

I will be returning to the topic of McQueen later in the summer as Claire has agreed to write a guest post on his relationship to art which I am very much looking forward to.

For now, the exhibition at the V&A runs until 2nd August, and LCF’s Fashion Space Gallery are hosting Warpaint: Alexander McQueen and Make-up, a satellite exhibition to Savage Beauty, focussing on Alexander McQueen’s catwalk make-up, until 7th August.

For those unable to see the exhibition, you can also read Claire’s beautifully produced book accompanying the show, Alexander McQueen, available at the V&A Shop.

July 16, 2015 

Sustainability: Bees

Bee keeping at LCF is part of our Better Lives campaign, which aims to use fashion as a discipline to drive change and build a sustainable future.

Placing a hive in an urban area has great benefits for both the residents and the bees. Without a healthy honeybee population pollinating our crops, our lives would change dramatically.

Bees pollinate around one third of the crops we eat, and their populations have been declining in recent decades. By providing them with a home, we are helping to support their population.

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Bee keeping at Lime Grove. Image via stills from a film by Victoria Burns

A bee hive was first introduced to the John Prince’s Street roof terrace in 2010, and now there are also thriving hives at Curtain Road, Mare Street and Lime Grove. A variety of native plants have been introduced at each site to provide foraging areas for the bees.

Students have been putting the bee’s honey to good use too. Last year, the LCF Beekeeping club hosted toast and honey mornings, sharing the honey produced by the hives with students and staff.

Back in October, LCF students and staff were invited to Lime Grove to sample a selection of cocktails made with the honey harvested from bees at the John Princes Street and Lime Grove sites.

See here for the delicious recipes: http://blogs.arts.ac.uk/fashion/2014/10/27/cocktails-lcfs-honey-harvest/

BSc Cosmetic Science students have also used beeswax harvested from the John Prince’s Street hives to formulate a lip balm.

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Image via Jackie Puwalski MA Fashion Photography 2014

Finally, from a very different perspective, Jackie Puwalski, MA Fashion Photography, was inspired by the urban bees to create an intriguing Masters project that encourages us to think about how our impact on the environment will shape the future.

The LCF Fashion Honey is available to buy through the e-store, with profits going back into sustainable projects at LCF.

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Image via LCF News Blog

Although bee numbers have plummeted recently, with much of Britain’s grasslands destroyed to make way for one-crop fields, and the widespread introduction of pesticides, urban aviaries are a manageable step more of us can take to help shape ‘Better Lives’ for the future.

 

July 13, 2015 

Ladybird by Design Exhibition

Last Thursday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of ‘Ladybird by Design’ at the House of Illustration, which I recently joined as Chair of the Board of Trustees.

The exhibition marks the centenary of Ladybird design with over 120 original illustrations from Ladybird titles from the late 1950s to the early 70s, including classics such as ‘People at Work’, ‘Shopping with Mother’, ‘Science’, ‘Nature’, ‘Well Loved Tales’ and ‘Key Words’.

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Image via London College of Communication Blog © Lewis Bush

Lawrence Zeegen, Professor of Illustration at London College of Communication, has done an excellent job in putting the exhibition together – alongside fellow curator Jane Won – having first produced the centenary book Ladybird by Design.

Unparalleled in their perfectly observed attention to detail and unique sense of place, the books captured a very British childhood and demonstrate the power of illustration to open up the world to children and their parents, grandparents and teachers alike.

Seeing the original illustrations will, I am sure, prove nostalgic for many, as we relive moments of our childhood. The exhibition offers a glimpse into a unique slice of Britain’s visual history.

Lawerence Zeegen will be taking part in a free talk on his book Ladybird by Design on Wednesday.

See the House of Illustration website for more details on the exhibition and events, or find out more in the exhibition’s accompanying  film:

July 10, 2015 

Sustainability: Waste Off Challenge

At LCF, students and staff take part in in the Waste Off Challenge: to turn waste materials from around the college into purposeful inventions.

The university wide challenge sees staff and students from a range of courses, promote sustainable fashion and support creation over consumption.

LCF worked with St Joseph’s Hospice, who gave the students a mission to create an innovative and functional piece which may be used as an aid for dressing disabled patients at home as prescribed by Occupational Therapists.

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Creative Direction: M. Elena Mansilla Hortiguela MSc Applied Psychology in Fashion; Photographer and Creative Direction: Elinor Christie BA Creative Direction for Fashion; Hair and Make Up: Sian Kelly BA Creative Direction for Fashion; Model: Magdalena Kaczmarek BA Fashion Business Flexible Programme

The students have to respond to challenges presented by the Hospice including, patient difficulties in doing up buttons or putting arms through sleeves. To deal with these issues, they tried to choose fabrics that were easy to slip on and large fastenings that were easy to function, whilst still maintaining a strong element of style.

Students had to use only recycled or up-cycled materials, both of which are becoming a more regular feature of many mediums of production.

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Creative Direction: M. Elena Mansilla Hortiguela MSc Applied Psychology in Fashion; Photographer and Creative Direction: Elinor Christie BA Creative Direction for Fashion; Hair and Make Up: Sian Kelly BA Creative Direction for Fashion; Model: Magdalena Kaczmarek BA Fashion Business Flexible Programme

The final pieces are currently being exhibited at St. Joseph’s Hospice and have been featured in a photo shoot collaboration with some of our BA students.

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Exhibition Materials Design: Grace Teo, BA Graphic and Media Design, LCC

There is also a catwalk show planned, featuring all the final designs modeled by patients at St Joseph’s,  with prizes for the most successful designs, which promises to be very exciting.

Projects like these, engage students in sustainable design thinking, realise the creative potential of the discarded and ultimately give waste new value.

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Exhibition Materials Design: Grace Teo, BA Graphic and Media Design, LCC

The exhibition continues at St Joseph’s Hospice, Mare St, London E8 4SA

Any students or staff inspired to get involved in the Waste Off challenge, which is ongoing, please speak to Rosemary Willatt our Sustainability Coordinator: r.willatt@fashion.arts.ac.uk

July 9, 2015 

Louis Vuitton ‘La Galerie’ Exhibition

Last weekend I enjoyed a few days in Paris, where I met our Professor of Fashion and Museology at LCF, Judith Clark.

Judith, along with other members from LCF’s Centre for Fashion Curation (CfFC), has been working on Louis Vuitton’s latest museum space ‘La Galerie’.

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I had the fortune of being invited to the opening of the gallery, located in the historic grounds of Asnieres-sur-Seine, which since 1859, have acted as home, not only to the Vuitton family, but also the workshops where the most exclusive, made-to-order items are still produced.

Unlike the monumental Frank Gehry-designed Louis Vuitton Foundation, this gallery had a more intimate feel. We had an opportunity to be immersed in the House’s history and its inner workings, which was enthralling.

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In curating the space, Judith was inspired by Gaston-Louis Vuitton’s game, the Pateki, a wooden cube puzzle designed in the 1930’s, that is almost impossible to complete.

The route through the gallery is imagined through the game, with each themed space, such as ‘Personal Initials’, ‘Beginnings’, ‘The Art of Couture’ or ‘Stories and Clients’, being built in the shape of a piece of the puzzle, which was very creative.

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Louis Vuitton’s history is told through 400 objects, chosen from 165,000 documents and 26,000 pieces conserved in the Maison’s collections and archives, ranging from couturier Paul Poiret’s trunk, to items from the Vuitton family’s personal collection, including a pair of 17th-century Venetian women’s platform shoes.

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We also had a chance to see examples of the work by the House’s artisans, which was very inspiring. Judith mentioned that one of the motivations for having a permanent exhibition at Asnieres, was the fact that people come to this site, the maison de famille, see the atelier, and they fall in love with the idea that this is the cradle of the company, and realise they are participating in the history of the House.

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Judith and the CfFC had the challenge of revealing the intimate aspects of a House’s history, highlighting its ties with the ateliers, and underlining the presence of the Louis Vuitton in the luxury fashion world. They achieved them all beautifully, in this new creative and timeless space, so vividly imagined.

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July 3, 2015 

The Kering Award: Judging Day

On Tuesday I went to the Kering offices to be part of the judging panel for the Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion.

The award was developed at The Centre for Sustainable Fashion at LCF and is part of our five-year partnership to support sustainable design which I spoke about in October.

The award began last October when our students were briefed by representatives from Kering brands: Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen. The first stage of the competition was open to all final year undergraduates and Masters students at LCF, from which 30 students were selected to engage in a three month mentoring scheme at either McCartney or McQueen – an opportunity to gain insight into the brand and engage with business leaders.

After presentations in April, six students (three for each brand) were selected as finalists for the final mentoring phase from May to June.

On Tuesday I got to see the result of their research, with excellent presentations from all six finalists. What impressed me most about the presentations was the range of different ideas the finalists had conceived. From communication to raw materials, the student’s research covered almost all aspects of the fashion industry, reflecting the complexity of the fashion supply chain.

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Ingrid Rautenberg, MA Fashion Futures Image via LCF News 

Martin Brambley / BA Menswear identified solutions for integrating waste material into the Alexander McQueen supply chain. Ingrid Rautenberg / MA Fashion Futures, also looked at waste, but from a different perspective – how we can create new forms of “bioplastics” from our food waste to use in accessories and clothes.

Others focussed on new sustainable resources, such as Fiona Fung / MA Fashion Futures who proposed seaweed as a replacement for non-biodegradable synthetics in the creation of thermoplastics, whilst Elena Tarabakina / MA Fashion Artefact looked at replacing leather with wood in her sustainable accessories focus.

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Fiona Fung, MA Fashion Futures Image via LCF News

Instead of looking at new materials, Nida Gonul / MA Footwear worked on creating new applications for existing biodegradable material in the manufacturing of shoes and accessories.

Neliana Fuenmayor / MA Fashion Entrepreneurship & Innovation, chose to focus on another aspect of the fashion industry; communication. She argued that Stella McCartney could become “pioneers of transparency” in the fashion world by communicating the stories behind their product, such as how and where it has been made, which can then create better connections between the customer and the company’s brand values.

Seeing such variety of ideas and the breadth of the fashion industry covered by our students was very encouraging.

All the presentations were well researched and delivered excellently, which is very positive to see with pitching becoming more important in the industry. Some were multimedia and others print based, which also reflects fashion’s need for people who are comfortable presenting in a variety of media.

The fact that our students are actually contributing to the way these two British brands are thinking about the environment is brilliant to see. Kering are also influencing our thoughts here at LCF, as they inspire a new approach to our curriculum. This partnership, rooted in recognising sustainability as the creative challenge of our time, is one which both sides are bennefiting from, as we try and shape a better future through fashion.

Find out more…

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

 


© 2015 Frances Corner