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Fostering Sustainable Practices

Launched in October 2018, ‘Rethinking Fashion Design Entrepreneurship: Fostering Sustainable Practices’ is a two and a half year project which will investigate creative practice in design-led fashion micro and small enterprises (MSEs) as a driver for sustainable prosperity in the expanded sense of contributing to environmental, social, cultural and economic prosperity.

The UK is known for its successful creative industries and its fashion designers are widely acknowledged as creative influencers on the world stage. The UK’s designer fashion sector, largely made up of micro and small enterprises (MSEs), constitutes a globally recognised creative engine, effectively acting as R&D for the wider fashion industry.  Design-led fashion enterprises, whilst often struggling financially themselves, provide pioneering alternative visions of prosperity in business. This project investigates the role of creative entrepreneurship and design in fashion MSEs as a potential driver for change, providing a valuable lens through which to examine the future for a sustainable fashion industry.


Project Rationale

FSP responds to and builds on the findings of previous CSF projects, including the 2013/14 AHRC-funded FIRE (Fashion, Innovation, Research and Enterprise) project led by FSP’s PI Prof.Sandy Black. The FIRE project identified the need for new business models and piloted methods of MSE support through knowledge exchange between design-led fashion MSEs and researchers.

CSF has always made support for small business a core aspect of our ethos and our work. We have been able to offer this support by partnering with other organisations, most recently the Fashion and Textiles Museum on the Creative Hub project. These partnerships have allowed us to access funding which subsidises both group workshops and one-to-one mentoring.

London Style also offered us an opportunity to provide training, support and showcasing to 100 London based fashion businesses over two years. We focused on offering insight and practical advice through workshops and one-to-one sessions; we brought together a network of expertise to cover areas such as design, supply chain management, communication and sales.

During the FSP project, a multi-disciplinary research team will work directly with a range of design-led fashion MSEs as co-producers of the research. The fashion designer-entrepreneur, and leaders in MSE teams, will be the focus of analysis. The research will explore sustainability as a creative endeavour, examining four key areas; design and operations, business networks and ecosystems, working practices and entrepreneurship and business models.

This will lead to new knowledge and understanding of the internal operations and external context within which these fashion MSEs operate. This knowledge will be applied to establish and support new sustainable models of business development, repositioning designer fashion MSEs as major contributors to the UK’s creative and sustainable economy, and ultimately informing future UK policy for the creative industries.

The research will analyse existing and novel business models and practices that foster sustainable prosperity, a concept aiming to balance environmental, social, cultural and economic considerations. We will identify barriers and points of intervention in order to develop alternative business support mechanisms for sustainability to inform fashion businesses at both small and larger scales. To meet this complex challenge, the academic team is drawn from three leading research centres and universities, whose complementary academic expertise will provide a novel cross-disciplinary approach to research in fashion innovation and sustainable prosperity.


Project Team

Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) have been awarded £556k by the AHRC, to undertake this two and half year project, led by CSF’s Prof. Sandy Black.

Led by London College of Fashion (LCF) at University of the Arts London (UAL), the project is a collaboration between UAL’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF), Middlesex University’s (MU) Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research (CEEDR) and the Open University’s (OU) Department of Design. CEEDR is a key partner in Surrey University’s Centre for Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP).

The project team includes:

UAL team
Prof. Sandy Black – Project Investigator
Prof. Dilys Williams – Co-Investigator
Dr. Agnes Rocamora – Co-Investigator
Alex McIntosh – Project Consultant
Mila Burcikova – Post Doc Researcher
Zoe Norton – Project Manager – z.norton@fashion.arts.ac.uk

Middlesex University team
Prof. Fergus Lyon- Co-Investigator
Dr. Andrea Werner – Co-Investigator
Dr. Ian Vickers – Co-Investigator
Dr. Geraldine Brennan – Post Doc Researcher

Open University team
Prof. Claudia Eckert – Co-Investigator
Dr. Philippa Crommentuijn-Marsh – Post Doc Researcher

The project will collaborate with LCF’s fashion incubator Centre for Fashion Enterprise and key industry partners; business support organisations British Fashion Council and Ethical Fashion Forum; manufacturers’ organisations UK Fashion & Textiles Association, and Textile Centre of Excellence; online fashion platform Not Just A Label. Along with four MSE partners, Christopher Raeburn, Unmade, Riz Boardshorts and Martine Jarlgaard. These partners will make an invaluable contribution to creating and evaluating the research outputs, enhancing validity and ensuring relevance and impact.