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The UK is renowned for the creativity of its designer fashion sector, predominantly made up of micro start-ups and small businesses, often designer graduates from one of the UK’s creative arts universities and respected fashion departments. These design-led businesses exemplify one of fashion’s many paradoxes – while they frequently provide creative innovation for the wider fashion industry, most struggle to survive economically. Understanding the innovation needs of such key influencers within the UK designer fashion industry is crucial for the resilience and sustainability of the sector.

By connecting UK based fashion and textile designers with academic researchers at University of the Arts London (UAL) the F.I.R.E project (Fashion, Innovation, Research, Evolution) opens a new space for innovation through collaboration, testing ways to help designer-fashion businesses access the knowledge based in research being done at UAL and the Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) that could be applied more broadly to stimulate sustainability and prosperity for this often fragile area of fashion.

F.I.R.E has developed a research-focused online space where UK based fashion and textile designers and academic researchers can upload their work and ongoing projects, and potentially find new partnerships. Join us!

Our initial knowledge exchange project F.I.R.E.up catalyzed four collaborative projects between London-based fashion and textile designers and UAL researchers, which produced exciting results and great case studies to demonstrate various ways to approach collaboration between the designer fashion sector and academia.

Please scroll down to read more about these catalyst projects and see our F.I.R.E.up catalyst and overview films on our F.I.R.E – fashion vimeo site.

Further F.I.R.E projects include:

Knowledge Landscape – an interactive questionnaire for fashion and textile designers about collaboration.

What’s Digital About Fashion Design? investigating how fashion design businesses might understand and utilise more digital resources in their design and production processes.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), F.I.R.E.up was a cross-UAL project led by CSF’s Prof Sandy Black at London College of Fashion and developed with Prof Adam Thorpe at Central Saint Martins, Prof Becky Earley at Chelsea College of Art and Design, and team members Alex McIntosh, Gabrielle Miller and Duska Zagorac.

FIREup Catalyst project 1: The Textile Collective

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Supporting the hidden designers of fashion.

Kirsty McDougall, co-founder of Dashing Tweeds, Britain’s latest tweed textile and menswear company, collaborated with CSF’s Alex McIntosh and the F.I.R.E.up team to create a new Textile Collective.

The project scoped the potential for developing an interdisciplinary London-based textile design collective, including a business plan outlining the ethos, practice and business model that will support the concept. The collective is formed of diverse group of textile practitioners with a specific interest in developing the skills and visual identities of regional manufacturing across the UK.

This collaboration brings together textile design expertise with knowledge of business practices and strategies for longer-term visibility to support an essential but often overlooked element of the fashion system.

FIREup Catalyst project 2: Laserline 2D

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A monomaterial production technology for closed loop clothing.

Worn Again are change makers in the textile and fashion industry, forging new paths to achieving a zero-waste industry. Their vision is to develop a Worn Again certified closed-loop resource model in collaboration with the fashion industry. The company partnered with researcher Dr Kate Goldsworthy of UAL’s Textile Futures Research Centre (now Centre for Circular Design) who has developed an innovative use of laser technology for textile finishing and production using polyester materials.

Goldsworthy collaborated with fashion designer David Telfer to explore a new way to design production-ready garments in 2D. These concepts, based around Telfer’s ‘Zero Waste’ and ‘Minimal Construction’ collections, are fused with Goldsworthy’s ‘Mono Finishing’ techniques to produce custom manufactured fashion products. Due to their monomaterial construction, the polyester garments are designed to be fully recyclable into virgin quality material through chemical repolymerisation.

This project has resulted in a new prototype dress for zero-waste production and design for cyclability, working towards a scalable real-world solution for sustainable production of clothing in a streamlined and digitally driven production line.

FIREup Catalyst project 3: Digitally Crafted Accessories

Nature-inspired, digitally-crafted design and production of accessories.

Accessories designer Michelle Lowe-Holder has pursued product innovation through a project centred on 3D printing technology, in combination with her unique hand-crafted aesthetic. Michelle collaborated with Dr Thomas Makryniotis, a researcher in 3D and virtual technologies at LCF’s Fashion Digital Studio, and CSF’s Prof Sandy Black, to develop new concepts for accessories such as a versatile nature-inspired bag, enhanced with a range of textiles and finishing processes.

F.I.R.E.up brought together a team that introduced Michelle to an entirely new manufacturing process for digitally-printed small batch production, and Thomas to the working methods of a materials-based designer/maker.

The projected resulted in prototype bags which Michelle Lowe-Holder presented in Milan with a view to further developing and commercialising the concept.

FIREup Catalyst project 4: Accessing Brand Value

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For interactive e-commerce.

Having recently launched an e-commerce platform, designer Christopher Raeburn is developing a dynamic and forward-thinking sales and marketing strategy, reflecting the brand’s reputation for sustainable innovation in both design and communication.

This project investigated the creation of a ‘digital archive’ to unlock the inspiration and heritage of some of the most iconic Christopher Raeburn garments, and allow customers to participate in a co-design process, evolving the brand.

Christopher collaborated with CSF’s Alex McIntosh and together they have assembled an interdisciplinary team, including fashion writer Hywel Davies of CSM and interaction designer Alina Moat, that has researched the brand values and feasibility of such a system for small designer businesses. Two new film narratives tell the story of the selected pieces, made of upcycled unique wartime silk maps and parachutes.