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Shared Talent

Shared Talent explores the relationship between ecological damage, human inequality and current definitions of fashion. The project questions the true nature of collaboration and places a geographic and cultural lens on notions of sustainability in relation to fashion.

This people centred initiative challenges the hierarchical approach usually associated with fashion production and emphasises the value of each person’s contribution to both process and product.

To date the project has brought together universities, businesses and NGOs from across the world and from diverse areas within fashion. Shared Talent allows participants to interact in ways not usually experienced either in the classroom or workplace. The project seeks to develop resilient working practices within specific communities or crafts, made vulnerable by economic models and ecological challenges.

Methods include participatory practice, experiential learning techniques and connection to nature, underpinning the ethos of Centre for Sustainable Fashion.

2007 - Shared Talent South Africa

London College of Fashion establishes a partnership with LISOF, brokered through the Fashion Business Resource Studio.

Dilys Williams devises a project to bring together a multidisciplinary group of LCF and LISOF students with members of Buotemelo, a women’s co-operative in Johannesburg, South Africa. The project aims to create an immersive design and making experience that can facilitate an exchange of skills, knowledge and expertise. The intention is to establish practical methods to support the co-operative and at the same time develop empathic understanding that can transcend geographic, linguistic and cultural barriers.

Participants involved in the design, communication and consumption of contemporary fashion experience first hand the implications of their decision making, whilst co-operative members experience fashion industry parameters. A Shared Talent ‘workroom’ is set up at South Africa Fashion Week and interviews with participants are televised nationally and internationally.

Many participating students develop distinctive design identities influenced by their experience. Including Ada Zandition,  Julia Crew,  Gabrielle MillerLaura Queening.  A commercial contract is signed between Buotemelo and a leading European brand and Dilys Williams compiles the first research phase of Shared Talent.

2008 - Shared Talent South and West Africa

Drawing on the experience of Shared Talent 1, Shared Talent 2 seeks to evolve and apply the model in a broader context. Partnering with Tabeisa, the project offers longer term localised support to marginalised co-operatives and develops in depth research case studies. The means for the project to offer viable commercial support to co-operatives is realised through Exclusive Roots, Tabeisa’s on-line retail platform.

Each participant is paired with a co-operative, varying in size from sole traders to businesses involving 25 community members, many with limited access to resources. The participating co-operatives are carefully selected based on their existing and potential skills and capacity, a recognised need for design innovation and a wish to access new markets.

Over one-month, participants work on location with their co-operative partners, establishing methods and means of communication and sharing skills and expertise in a variety of ways. As some of the locations are remote and not easily accessible, a five-day workshop is set up in Durban, half way through the process. The workshop offers a means to exchange learning and to explore and address shared challenges and opportunities ahead of the final work phase.

Outcomes include commercially viable collections, sold through Exclusive Roots, offering access to new markets for the co-operatives. This retail opportunity contributes to their ongoing development and the application of their skills.  Participating students go on to develop sustainability led design businesses including Beautiful Soul by Nicola Woods. The case studies gathered provide evidence for further Shared Talent project research.


2009 - Shared Talent India

Shared Talent attracts recognition in a global sustainability dialogue and various national and international agencies begin to take an interest in the work.

The  UK government’s Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Indian Department of Textiles offer support for a third manifestation of Shared Talent to:

  • Explore and establish ecological, ethical and cultural criteria for fashion textiles sourced in India.
  • Create innovative products and visual narratives to promote the uptake and recognition of these textiles in the European market.
  • Transcend geographic, linguistic and cultural barriers through a collaborative design and development process

Research and fieldwork is undertaken to define specific geographic parameters for sustainability in Indian textiles. A road trip across parts of India establishes relationships with mills, co-operatives and community groups. Swatches and materials are collated for the next phase of the project.

Methods and guidelines are drawn from the previous shared talent projects and the initial textile research. Practicing designers are recruited from UK and  from India through a partnership with Pearl Academy Delhi. An interdisciplinary group of students from London College of Fashion, Pearl Academy and Amsterdam Fashion Institute are also recruited to take part in the project. Together designers and students take part in an immersive design and making workshop in a village on the outskirts of Delhi.

Participants engage in dialogues with a diverse range of contributors including large and small-scale Indian textile suppliers, craftsmen and UK buyers. The testing of this participatory design method takes place through the creation of collections using materials selected from the first phase of the project.  An invitation to showcase project outcomes at London Fashion Week in September 2009 is supported by Monsoon. Harold Tilman, Chairman of the British Fashion Council, introduces the project to industry and media. Selected work is also shown at India Fashion Week and brought to life through an editorial fashion shoot.

Download Volume V – Shared Talent India

2010 - Shared Talent India Sourcing Toolkit

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Research, resources and insights established through the Shared Talent India project are collated and communicated through an online sourcing toolkit. The website offers insights into the opportunities and challenges when sourcing in India, as well as creative inspiration, practical advice and a database of suppliers, aimed primarily at UK designers. The Shared Talent India website goes live at the end of 2010 and provides an invaluable resource to connect designers and buyers with forward thinking Indian textile suppliers. Livia Firth and Lucy Siegle host a roundtable discussion with UK retailers and designers to launch the toolkit and a short film is released to accompany the project.

Visit the Shared Talent India website