A decade of enterprising design - Fashion - Life and Style - The Independent

A decade of enterprising design

Marrying creativity with commerce, London’s  Centre for Fashion Enterprise is celebrating its 10th birthday. Stephanie Hirschmiller looks back on a run of success stories

London has long been a breeding ground for some of the most creative and exciting voices in fashion, but those skills don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with commercial nous. Thanks to an ever-growing support network, however, the capital’s young designers are able to get a foot firmly on the fashion ladder. The Centre for Fashion Enterprise (CFE) is one such initiative, which is celebrating a decade of success.

Mary Katrantzou, JW Anderson, Erdem, Peter Pilotto, Simone Rocha, Sibling… these are just a handful of the 245 emerging designers with which the enterprise centre has worked since its geneses. The not-for-profit initiative originally took funding from  the Mayor’s Office and opened in a space donated by the London College of Fashion (LCF), with the aim of assisting a generation of talented designers who were perplexed by running a business.

Now with Wendy Malem, an expert in the field, as director, served by an advisory board – including Sarah Mower, Jane Shepherdson and Frances Corner – the Centre boasts an accumulative sales turnover of £20m and generates its own income from international consultancy projects. The well-rounded blend of industry insiders goes some way to explaining its success rate – 85 per cent of its alumni are still in business, a statistic more than double the national average for start-ups.

There are three levels of participation – “market entry”, “pioneer” and “venture” – which range from an induction to advanced development.  “When you first start you don’t really think like a business,” concedes Sam Cotton, one half of Agi & Sam, who have graduated from “pioneer” to “venture” and are recipients of funding from Topshop’s NewGen initiative too.

Malem describes “venture” as “a growth development programme,” explaining that the board selects designers to which they feel they can add value, looking for those that fill three criteria: “Design leadership, entrepreneurial spirit and the right personality.” In addition to the continued support from the team, the two-year programme offers studio space at its Hackney headquarters with access to  LCF’s facilities, such as screen printing and laser cutting machines, legal support from the law firm Olswang – £250,000 yearly investment – and PR fees paid as well.

Peter Pilotto’s Christopher de Vos cites the “amazing machinery” they were able to access during their tenure before they could afford their own, while menswear designer, James Long, confided that the CFE’s lawyers dealt with a serious copyright issue and set up his VAT and international trademark. He also received the coveted “fashion forward” award for menswear after working closely with Malem on his business plan.

In addition to the undeniable tangible benefits, it’s also the networking with others that designers find invaluable. According to Holly Fulton: “It’s nice to have people in the same position to bounce off each other and ask things like ‘this store hasn’t paid me, have you dealt with them?’.” She admits that “creative people are not that well versed in the business side of things”. So should fashion colleges offer a business grounding to aspiring designers? It’s a matter of some debate in the industry, but the general consensus among the CFE’s alumni is “no”.

Long is adamant that college should be a time “to completely indulge yourself creatively” while de Vos advocates learning on the job: “That’s what’s so exciting about fashion – you learn so much the first day you enter the industry and you never actually stop learning.”

However, although Mary Katrantzou admits “when it’s  your own business, you learn really fast”, she would have preferred prior knowledge and Thomas Tait would certainly have welcomed some degree of preparation: “I think it’s very important for colleges to communicate with students exactly how competitive the industry is – it’s so cut throat!”

Malem agrees that UK colleges could do more; an ideal “bare minimum” would see graduates knowing how to cost their garments. “Commerce still doesn’t drive business in the UK,” she says. “You go to America and they have commercial ideas for breakfast.”

As the industry changes, so too do the demands on designers, and Malem is happy to launch a new programme of investment readiness. “This has been our dream for a long time,” she says – and isn’t it fair that the woman who makes fashion dreams a reality gets to live her own?

Suggested Topics
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Energy Markets Analyst

    £400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

    Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    Nursery Manager

    £22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

    Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week