More than a fashionable move
London College of Fashion is relocating to the east of town
As Europe's largest fashion college prepares to join the Victoria & Albert museum, Sadler's Wells dance theatre and University College London in the east of London in five years’ time, K magazine asks what the move will mean for the future of this venerable institution and the city itself?
The partnership between these four world-class institutions will create radical research, and lead to exciting new technology and fashion businesses in this part of London.
The music was loud, the walls were bare, the pipes exposed. But the models – with out-sized pockets that were deep and vertical – had attitude. There were flowing, all-body numbers combined with head pieces made of heat-manipulated faux leather, making the wearer look wind-blown and then frozen. There was an outfit inspired by 'the beauty of ugliness' and moulded masques the wearers couldn't possibly have seen out of. Much of the jewellery was elegantly, opulently organic and didn't look too painful to wear. And then one of the male models flicked his codpiece at us.
Taking place inside a disused factory in Shoreditch, in the East End, this was London College of Fashion's BA (Hons) graduate show. As well as showcasing the immense creativity of the students, it demonstrated the diversity of the 30 undergraduate courses on offer from all aspects of design to fashion production management. You can do a MSc Cosmetic Science; a degree in Hair and Make-up for Fashion or prosthetics for performance. Want to study fashion public relations or styling and photography? Then LCF has the programme for you.
Only an hour before, Frances Corner, head of London College of Fashion, part of the University of the Arts London, had emphasised the breadth and depth of pedagogy and research at LCF, “There's a four-year pattern cutting course, for example, so it's not just design,” she said.
Breaking new ground
All the more reason to preserve and build on it. She had been officially announcing LCF's move from Oxford Street and five other premises to the site of the 2012 Olympic Games in the east of London. It will bring together LCF's 5,500 students, mostly women, and staff for the first time in the college's 100-year history. Creating a 32,000m2 (323,000 square feet) educational hub for the global fashion industry – 40% of students are international – it will be close to the traditional heart of the East End fashion trade.
That's not all: the new campus will host 11 research centres, including Centre for Sustainable Fashion and one on innovation. It should also provide, according to the blurb, access to advanced fashion technology, business incubators and a changing programme of public exhibitions.
As Nigel Carrington, vice-chancellor of University of the Arts London (which includes LCF, Central Saint Martins and four other arts colleges) said, “Research on global challenges is increasingly beginning to emerge from the borders of art and science. The partnership between these four world-class institutions [UAL, the V&A, UCL and Sadler's Wells] will create radical research, and lead to exciting new technology and fashion businesses in this part of London.”
A sense of space
It's clear the college needs space to regroup its departments and to expand but why move to the Olympic Park in Stratford, close to the Zaha Hadid designed London Aquatics Centre? Corner emphasised the belief that East London is the best place to influence the future of fashion, not only in London but in the UK and internationally.
This is because the move builds on the East End's fashion heritage, with the new site supporting existing East London enterprises and creating “further economic growth and social engagement initiatives” for the area. Indeed, over the last ten years east London has expanded its fashion industry, with Hackney creating a fashion retail and atelier hub, with brands such as Christopher Kane.
Other plans include a Social Enterprise Centre, “using fashion and identity to engage with our diverse society” and developing “the UK's largest fashion enterprise incubator where graduates are supported to make their business ideas a reality”.
LCF is also establishing a Global Disability Innovation Hub on the park, as early as September this year. The aim of GDIHub is “to explore innovation through the dual lens of design for disability and disability-inspired design”. This is under the college’s larger Better Lives programme, one of the four pillars of the institution (along with Education, Enterprise and Research), which uses fashion as a discipline to ‘drive change, build a sustainable future and improve the way we live’.
Similarly, under a partnership with its local district, Fashioning Poplar, the college’s garment manufacturing unit will provide employment and training to a local workforce and to female ex-offenders graduating from the unit’s sister project, at Her Majesty’s Prison Downview.
Allies and Morrison, a practice experienced in academic building, are the new site’s architects. Best known to the public for their sensitive alterations to the Royal Festival Hall (and Southbank Centre), which produced a more welcoming, new entrance and improved ease of movement, they say the new LCF site is ‘conceived as a 21st century factory for creative production’.
Development of the designs for planning permission has already begun and construction starts in 2018. The first stage is due to be completed in 2019 and the rest by 2021, when models will be strutting a new catwalk with fresh student designs – different but no doubt as provocative and imaginative as this year’s.
The final word from Corner: “By bringing together our varied disciplines and facilities this site, quite literally, gives us space to explore the possibilities of what fashion will become over the next 100 years. As a world-leading educator for such a specialist subject [fashion], that is what we need to do now”.
Press Release: Kering and London College of Fashion welcome Kelly Slater at their annual Kering Talk
4Fashion, the blog of the University of Arts London
Better lives, London College of Fashion