Our History

London College of Fashion has a dynamic and varied history as part of the British fashion industry. Britain was once the leader in manufacturing and trade and now spearheads business, design and artesanal production. We have adapted to, and pioneered, developments in the industry, from science and innovation to business and design. It is our unique past that has allowed for such forward-thinking.

In the nineteenth century, workers in the clothing industry were trained through an apprenticeship system, but by the end of that century the increase in population and new technology meant that these traditional skills were not meeting the needs of the industry and in response, the London County Council Education Board set up trade schools. 


182 Mare Street was build to house Lady Eleanor Holles School for girls.


Cordwainers College was founded as the Leather Trades School in Bethnal Green, the first school of shoe and boot manufacture.


London County Council builds Lime Grove. It was originally the Hammersmith School of Building which was part of Hammersmith School of Art, instructing architects, some of whom went on to build the Millbank Estate behind Tate Britain. 


The origins of London College of Fashion were three trade schools: Shoreditch Technical Institute Girls School (1906) with Barrett Trade School (1915) and Clapham Trade School (1920). These schools trained girls in the art of dressmaking, millinery, embroidery and hairdressing. They were as young as twelve and the schools were organised like typical secondary schools, with school uniforms and 30 hours per week, including Maths and English.

The schools identified the skills needed in the fashion industry at the time and fashioned teaching to service this need. For example, term finished in March, just in time for our students to walk into jobs preparing for the season's rounds of balls, parties and social events.


In response to suggestions from the trade, the schools started taking older pupils of 15 and over, and offering evening classes for women already working. 


Mayor of London’s Fancy Dress Ball – costumes for the children made by LCF students – image 77 in the book


A new afternoon course for Ladies’ Maids

Students were also taught French as they would need this for retail trade (many suppliers of luxury fabrics were French)


Junior school evacuated to Raimesfield, Castle Hill and Boyn Hill House, Maidenhead

Page xxiii illustration


The 1944 Education Act required students to continue full time education until fifteen. Junior level courses were stopped and the senior classes expanded.


In the 1930s, and through the war, we realised the significance of the fledgling ready-to-wear market and trained our pupils accordingly. This radical approach to design education is as pioneering today as it was back then. It's what makes us unique.


The Barrett Street Technical College and Shoreditch College merged to form the London College of Fashion and Clothing Technology, which opened on a purpose-built site at John Princes Street.


New courses including modelling and fashion writing were added to the curriculum.


The name of the college changed to London College of Fashion.

By this time there were over 3,000 full time and evening students registered. 


London College of Fashion became part of the London Institute.


London College of Fashion offered its first degree course – BA (Hons) in Clothing


The London Institute is granted its first Coat of Arms. 


Cordwainers College, which had been based at Mare Street, merged with London College of Fashion – now there were six sites, Barrett Street, Davies Street, John Princes Street, Golden Lane, Curtain Road and Mare Street


The London Institute becomes University of the Arts London.


Cordwainers at London College of Fashion is awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education.


University of the Arts London acquires 272 High Holborn, built in 2001.


Sophie, Countess of Wessex, became the first ever patron of London College of Fashion


LCF announces move to single site at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.

2021 we move in

So where will the next hundred years see us? Who knows? That's what makes the future so exciting. One thing we can be sure of: London College of Fashion will be at the centre of things.