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Staff Spotlight: Claire Swift

Claire Swift is the Director of Social Responsibility at London College of Fashion (LCF), a role she has held since 2014.

Procession Banners by made by residents of HMP Downview

Claire describes herself as a maker-designer, as she’s always found that “making was, and still is for me the most enjoyable aspect of designing”, and her life has been dominated by fashion from an early age. Living through key moments in fashion history in the 70s, 80s and 90s allowed her to play with image and identity, and become part of the fashion community. She joined LCF permanently in 1999, after becoming a Pathway Leader and Course Director, Claire became the Programme Director for Womenswear for many years.  It was during this time, that a colleague introduced Claire to a project working with a women’s prison in London, which began a new phase in her career.

Claire’s philosophy that “fashion is unstoppable in its power to shape peoples’ lives” has meant she’s been a leading voice in some of the projects developed under LCF’s Better Lives agenda. The programme covers the college’s work that uses fashion discipline to drive change, build a sustainable future and improve the way we live.

“We co-create innovative and dynamic programmes instigating a dialogue between staff, students, women offenders and the wider community, using fashion concepts, skills and outcomes to create positive change, redefining its role within today’s society.”

LCF students Holly and Yubin with three weavers from the San Patrignano community, for the Concious Contemporary Tailoring project

Recent Better Lives projects:Making for Change
This project saw the installation of a fully-equipped fashion training and CMT manufacturing unit within a women’s prison. Established by the Ministry of Justice and LCF in 2014, the project aims to increase the well-being and reduce reoffending rates amongst participants by equipping them with professional skills and qualifications within a supportive environment. This helps them to become employable upon release and in so doing gives them the confidence to change their futures.

To commemorate the Centenary of the Representation of the People’s Act, in collaboration with Historic England, artist Lucy Orta, LCF staff and students worked with inmates at HMP Downview women’s prison as part of Artichoke’s nationwide mass-participation art project. Over three months they delivered a programme of educational and practical workshops to produce seven banner art-pieces that represented the women at HMP Downview in a procession in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast on 10 June 2018.

Conscious Contemporary Tailoring
Supported by the Zegna Foundation and facilitated by the social responsibility department at LCF, this project brings communities together: the women of the weaving department at San Patrignano, the women of LCF’s Making for Change project and BA (Hons) Fashion Design Technology: Menswear students. San Patrignano is a community that focuses on the rehabilitation of young people affected by drug issues. As an alternative to a prison sentence, the young people actively engage with their own transformation through education and learning to be specialists in a craft skill.

The projects are open to everyone who wishes to participate – staff, students, women offenders, community participants.

Quick fire questions:

  • Vintage or new? Vintage
  • Favourite designer? Francois and Marithe Girbaud, sadly no longer designing and Ally Capellino
  • Presents – prefer to give or receive? Definitely give
  • The most beloved piece of clothing/ accessory you own? My Ally Capellino handbag goes everywhere with me
  • Sweet or savoury? Savoury
  • Instagram or Twitter? Instagram
  • Sunset or Sunrise? Sunset
  • Favourite thing about LCF? The people
  • Name one thing everyone should do at LCF Mare Street…go for a swim at London Fields Lido
  • Something people might not know about LCF…that we deliver creative, inspiring projects with women in prison

Find out more about LCF Better Lives, and how you can get involved.