Cordwainers at London College of Fashion, UAL, originated as an independent Trade School. Founded in Bethnal Green in 1887, it was a joint project between the Worshipful Companies of Corwainers and Leathersellers, the City and Guilds of London Institute and the Boot and Shoe Manufacturers’ Association.
It became Cordwainers Technical College in 1913 and in 2000 it merged with London College of Fashion, moving from Mare Street to Golden Lane.
Historically, Cordwainers had a strong technical focus, preparing graduates for the British footwear manufacturing industry. It offered courses in subjects like shoe repair and construction as well as those for aspiring factory managers who were already in employment.
When the British manufacturing industries went into decline, unable to compete with cheaper production overseas, there was less demand for technical courses. So Cordwainers developed the then radical approach of teaching technical skills along with design. Graduates learnt to call themselves designers rather than artisans.
This had an effect on the British shoe and accessories industry. Although there has been a decline in manufacturing in the UK, the value of the market has gone up due to its supply of shoes and accessories brands on a global scale.
Cordwainers has kept its links to craft skills and London’s manufacturing industry through strong links to City livery companies. London College of Fashion has a Cordwainers Advisory Board, made up of key figures from the industry. The board makes sure that courses are still relevant and that they provide graduates with the skills that prepare them for employment. The footwear and accessories facilities at the College’s Golden Lane site are exceptional. They include CAD/CAM technology, 3D design software with 3D body and foot scanning, and rapid prototyping, along with specialist technical staff.
One of the most valuable resources available to students is the Cordwainers at London College of Fashion archive, with 663 shoes and more than 1200 digitised images.
There is nowhere else in the world that offers the quality of teaching and breadth of creative thinking.
Professor Jimmy Choo, OBE
Awards, accolades and support
In 2008, Cordwainers at London College of Fashion was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education.
2013 marked 125 years of Cordwainers. LCF celebrated with a fundraising gala event in the City of London, attended by HRH The Countess of Wessex (a LCF Better Lives Patron). The event generated a programme of scholarships and awards dedicated to the next generation of footwear and accessories stars.
In recent years, the likes of The Dune Group, Charlotte Olympia, Lulu Guinness and Kurt Geiger have supported the students of Cordwainers through scholarships and placement opportunities.
The Cordwainers Advisory Board, along with LCF Careers ensures students gain industry experience through placements and live industry projects. Recent examples of live footwear briefs include Tommy Hilfiger, Puma, Saks 5th Avenue, H&M and Ted Baker and accessory projects for Topshop, Deni Deni and Bill Amberg.
Courses include an optional year in industry and students have been placed in companies such as Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Stella, McCartney Prada; Bill Amberg, Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry, LVMH, Dune, Jimmy Choo, Y3, Adidas, Sophia Webster, Nicholas Kirkwood, Rupert Sanderson, Tesco F&F, and Topshop.
Student and alumni successes
Cordwainers at London College of Fashion celebrates a successful student and alumni body. Students excel in the Student Footwear Designer of the Year at the National Footwear Awards. Graduates are sought after for their expertise, design aesthetic and industry focus, across the globe.
Graduates have gone on to work for great brands and form their own businesses, such as: Toni Alexander- Royal Opera House in charge of footwear department; Krisha Bejal- Designer - United Nude; Lauren Betourney- Freelance footwear designer - Rag and Bone New York; Phoebe Carter- Junior Designer - River Island; Guillem Turro Casnaovas- Designer - Tommy Hilfiger; Carla Humanes Fernandez - Sophia Webster - general duties; Jack Mcnamara- Design/product development - Hunter; Eleanor Mills - Assistant designer - Topman Topshop.
Cordwainers alumni include Joseph Azagury, Linda (LK) Bennett OBE, Jimmy Choo OBE, Patrick Cox, Emma Hope, MBE, Rupert Sanderson, Georgina Goodman, Nicholas Kirkwood, Sophia Webster, Charlotte Olympia, Beatrix Ong OBE, Camilla Skovgaard, Emily Trotter.