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Creating communities: LCF student and alumni community engagement in Poplar

group of people with garments
  • Written byL. McKirdy
  • Published date10 May 2022
group of people with garments
Photography: Adam Razvi

The community team at LCF’s Making for Change (MFC) has had a busy few months collaborating with local organisations on creative projects working with women and children from the local area.

MFC worked with LCF Alumni Trashion Factory, a non-profit community interest company with the aim to spread upcycling and longevity in clothes and Ellen Rock Studio, a print artist and designer based in London rooted in community and responsibility, to deliver Create Club and Coat Club on the Aberfeldy Estate in Poplar.

women around a sewing machine
Photography: Adam Razvi

Create Club was a fashion focussed, creative after school programme for 6-10 year olds, delivered at Aberfeldy Big Local over six weeks at the start of the year. Each week, the children explored a different creative practise using themes of identity and self-representation. The participants explored collage, block printing, embroidery, screen printing, applique badges and upcycling throughout the sessions. The project culminated with a fun session, where the children decorated their own capes, upcycled from waste materials, with the badges and pieces they had created at the club.

woman holding up coat
Photography: Adam Razvi

Meanwhile, at the Aberfeldy Community Centre, a group of 12 women from the local community were learning new skills and creating reversible jackets for their children and loved ones at Coat Club.

Coat Club brought the community together to learn new skills, share ideas and create beautiful garments. In the first few weeks, the group took part in a series of design workshops where they shared stories to influence design development and explored textile print practices as a way translating their ideas onto fabric. The original, bespoke garments reflect a sense of self, identity and love. Over the course of Coat Club, the group designed and printed one side of the fabric in their reversible coat with images, symbols or patterns that they have individually developed with Ellen Rock Studio.

Working with Olivia, founder and designer of Trashion Factory, they implemented a zero-waste coat pattern. By the end of the ten weeks, the group had produced beautiful coats made with deadstock fabrics as well as developed skills in pattern cutting, garment construction and domestic sewing machine techniques. They have breathed new life into fabric sourced from A New Craft House in Hackney, that would have otherwise gone to waste.

In addition to these technical skills, the group has shared their own talents with one another, which are reflected in the final creations through beautiful patchwork, crochet, embroidery, embellishments and personalisations to make each coat one of a kind and extra special for the individuals they have been made for.

woman holding up coat
Photography: Adam Razvi

BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles: Embroidery student Scarlet Grey, assisted on both projects as part of her work placement at Making for Change. Scarlet said, “It's been very rewarding to assist on a project that champions collaboration, connection and creativity. I've really enjoyed getting to know the women on a personal level and helping them realise their ideas, as well as their creative strengths. The group have taught me a lot as a textile student and it's made me understand the importance of community engagement. I'd love to continue to work on more projects like Coat Club in the future!”

woman holding up coat
Photography: Adam Razvi

Jess Tierney, Head of Community Development at MFC says, “It’s inspiring to see our community in Poplar grow with the support and talents of LCF’s students, staff and alumni designers. We have such a unique set up here at Poplar Works, it is wonderful to see that the learning and collaborations we envisaged for the area are developing into projects that our whole community can be proud of.”

woman holding up coat
Photography: Adam Razvi

Create Club and Coat Club fall under London College of Fashion, UAL’s Making for Change 1000 Coats programme; a project that delivers skills development workshops to community sewing groups, focusing on women and young people in East London, reflecting on how fashion and making can build communities and inspire social change.

From May 9th the MA Fashion Curation students are exhibiting a 1000 Coats installation at LCF JPS in the Vitrine. For more information about this and MFC check Instagram @making.for.change and @lcf_vitrine.