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Founders’ innovation at Poplar Works: Sage’s one year residency anniversary

5 corked tubes with coloured dye powders within them, placed behind boxes with different coloured fabrics in, reflecting the dye pigments.
  • Written byC. Prina
  • Published date 17 June 2024
5 corked tubes with coloured dye powders within them, placed behind boxes with different coloured fabrics in, reflecting the dye pigments.
Brand imagery of Sages 1

LCF alumni Alice Simpson MA Fashion Design Technology (Menswear) and Emily Taylor, MA Fashion Futures, Founders of Sages, are dedicated to addressing the environmental impact of the fashion industry by using natural dyes made from food waste as a sustainable alternative to traditional dyes.

In recognition of their groundbreaking work, Alice and Emily were awarded a £500,000 grant from Innovate UK, the UK's Innovation agency, in 2023. This funding has allowed them to expand their operations and relocate from their original studios at Poplar Works to larger premises. We caught up with them to hear about the latest exciting developments.

4 different fabric swatches in purple, yellow, burnt orange and mustard yellow, next to the dye powder tubes.
Brand imagery of Sages

Firstly, congratulations on being awarded the £500k Innovate funding award. How does it feel to receive this fund and how do you plan to use it?

Thank you! This is a huge step forward and a great endorsement of the work that SAGES is doing. This will be used to develop our technology from TRL4-5 - TRL7. We will be testing our end-to-end manufacturing process in its entirety and preparing to build a pilot plant capable of producing commercial quantities of dye.

You were given studio space at Poplar Works for a year but have since moved on to bigger premises which is fantastic news. How did being awarded this studio space help you to grow your business?

Even though we only had it for a short time, having access to the space at Poplar was really helpful for our business. We used it as a mix of testing and office space. Having the space has helped us bridge the gap in business needs at a time when money was quite tight!

It’s a wonderful feeling to know the work you are doing will have an impact.

Fabric swatches layered on top of each other in various orange colours dyed by onions
Brand imagery of Sages

How would you describe your collaboration with LCF and LCF Business and innovation since moving out of Poplar Works?

We love being part of the LCF alumni network and we are always being invited to and attending interesting events and tapping into the broader LCF ecosystem. LCF Business and Innovation and Graduate Futures team have been helping us along our journey for almost three years now. They have been a huge support and an invaluable resource during the first years of SAGES,

Both LCF and Business and Innovation have led us to many opportunities that would prove pivotal to our success!

As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, sustainability has become a hot topic in every industry, and it is an integral part of your business. What projects are you currently working on which will continue to support your work in this space?

Our main focus is on testing our manufacturing process so that it is suitable for scale. We believe our solution can have a big impact in cleaning up toxicity in the fashion industry and the sooner we can scale, the sooner this impact can be realised. Alongside this, we are working on some really exciting developments in other areas of textile manufacturing and developing our dyes for applications in other markets such as paints, inks, and cosmetics.

3 corked tubes of dye powders surrounded by beige ceramics, coloured pieces of fabric, onions and fruit.
Brand imagery of Sages

Sounds super exciting! What are your future aspirations for the business?

Our goal is to become a leading supplier of natural dyes and to roll our solution out globally.

Finally, what key piece of advice would you like to share with students starting their businesses?

Personally, it is really important to work out why you want to start a business and understand the market into which you are entering. And do not be scared! Everyone is rooting for you to succeed. Ask for help when you need it and understand what you are good at and where you need assistance.

Running a business is tough so having a rock-solid foundation to remind you why you started this in the first place is important.

Fabric clippings layered on top of each other in various pink colours dyed by avocados
Brand imagery of Sages

Very sound advice and a fantastic way to end. Thanks, Alice, and Emily for taking the time to share these exciting developments with us. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours.