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Q&A with Professor Corner as she is honoured at the Women Inspiration and Enterprise awards

Professor Corner, OBE, at the Women Inspiration and Enterprise Awards
Professor Corner, OBE, at the Women Inspiration and Enterprise Awards
Professor Corner, OBE, at the Women Inspiration and Enterprise Awards
Written by
mcorcoran
Published date
30 April 2015

On Monday night, LCF Head of College Professor Frances Corner was awarded the Women Inspiration and Enterprise award for Education.

The award recognised Professor Corner’s work to drive change and power business within the fashion industry through education at LCF.

At an evening which saw inspiring women talk about their visions for the future of enterprise, Prof. Corner told the audience that fashion enterprises had the power to strengthen poor communities and protect the environment. It was clear that the practices we inspire in the next generation of fashion creatives can change things for the better, marrying both business and education as essential in building a just future for all.

A case in point was the LDNY project, a collaboration between LCF, Parson’s New York and the UN Women and Trade programme. Collections created by BA (Hons) Fashion Design & Development students and using artisan crafts from makers in developing countries were seen on the runway moments before the award was announced.

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Nayana Kodesia’s collection (BA Hons Fashion Design and Development) on the LDNY Runway show at the Women Inspiration Enterprise Awards

Prof Frances Corner and June Sarpong, who was the evening’s host, have worked with the students to go across borders. They have not only united leading fashion schools on either side of the Atlantic, but employed incredible artisan makers in countries such as Mongolia and Ethiopia, to create fashion that is both ethical and unique.

On the occasion of such a brilliant accolade, we spoke to Prof. Corner about what this award means to her, and how she is continuing to shape her vision of the future of fashion through education at LCF.

Professor Corner, OBE, at the Women Inspiration and Enterprise Awards

Professor Corner, OBE, at the Women Inspiration and Enterprise Awards

LCF News: What does this award mean to you personally, and to LCF? 

Prof. Frances Corner: I am absolutely delighted and rather humbled that my work as Head of LCF has been recognised alongside such visionary and extraordinary women.  As a fully signed up fashion enthusiast and dedicated feminist the importance of awards like this where we can stand together as women and celebrate our collective successes, cannot be understated.  I am privileged to head up a largely female institution and follow in the footsteps of strong and passionate women who have pioneered fashion education at LCF for over one hundred years. Fashion Matters to me, to our society, to the economy and to each of us personally.  Fashion deserves to be taken seriously and celebrated for its beauty, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.  Fashion, as well as being fun and frivolous, can be a force for change – which is why I have pushed the boundaries of what fashion can and should be about.

LCF News: The evening included a catwalk show from the LDNY project, as well as the dinner and awards. What was your highlight? 

There were quite a few highlights for me – obviously seeing the students work on the catwalk was really exciting! It’s been a brilliant project for our students to work on and the resulting collections really exemplified the best of new design and ethical manufacturing.  I was also excited to finally meet Baroness Gail Rebuck who won an Inspiration Award – I’ve followed her work closely and thought she was a thoroughly deserving winner.

LCF News: The WIE awards have recognized people such as Melinda Gates, Dame Vivienne Westwood, Nancy Pelosi, Iman and Queen Rania of Jordan. How does it feel to be part of this network? 

It’s very humbling to be recognised alongside some of the world’s most influential women – I’m just glad that I will have the opportunity, now that I am part of this network, to encourage more organisations to work with LCF and further our work in these important areas.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get Melinda Gates or Nancy Pelosi in to talk to our students – you never know what might happen!

LCF News: The WIE network is about Women Inspiration and Enterprise – could you tell us a bit about how LCF’s supports enterprise?  

One of my priorities as Head was to look at the way we approach social enterprise.  A really good example of where we have been successful is our Fashion Education in Prison projects which have not only been important to the offenders we work with, but also the projects have really changed the way staff and students think about fashion education. Since we ran our first pilot project at HMP Send in 2009, LCF’s work in prisons has expanded, most recently into the launch of a training and manufacturing unit at HMP Holloway in 2014 in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice.  Due to its eclectic nature, fashion appeals to people from all backgrounds crossing social and educational barriers, it also provides invaluable skills which can benefit offenders after they are released and help them get back on their feet. In the last decade, the women’s prison population has more than doubled, with most being held for non-violent offences. Most have been dealt a bad hand in life. Through our projects we have been able to demonstrate that through education we can make a real difference in these womens’ lives.  I am proud that through this work we have been able to challenge people perceptions of what fashion is and can achieve.

LCF News: What do you hope this award will mean for the future?

Whether it’s embedding fashion education in our prison systems to help female offenders, or working with artisan communities in some of the poorest parts of the world, as we did with LDNY and with June Sarpong…. we know that fashion has the power to transform women’s lives and build a more sustainable future. I hope that the WIE awards and network will shine a light on the incredible projects and causes that were recognised last night – and that we can use this opportunity to further the issues that we feel most passionate about.

Photography: Hanna Puskarz, BA (Hons) Fashion Photography

Read more about the evening from our reporter Fi Anderson, BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism
• Read more on Frances’s blog
• Read more about LCF Better Lives