Last night London College of Fashion joined the likes of British Fashion Council chairman Natalie Massenet MBE, model David Gandy and designer Jasmine Guinness at the Women Inspiration and Enterprise Awards.
Held at the prestigious Goldsmiths’ Hall, the Women Inspiration and Enterprise Awards honoured our very own Head of College, Professor Frances Corner, for Services to Education. The ceremony celebrates pioneering female role models influencing change and innovation. Having been inspiring LCF’s students to see fashion as a driving force for social and environmental improvement since her appointment in 2005, Professor Corner’s accolade was much deserved.
Through the college’s Better Lives agenda, she has fostered a range of initiatives revolving around fashion production. Launched in October last year, LCF’s 5-year partnership with luxury group Kering was a landmark step for the future of sustainable fashion. While collaboration with the charity Art Against Knives has brought skills and prospects of an alternative future to young people in high-crime level communities. The experience of The Beauty Inside project – where students work with female prisoners to produce a magazine – has demonstrated the importance of rehabilitation and fashion’s power to unite.
Humble as ever, last night Corner told me she was thrilled to be nominated for the award prior to the results. But this was an after thought to yet another project she was about to reveal: The ceremony opened with a very special fashion show, the outcome of a yearlong collaborative competition between LCF’s womenswear and menswear students, Parson’s New York, and female artisans from across the world.
The project was organised by television presenter June Sarpong and the LDNY Foundation she initiated in order to provide young people from lower-class backgrounds and developing countries with opportunities to achieve their full-potential. The Legacy Collection is intended to do exactly what it says on the tin. “The idea is that we bring together cross-cultural collaboration and use fashion and design to empower the next generation of design talent but also artisans from the developing world,” Sarpong explained. The show was certainly a demonstration of the beauty that can result from combining innovative young designers with traditional crafts on an international level.
Selected from the United Nation’s Women and Trade Programme, the artisans brought the likes of Indian embellishment, Palestinian embroidery and Ethiopian weaving to the forefront. These became the basis for winning designs including Nayana Kodesia’s (BA Hons Fashion Design and Development) beautiful tailored flapper look and Effie Osuji’s (also BA Hons Fashion Design and Development) 1970s hip hop and punk inspired collection. “Combining my street style aesthetic and the artisans’ beautiful and rare craftsmanship was extremely inspiring. It was exciting to think of the many possibilities,” Osuji said.
The project has had a wealth of support from the start with judges such as Vogue’s Fashion Features Editor Laura Weir and designer William Tempest. Liberty will be selling the winning collections in store with all proceeds going back into funding educational opportunities and the show was even streamed live on The Huffington Post. Introductions came from its founder Arianna Huffington (via a pre-recorded message) as well as CEO of the British Fashion Council Caroline Rush CBE and Miriam González Durántez (Clegg).
In such a grand setting – crystal chandeliers shedding light upon the glitterati, champagne in hand – it can be easy to forget there is far more to fashion than the glamour and name-dropping. It’s with thanks to people like Prof. Corner that we are reminded of its far greater potential:
“People have thought of fashion in such narrow terms but its something that touches everybody socially, culturally, economically and politically.”
Projects such as the Legacy Collection are examples of how this potential can be used positively and why Prof. Corner is so deserving of her award.
The winning collections will go on sale in Liberty in July.
By Fi Anderson, BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism
Photography: Hanna Puskarz, BA (Hons) Fashion Photography
- Read more on Frances Corner’s blog