Islington Council and fashion co-operative open unique affordable workspace supporting local fashion talent in latest chapter of community wealth-building campaign
Local designer-makers and residents with an interest in garment production received a boost this week with the opening of a brand-new and unique affordable workspace in Finsbury Park.
The FC Designer Workspace has been converted from disused garages on the Andover Estate, and fitted out with the latest industry-grade sewing machines and equipment. It offers workshop, exhibition and training space for local designers, an in-house photography studio, as well as mentoring and masterclasses from industry experts, and the chance to network with like-minded entrepreneurs.
The workspaces have already proved popular with local designer-makers, including those who sell their products in the FC Designer Collective shop in nearby Fonthill Road – the dedicated high street retail site that opened last year, and the first milestone of the partnership between Islington Council, local communities and garment industry co-operative Fashion-Enter.
Both the shop and the affordable workspace were co-funded by the council and the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund. Launched in 2017 and delivered in partnership with the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP), The Good Growth Fund seeks to make London fairer and more inclusive by strengthening civic networks at local level, encouraging innovation and supporting great design.
The FC Designer Workspace offers a step-change in the council’s programme to provide affordable workspaces and effective support to nurture local talent in different sectors of industry, helping communities to create their own wealth, new jobs and more sustainable futures.
One beneficiary is Jannaty, a local sewing group run for the last 32 years by designer-maker Majida Sayam. She will train 10 local women to use the factory-grade sewing and garment-making machines at the workspace.
As well as learning valuable skills that will open up job opportunities in the garment-making industry, the women in Jannaty will upcycle unwanted, surplus and damaged clothing, curtains and bedding to create new clothes, cushions and bags for sale, keeping textiles out of landfill. The group will also produce 2,000 reusable canvas shopping bags for Islington’s food banks, cutting down on wasteful plastic bag use.
Majida, who will also be trained by Fashion-Enter mentors, said: “This space is a dream for me, and the machines are everything we need. In our classes we always used domestic machines. Garments that used to take two days to complete will now take around an hour-and-a-half, so it is a big difference!”
Local designer-maker Mary Obaseki is also set to use the affordable workspace for her brand Another Earthling. She said: “I design and handcraft high-quality, unique animal and bird masks. Having an affordable and truly local workspace will be hugely beneficial for my business and with the support of Fashion-Enter and Islington Council, the sky’s the limit. “I intend to teach regular workshops, collaborate with other creatives and create employment opportunities in the local community.”
Cllr Asima Shaikh, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Inclusive Economy and Jobs, said: “I’m thrilled to open the FC Designer Workspace, which really is the beating heart of collaboration, a ‘golden opportunity’ space where community talent and industry expertise can combine and produce amazing results – top-quality products from residents who have realised their potential and built bright business futures.
“We are absolutely committed to investing in local jobs and businesses, creating a strong local economy, and I’m proud to be working with Fashion-Enter who share our vision to make Islington a more equal place by nurturing this potential.
“With the FC Designer Collective store already well established, I look forward to seeing our residents kick-starting new careers and forging fresh, rewarding futures for themselves.”
Jenny Holloway, chief executive of Fashion-Enter, said: “In 35 years of working in the fashion sector I have never been involved in such an innovative, circular, sustainable fashion programme. Islington is ahead of its time.
“The creatives of Islington now have the opportunity to upskill, design, manufacture and sell their brands all within a one-mile radius within Islington. The team at Fashion-Enter is on-hand to fully support them every step of the way.
“A huge thank you to the GLA, the Good Growth Fund and Islington Council for making affordable workspace and the retail collective a reality. It’s a game-changer for fashion support today.”
Jules Pipe, London’s Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, said: “This Good Growth Fund project creates long-term affordable workspaces that bring vibrancy and opportunity into the heart of the local high street.
“It is a great example of how the Mayor’s investment can support collaboration between communities, local government, high street landlords and operators to help people develop new skills and grow new businesses.”
For more information about the support and opportunities available, visit www.fcdesignerworkspace.co.uk
Notes to editor
The FC Designer Workspace
The workspace offers workshop, exhibition and training space for local designers, an in-house photography studio, as well as business mentoring and masterclasses from industry experts, professional stitching courses, and the chance to network with like-minded entrepreneurs. It has 12 private studios including eight available to rent, 38 industry-grade specialist machines for garment making and a large cutting table.
The FC Designer Collective store
The retail space, where designer-makers sell their creations, is managed by Fashion-Enter.
The store is at 113-115 Fonthill Road, N4 3HH. Opening hours are 10am–5pm, Tuesday–Saturday. For more information on the FC Designer Collective store, see https://www.islington.media/news/fc-designer-collective-islington-council-and-fashion-co-operative-launch-innovative-ethical-fashion-store-in-grass-roots-economic-revival
Fashion-Enter Ltd (FEL) is an award-winning social enterprise which is a centre of ethical garment manufacturing with a leading status in the Fast Forward audit and is also SMETA audited. FEL has a minimum order quantity of 1 for their Fashion Studio service and currently produces up to 12,000-15,000 garments a week for speed of response fashion from their three units in north London. Clients include ASOS, Tesco F&F, Coast, Brora and brands such as Louisa Parris and Matthew Williamson.
FEL launched the UK’s first ESFA-approved Fashion Technology Academy in 2015, operating alongside the factory and offering a range of qualifications at Levels 1 to 5, which cover the entire of the ‘garment life cycle’ including stitching, production, pattern cutting and tailoring. FEL is also the largest training provider of apprenticeships at levels 3 and 4 within apparel manufacturing (fashion), working with employers such as ASOS.com, Marks & Spencer, River Island and Amazon.
In November 2019, FEL launched the Tailoring Academy with funding from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund and Haringey Council. The Tailoring Academy is a state-of-the-art clothing manufacturing and training facility, which provides specialist skills, job training and apprenticeships for ready-to-wear and bespoke tailoring.
In September 2020, FEL opened the FC Designer Collective shop with support from Islington Council and the Mayor Of London’s Good Growth Fund, to provide business support to local brands, working alongside the garment makers and wholesalers of the famous Fonthill Road.
Islington Council’s ambition is to create a strong and inclusive local economy in the post-Covid world, helping to create training and employment opportunities for local residents, and supporting them to grow their businesses, thereby creating more jobs and training opportunities for more local residents. This is achieved through the creation of affordable workspaces in local premises that would otherwise be out of reach of small and micro businesses, and partnerships with organisations that can help us create training and employment opportunities in specific industries, such as with Fashion Enter in the garment industry. The dedicated sewing and garment workshop spaces on the Andover Estate are the latest chapter of this ongoing partnership between the council and Fashion Enter. The Designer Collective shop space on Fonthill Road and workshop spaces on the Andover Estate have been made possible with £1m of funding from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund. For more information on the council’s affordable workspace programme, see: https://www.islington.media/news?SearchString=affordable+workspace
The Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund:
The Good Growth Fund is the Mayor of London’s biggest regeneration fund and is delivered through the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP). It provides £70m of capital funding from sources including the Local Growth Fund and European Social Fund, as well as expert regeneration advice, design support and knowledge sharing opportunities. For more information on the Good Growth Fund, see: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/regeneration/funding-opportunities/good-growth-fund-supporting-regeneration-london/good-growth-fund-supported-projects
The London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP):
LEAP is the local enterprise partnership for London. The LEAP brings entrepreneurs and business together with the Mayoralty and London Councils to identify strategic actions to support and lead economic growth and job creation in the capital.