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Fashion SMEs awarded 1.2 million pounds to support sustainable growth

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Ten of the UK fashion industry’s innovative and sustainable small to medium enterprises, including Ananas Anam, the company that has created an innovative natural textile made from pineapple leaf fibre, and accessories brand Elvis and Kresse, have been awarded more than 1.2 million pounds by the Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT).

The funding initiative is led by University of the Arts London, including London College of Fashion, Central Saint Martins, and Chelsea College of Arts, alongside Queen Mary University and Loughborough University as part of the AHRC Creative Industries Clusters Programme (CICP), funded by the UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and offers a comprehensive support package that enables SMEs to drive forward sustainability-driven innovation and represents a new model of investment for the sector.

The aim of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme is to boost productivity via creative research and development, backing businesses to “create good jobs and increase the earning power of people throughout the UK with investment in skills, industries and infrastructure” and the latest round of funding worth 1.2 million pounds was specifically to help fashion SMEs support sustainable growth and innovation.

Funding will be given to 10 businesses: Ananas Anam, Anna Glover, AwayToMars, Blackhorse Lane Ateliers, Chip[S] Board, Doppelhaus, Elvis and Kresse, Segura, Tengri, and Tibor.

The 10 were selected from more than 80 applications, with 13 making the shortlist and provided with one-to-one mentoring, business workshops and training to help develop their initial concepts into fully-fledged business plans. The shortlisted businesses then had to pitch their idea to a panel of industry and academic experts, who then selected the final with ten businesses.

In addition to funding, each fashion SME will receive a comprehensive package of support, including mentoring from leading academics across the partnership, hands-on specialist creative and technical support as well as ongoing project management and strategic business support from across the Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology team.

Fashion brands including AwayToMars, Elvis and Kresse and Ananas Anam awarded crucial funding to explore sustainable innovations

The awarded projects cover a range of sub-sectors and research and development areas: bio-material development to non-woven textiles; a global design crowdsourcing platform; sustainable surface finishing processes; on-shoring of state-of-the-art sustainable manufacturing; novel digital solutions to increase transparency and improve sustainability in the sector.

The projects, which all focus on specific research and development challenges, with each running for 12 - 18 months depending on the complexity of the proposition.

The funding will allow Ananas Anam, the company behind Piñatex, an innovative natural textile made from pineapple leaf fibre to work with the Centre for Circular Design at Chelsea College of Arts (UAL) to expand potential applications for the bio-based non-woven material by developing new sustainable embellishments and other value-added processes to improve its functionality and aesthetic qualities, while AwayToMars, the innovative collaboration platform that utilises crowdsource creativity and helps designers introduce their work to the world and lets them hear what the world has to say will work with the Digital Anthropology Lab at London College of Fashion (UAL) to explore new technologies to enhance the experience and brand value delivered by AwayToMar’s co-creation platform to its growing global community of over 15,000 members.

Other projects will include Blackhorse Lane Ateliers, the innovative community-based manufacturer producing high end crafted denim garments in East London, working on setting up a state-of-the-art research and development facility to develop sustainable laundering and finishing techniques and enable the emergence of a new and unique ‘London’ denim-washing aesthetic inspired by the principles of the circular economy.

While Elvis and Kresse, which utilises materials that would otherwise go to landfill into luxury accessories, will work with the Materials Engineering Department at Queen Mary University of London to develop a circular business model for metal hardware in the luxury sector by hacking the industrial aluminium recycling process through the design and open-sourcing of a small scale and environmentally sound alternative, and London-based design house Tengri, which specialising in rare cloths, clothing and home interiors will work with the London College of Fashion to explore and codify existing UK heritage manufacturing techniques and new technologies that could be applicable to the creation of non-wovens out of yarn bio-waste.

Professor Jane Harris, Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology programme director said in a statement: “Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are critical to the economy and critical to the creative sector in particular, making up over 95 percent of creative businesses in the UK. The Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology SME Research and Development Programme seeks to highlight the value and impact SMEs can have in our sector and on the economy, when provided with the right type of financial support and research expertise.

“This initiative is intended to creatively and technically address the challenge of maintaining growth in the crucial early years of business, whilst also providing support for much-needed innovation, and sustainable growth, especially in these challenging and rapidly changing times. The diversity of projects selected are indicative of the breadth of innovation potential in the fashion sector. The dynamism they naturally bring as SMEs, and the bespoke academic expertise provided by BFTT is a perfect mix to deliver industry-changing innovation which cements a vision for a more sustainable fashion system which supports growth here in the UK and around the world.”

The Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology is a five-year industry-led project, which focusses on delivering innovation within the entire fashion and textile supply chain.

Main image: courtesy of Elvis and Kresse

All other images: courtesy of Ananas Anam UK Ltd - photograph by AdShot; Blackhorse Lane Ateliers

Ananas Anam
Blackhorse Lane Ateliers
Business of Fashion
Elvis and Kresse
sutainable fashion
Textiles and Technology