LONDON — London’s East End wants to become an international tech hub with the launch of the Fashion District, a center for manufacturing, innovation and design, part of mayor Sadiq Khan’s project to make a creative and business powerhouse on and around the former site of the 2012 Olympic Games.
The district, which has sites set up in East Bank, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Hackney Wick, Haringey and Poplar, is primed to become a leader in fashion education, design and innovation.
The latest technologies for 3-D printing, laser-cutting and interactive fabrics will be available and partners and stakeholders on the project include London College of Fashion, the British Fashion Council, U.K. Fashion and Textiles, Greater London Authority and the London Borough of Hackney.
On Monday morning, partners and stakeholders gathered at Christopher Raeburn’s studio to inaugurate the district. Raeburn’s studio, located in the Textile Building in Hackney, East London, used to be the heart of London manufacturing where the fashion economy is worth 1.4 billion pounds.
The eastern part of the British capital houses 23 percent of its fashion enterprises. Between 2010 and 2015, it gave rise to more than 10,000 fashion jobs, according to the project’s organizers.
The platform is primed to help fashion entities build long-term and sustainable businesses. Raeburn said the project hits close to home. “I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without a lot of support. I was very fortunate to come through a British Fashion Council scheme and all of these little steps really helped. It was a hand up rather than a hand down and that was really important.”
Given his East London ties, Raeburn is excited about the potential that the Fashion District can harness and will consider taking a bigger role in the mentorship program. “What’s so exciting about fashion is the energy. It’s the breadth of people it attracts, you have senior politicians here as well as people from the industry; from old to young, every race and every culture and that’s what has always really inspired me as a young designer,” he said.
In her speech, Justine Simons, London’s deputy mayor for culture and creative industries, highlighted some of the awards that new designers can take part in, such as the Innovation Challenge Prize, for technology and fashion businesses to develop new retail and shopping concepts, and the Schools Prize, which will require students to imagine how technologies can change shopping habits.
The area has been integral to the fashion industry and the Fashion District is an extension of Khan’s East Bank project, a 1.1 billion pound investment at Queen Elizabeth Park, the site of the 2012 Olympic venues. Khan’s project aims to create a powerhouse of culture, education, innovation and growth.
“It is more important than ever that we show the world that London is at the heart of the global fashion industry, with talented designers, technological innovation, leading fashion colleges and major brands,” said Simons.
“The Fashion District will generate thousands of jobs in the area, train young Londoners for a career in this growing industry and pave the way for growth and innovation,” she added.
The hub aims to create 15,000 jobs and paid internships, provide 32 affordable studios and work spaces at The Trampery Fish Island Village and manufacturing spaces at Tower Hamlets and Poplar Works. Mentoring and training programs will be provided to keep up with demand, as an estimated 60,000 vacancies will be opening up in the next five years.
“London needs to act now if it wants to stay at the forefront of the fashion tech revolution. Emerging businesses will only grow with significant support in skills, advocacy, innovation and investment and that’s what the Fashion District will bring,” said professor Frances Corner, pro vice-chancellor UAL and head of the London College of Fashion.
Caroline Rush, chief executive officer of the British Fashion Council, said it was key for the BFC to partner with the Fashion District, which is putting “technology and innovation at the heart of their ambitions and aiming to build a pipeline for young local talent.”