LONDON — London designer Phoebe English and other British businesses pursuing sustainable fashion and textile innovations are getting a government-funded boost for research and development, courtesy of a program known as The Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology, or BFTT.
The BFTT, which is hosted by University of the Arts London, in partnership with institutions including Cambridge University and the Victoria & Albert Museum, handed an initial 1.2 million pounds to 10 fashion and textile businesses in 2020. This year, the body is giving a further 1.1 million pounds to 13 businesses for more research and development.
The 13 winners were chosen because they put “sustainability, innovation and social purpose at the heart of their business model,” according to the BFTT.
English has long been a standard bearer for sustainable practices in fashion. Last month she showed her spring 2022 collection in a series of installations called “An Alternative Route.” She shared her research from the past year, including investigations into plant dye, regenerative agriculture, carbon sequestration and reusing textile “waste.”
“We asked ourselves: how can we put more back in than we take out of our natural systems with our design process?” said the designer, whose collection included shirts made with lace offcuts from British wedding shops.
Last year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, English joined with fellow London designers Holly Fulton, Bethany Williams and Cozette McCreery to form the Emergency Designer Network, which helped to provide medical stocks of garments such as scrubs, masks and gowns to hospitals.
Other businesses to receive the latest round of funding include Project Plan B, which uses recycled yarns to create long-lasting garments that can themselves be recycled; PlanetCare, which creates washing machine filters that trap microfibers and prevent them from being released into the environment, and Virusatic, which makes antiviral face shields.
Nikki Matthews, creative research and development program manager, said the funding “will provide participants with multidisciplinary and multisector expertise to accelerate the innovation of sustainable business models, processes and products. From the program’s first cohort funded in 2020, we have seen how (small- to medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs) can be incredibly agile and creative, and the real difference that focused R&D can make to the businesses we work with.”
Professor Jane Harris, BFTT program director, said SMEs “are critical to the economy and critical to the creative sector in particular, making up over 95 percent of creative businesses in the U.K. The BFTT R&D program 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.”
As reported last year, the first cohort to receive R&D funding included Ananas Anam, a company behind the natural textile Piñatex made from pineapple leaf fiber; Doppelhaus, a textile developer using undervalued nonwoven materials, and Elvis & Kresse, an accessories brand using materials, such as old firehoses, that would usually go to the landfill.