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Fashion District Festival set to takeover Spitalfields for 2023 return

The Fashion District Festival makes a return to Spitalfields for its second iteration, coming to Spitalfields for a six-day celebration of sustainable fashion innovation.

The Fashion District Festival, supported by London College of Fashion, UAL, is making its return. Taking place in Spitalfields from 11-16 July, this will be the second iteration of what organisers hope will continue as a biennial event. 

The festival will be a week-long celebration of fashion, sustainability and innovation, holding over forty events to bring together fashion enthusiasts, from professionals to total novices alike. And, good news: It’s entirely free.

The Fashion District launched in 2018 to act as a hub for fashion businesses, academic institutions, investors and innovators based in East London. Fashion District operates within five East London boroughs, including Tower Hamlets. Working with the Trampery at Fish Island Village and Poplar Works, Fashion District provides emerging fashion businesses with affordable workspace to help revive East London as a fashion centre.

The hope is to cross-pollinate existing networks working in all corners of fashion within East London to nurture a self-sustaining, circular ‘ecosystem’ of fashion businesses, with sustainability at its core. This will simultaneously strengthen East London’s status as a global capital of fashion technology, while providing local opportunity and bringing economic and social benefit to East London.   

The Fashion District festival’s roster of over forty events draw from four themes of Watch, Make, Shop and Grow, and will include pop-ups, swap shops, styling masterclasses and workshops. Helen Lax, director of Fashion District, walked us through some of the highlights.

The showcase, a new take on a fashion show, part of the Fashion District festival ahead if its 2023 return to Spitalfields

‘Watch’ Events 

Tuesday 11 July: Fashion District Festival Showcase

19:30-20:15, Spitalfields Market

One of the festival’s most exciting spectacles is the showcase, curated by Lee Lapthorne from On|Off studio. On Tuesday 11 July, the festival will take over half of Spitalfields Market for a presentation of emerging designers from London all working in sustainable practice. Not a traditional catwalk, the showcase will combine physical and digital installations to animate the market. 

Pop up shop at the Fashion District festival

‘Shop’ Events

Tuesday 11 July – Sunday 16 July: Festival Pop-up Shop

10:00 – 18:00, 1 Lamb Street, London, E1 6ED

A pop-up shop will also take up residence for the duration of the week in a brand-new glass-fronted building at Number 1 Lamb Street, featuring items from planet-positive designers and start-ups. The pop-up will also feature a repair station, where you can take clothes in need of a little TLC to reinject some life into them. 

And if there’s something you truly don’t wear anymore, Fashion District invites you to donate clothes which are ready for a new home to the charity donation point. The festival is working in partnership with the charity Give Your Best, who support migrant communities by empowering refugee women and children with choice in what they wear. 

Sewing and embroidery workshop

‘Make’ Events

Thursday 13 July: Upcycle and uplift your wardrobe: Learn the art of hand embroidery using off-cut fabrics

18:30 – 20:00, Maker’s Space

Beginners and experienced sewers alike can join this interactive workshop to learn the art of hand embroidery while upcycling and customising your clothes. Workshop materials will be provided.

Saturday 15 July: Playful Prints

10:30 – 11:00, 11:15 – 11:45, 12:00 – 12:30, The Studio

Suitable for children aged 3-7 years, bring along your aspiring eco-warriors to personalise their clothes with hand-printed patterns which they have designed themselves.

Sewing at the Denim workshop

‘Grow’ Events

There will also be a series of workshops and talks diving into the ideas behind sustainability, led by industry professionals and some of the leading voices in the UK for fashion sustainability. These are mainly aimed at new business starters and seasoned industry professionals, but also welcome fashion enthusiasts with no skin in the game in a bid to open the often closeted doors of the fashion industry. Highlights include:

Thursday 13 July: Towards a Circular Future: Revaluing Waste

10:30-12:30, The Studio

Fashion District is hosting this series of discussions, panels and roundtables centred around how to tackle the environmental challenges posed by the fashion industry and how to solve the UK’s fashion waste problem.

Friday 14 July: The WIP Sustainable Business Summit

13:30-19:00, The Studio

The WIP will run an afternoon focused on circular and regenerative fashion, featuring opportunities to learn and network. The full programme includes:

  • The Future of Fashion is Circular (13:30-14:15): Bianca Rangecroft, Founder of Whering, Kaela Katz, Founder of Fibrelab and Genia Mineeva, Founder of BEEN London lead this panel discussion on practical solutions to implement into your own fashion business, and their thoughts on the future of circular fashion. 
  • Communicating About Circularity and Regeneration with The Now Work (14:30-15:15): Join Laura Hunter and Hannah Phang, the founders of The Now Work, for a workshop focused on effective communication about conveying your business’s sustainability efforts. 
  • Replenishing Through Fashion: Regenerative materials and natural systems (15:30-16:15): A panel discussion given by fashion designers and specialists about regenerative systems and materials.

Moving from the festival’s 2021 Stratford location, Spitalfields will provide a backdrop which harmonises perfectly with Fashion District’s values and vision. 

Spitalfields has always played an instrumental role in the East End’s rich fashion heritage, generating resilient fashion innovation for centuries. From the 18th-century Huguenot refugees fleeing France who brought silk-weaving to Spitalfields, to the Pearly Kings of Petticoat Lane, East London brims with fashion history. This has always been interwoven with the diversity making up the vibrant fabric of the area: historically, Spitalfields has always hosted new immigrants. 

Today, Spitalfields sits around the corner from Silicon Roundabout, where companies championing fashion-tech innovation are continually setting up shop. 

This intersection between the area’s heritage with the fast-paced innovation taking place a stone’s throw away is, says Helen, what makes Spitalfields such a relevant backdrop for the Festival. Fashion District is about tying together existing networks, while driving change and making an impact in the fashion industry. 

Of this blend of industry, Helen said:

‘Brick Lane’s around the corner. It has a tradition that you can’t help but breathe in when you’re there because of the market. 

‘But at the same time, it’s a very contemporary and forward-looking place to be, which perfectly chimes with Fashion District’s ethos. We want to preserve the craft of fashion, while thinking about the future of fashion, and tech.’

There are plans for the Fashion District Festival to continue as a biennale, with the hopes that it will return the year after next, only getting bigger with each iteration. And the location for the next festival?

‘Who knows!’ Says Helen, ‘The Fashion District covers five boroughs, so it’s lovely when we reflect the different nature of those places. Spitalfields, I have to say, is perfect – but it could be anywhere in the Fashion District!’

For now, 2023’s Fashion District Festival in Spitalfields has something to cater to everyone, from fashion buffs to complete novices. This year’s festival is set to be a true celebration of the dynamism of East London’s fashion scene, which is only continuing to grow. 

View the full programme and book tickets at Fashion-district.co.uk/festival/

Enjoyed this? Check out our guide to the best charity shops around Roman Road, or the time Roman Road provided inspiration for fashion shoot.

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