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Poplar Works fashion space opens in East London

Tom Bottomley
27 February 2020

Poplar Works, a new space in East London for fashion creatives and entrepreneurs, was launched today, 27 February, by London’s Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, Justine Simons OBE.

Designed by award-wining architects Adams & Sutherland, Poplar Works is the £6m transformation of 100 disused garages in the Aberfeldy and Teviot neighbourhoods, into 45 custom-designed, low-cost workshops and studios, a public café and events space, and manufacturing facilities offering enterprise support and training programmes for the creative industries.

The studios will focus on supporting emerging fashion businesses and training local people. Among the first residents is Bethany Williams – winner of ‘British Menswear Talent – Emerging’, at the recent Fashion Awards.

Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, says: “London is overflowing with talent and imagination, but our creative workforce is under threat because of the shortage of affordable studios, rising rents and the insecurity of short-term leases.

These new studios at Poplar Works will allow artists to put down roots in the heart of the growing Fashion District in East London. Turning these disused garages into affordable workspaces, training and business facilities will make a really big difference to the next generation of designers and entrepreneurs.”

The project was designed to nurture the existing talent and entrepreneurship in the area, by providing affordable workspace and training opportunities, as well as creating a new community facility.

Located in the heart of the Fashion District, it is being delivered by housing association Poplar HARCA, in partnership with London College of Fashion, UAL and social enterprise, The Trampery.

The scheme is supported by funding from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund - a landmark regeneration initiative that champions growth and community development in the capital, with support from the London Economic Action Partnership.

Fashion has a special place in East London’s story, once making a significant financial and cultural contribution to the area. Poplar Works, was conceived around the simple idea that fashion could again become a major part of East London’s social and economic make-up.

Poplar Works studios will be shared by The Trampery, the London-based specialist in creative co-working, workspaces, and training for entrepreneurs and creative businesses, and London College of Fashion, UAL, as the first step in the college’s move to The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in 2022.

The Trampery will operate 40 of the studios, in close integration with its new campus at Fish Island Village, two miles up the River Lea. Ranging in size from 100 to 300 sq ft, The Trampery Poplar Works, for which applications are now open, will offer an ultra-affordable starting point for emerging fashion-related businesses.

Fish Island Village will then provide a range of expansion options for businesses requiring more space. As well as studios, The Trampery will deliver workshops from its ‘Sustainable Fashion Accelerator’ programme.

What’s more, London College of Fashion, UAL will make a new home for its award-winning ‘Making for Change’ programme, helping people gain hands-on fashion manufacturing skills and industry-recognised qualifications, as well as their Centre for Fashion Enterprise (CFE). Part of London College of Fashion’s Graduate Futures offering, the Centre for Fashion Enterprise is renowned for the workshops and expert advice it provides.

To date, 750 fashion businesses have benefited from CFE’s support, including designers that have gone on to become household names and whose businesses contribute hugely to the UK’s creative industries economy. CFE alumni include Molly Goddard, Charles Jeffrey, Craig Green, Wales Bonner, Mary Katrantzou and Erdem.

Professor Roni Brown, Head of London College of Fashion and Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of the Arts London, comments: “The opening of Poplar Works is a key milestone in our journey to East London, ahead of the college’s move to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The site represents our commitment to our graduates’ futures and to the local community.

“Poplar Works is a key achievement of the Fashion District, a multi-sector partnership, led by London College of Fashion, UAL with the ambition to grow a more inclusive and sustainable fashion sector in East London, which is why we are so pleased to announce seven new businesses, including alumna Bethany Williams, who share core values which challenge fashion norms, address sustainability, and empower men and women through great design.”

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