For the fourth consecutive year, LCF’s Head of College and Pro-Vice Chancellor of UAL Frances Corner has been included in Business of Fashion’s BoF 500: the people shaping the global fashion industry in 2018. LCF News spoke to Professor Corner about her nomination, her career, and her future plans for the college.
First of all, you’ve been nominated to the BOF 500 for the fourth consecutive year – congratulations! How does it feel to be included in such a prestigious list once again and what does this mean to you?
It is wonderful to be included in the list, obviously it’s a great honour for me personally but more importantly it recognises the significant role that fashion education plays in the development of the fashion industry both here within the UK but also globally. To have fashion education recognised is supremely important to me.
The BOF highlighted you as an important figure in the fashion education sector for overseeing the Centre for Sustainable Fashion and the launch of LCF’s Fashion Business School, do you have any other plans or objectives that you want to achieve as the head of LCF?
The key objective I’m working on at the moment is moving LCF from it’s current 6 sites where we have 5,500 students working across London to a completely new, purpose-built building based in east London on the Olympic Park for September 2022. This will be a real recognition of the size and complexity that goes on within LCF and will allow all sorts of new collaborations amongst our students with industry in the locality, and also with the partners in the park.
It also allowed us to do a lot of work thinking about the development of the industry within east London, and to that end we have created the Fashion District along with partners from the Mayor’s Office, British Fashion Council, UKFT, organisations like the Trampery, and colleges like Newham where we’re really signalling that this part of London is going to be crucial for the future of developments arounds fashion technology and new forms of manufacturing. That for me is the key objective – both moving the college and making sure we maximise the opportunities that brings – not just for us as a college and our students but also for the industry and for the communities we’re going to moving into.
The BoF list has featured hundreds of key industry figures since 2013, and this year’s list is more diverse than ever before, how important is it to highlight the achievements of individuals from different backgrounds in the industry?
The issue of diversity is so important. Obviously, we all wear clothes, it doesn’t matter what part of the world you come from or what community, you might wear more or less of them but in the end we all adorn ourselves in some form of another, and so to understand diversity is to understand fashion. And in fashion, we have suffered through not being sufficiently recognised in the past. LCF has a hugely diverse student body not just because of overseas students, but because we work really head to make sure that we reflect all the range of communities and ethnicities and shapes and sizes, sexuality, ability or disability – they are all crucial to us. Fashion has a role for everybody. It’s becoming very exciting at last, the fashion industry really understanding what that means and beginning to feature it more prominently.
You mentioned in your blog about the list being focused on change agents – “those who are addressing fashion’s most critical issues”. What are the some of the most critical issues that you think need to be addressed?
The most critical issues are how we address the environmental impact that fashion has on the environment – water depletion, pollution through pesticides and the dyeing process, also the effects of tanning leather. All of these things, we need to understand better, recognise and then to develop a range of solutions too.
Equally important, is the whole issue of modern slavery. We know that the fashion industry has long and complex supply chains, and when you have the migration issues that we’re faced with at the moment inevitably there will be people trapped in exploitation. Fashion plays a part within that and we have to recognise it. As human beings we shouldn’t want to put anything next to our skin that somebody else has been exploited in creating. So for me, those are the big issues and we try to really explore them, discuss them at LCF. Our students and staff are working on these issues because we want to stand up and stand against these issues.
Moving on to your personal career path, it’s been four years since you released your book “Why Fashion Matters”, can we expect another project from you in the near future or do you want to explore other ventures?
Yes, I am working on another book. “What’s The Future of Fashion?”. It’s been a while in the making because I keep being distracted by other things! But hopefully it will be coming out soon. What we’re trying to do with this book is to reflect on what people are doing to actually address some of the issues that I’ve referred to and to find new ways of making the future of fashion.
What advice would you give to the next generation who are are just starting their career in the industry?
To be creative, to persevere, and to recognise that there are issues within our industry, but there are also huge opportunities, and the chance to make a real difference and to have a really fulfilling career. I believe very strongly that fashion is a subject for the 21st century and that what people have learned here at LCF is relevant to a whole range of other industries – whether you may decide to work in charities, and community groups or set up your own business in the fashion industry. Seeing the possibilities is really important