Head of London College of Fashion, Professor Frances Corner addressed the renowned Sir John Cass Foundation Annual Lecture yesterday on the topic of social mobility. Professor Corner joins a host of past speakers at the lecture, such as the Rt. Hon. Ruth Kelly (2017), Pro-Vice Chancellor, St Mary’s University, and Professor Sir Adrian Smith FRS, Vice-Chancellor, University of London in 2016. The lecture is the culmination of over 20 years of LCF working with the Sir John Cass Foundation, including the support which has made many of our community and social projects possible.

Professor Corner discussed the role of universities in ‘joining dots and designing patterns’ as they are the link to schools, communities, industries, disciplines, government – both local and national – policy makers, NGOs, as well as established global networks. Universities have a role in shaping industry, policy and place, and should be asking crucial questions such as:

  • How do we help our students to address issues of climate change, modern slavery, ethics and new forms of capitalism?
  • The minds that have created the difficulties of our global context are not the ones who can solve it – so why aren’t we working harder to ensure greater diversity and a wider plethora of thought and contribution?

With the fashion industry employing 300,000 people all over the world, with 80% of them women, London College of Fashion is also in a key role as an 85%-female College. It was set up in 1806 to train working women for a new sense of independence.

Professor Corner discussed some of LCF’s work with boroughs in east London to enhance the offer to young people from low income and other disadvantaged backgrounds before LCF’s move, including a new Schools Engagement Strategy aimed at benefitting young people from Key Stage 3 level upwards, and community projects such as Making for Change, our manufacturing unit working with offenders in female prisons to give them skills and access to jobs when they leave prison.

Also shown was a project between the Making for Change unit and public art production company Artichoke who commissioned 100 Years 100 Banners, where one hundred female artists worked with various women’s groups to produce banners to celebrate 100 years of votes for women. London College of Fashion’s Artist and Professor Lucy Orta, worked with women in HMP Downview and the Processions: Voices of Downview project was one of these one hundred commissions. As a College set up more than 100 years ago to train women to be independent, this is an important legacy for us.

Questions from the floor included from the British Council on LCF’s support for these sorts of projects globally, where Professor Corner talked about LCF’s work with female refugees in the Za’atari camp in Jordan, and discussions on how to safeguard not only access to, but awareness of, the benefits and skills gained from a creative education for the future.

Frances Corner will be joined by speakers at LCF on 6 November discussing the future of equality at LCF Year of the Woman; what are we still fighting for? Book your tickets here.