Graduate Fashion Week 2018

After an inspirational day at Graduate Fashion Week I reflected on the sheer number of students who are embracing their future dreams of joining the fashion industry. With well known Brands and High Street retailers present promoting job opportunities, it all seemed like a perfect mix.

Having spoken to a number of hopeful graduates, the reality of what lies ahead for them has not hit home.

Fantastic opportunities for the lucky few, however for many several years of unpaid work lies ahead before a job is secured. This is the reality of the fashion industry and yet there are opportunities in the wider textile fashion world particularly for graduates who have developed their technical skills.

My advice continues to be:-

For those who wish to be designers, you must think broadly and seek out opportunities in manufacturing and not merely at the front end of design. Seek roles which help build your portfolio of skills. Be prepared to start at the bottom and with a strong work ethic, show your commitment and potential to grow. Look to the future, fully embrace sustainably. Design with a conscience, making best use of our natural resources keeping longevity in mind.


This week in Bradford three of the oldest Livery companies invited a select number of students from 21 different weave courses across the UK to join them at the Midland Hotel along with representatives from the British weaving industry including yarn spinners, weavers and finishers. With 24 hours packed with informative talks both from industry leaders and successful textile designers ( Margo Selby & Dashing Tweeds ) working in the textile industry, along with trips to the mills, the aim was to reach out and connect with the next generation of textile graduates to inform and engage them on the broad opportunities within the textile industry. With over 1000 graduates in textiles a year just from the UK art schools and universities alone, it is quite clear that only a select few will end up in design positions.

Seen as a traditional industry which struggles to recruit and retain skilled workers, this was a perfect example of how through connecting with the students, industry can engage and inform them of the many opportunities open in the broader areas of textiles. So many institutions focus on design and yet there are many avenues to build a career in textiles around colour, science, engineering, yarn creation and innovation. The owners of these mills personally took the time to speak with the students and guided them around their facilities. For many of the students this was the first time they had stepped into a mill.

What a great opportunity for both parties to connect. This is the fourth year the “Making It In Textiles” Conference has taken place and with much work behind the scenes to connect talented weave designers with organisations, let’s hope this continues for many years to come.

Thank you to the mills ( Pennine Weavers, Stanley Mills, Marton Mills, Roberts Dyers& Finishers, Antich & Sons, W T Johnston, A W Hainsworth, Alfred Brown, Abraham Moon, Laxtons Specialist Yarns) for opening their doors and to the Worshipful Company of Weavers, The Drapers Company, The Clothworkers Company and Campaign for Wool for making this conference happen. #textilefutures

#RoyalBankBoost Inverness – Made in Scotland

Joan Johnston recently shared her research for “Made in Scotland” and how to emotionally connect with the consumer with over 100 attendees in Inverness #RoyalBankBoost. Excellent content was also delivered by Dave Ray of Google Digital Garage and Sebastian Burnside RBS Senior Economist.…/joanjohn…/detail/recent-activity/

Catherine MacGruer at London Design Fair

We were delighted to see our mentee, Catherine MacGruer’s new collection launched at the London Design Fair on 22nd September ’17. This year Catherine has introduced rugs into her knitted collection for the home. Catherine’s range of products can be found on


London Craft Week May 2017

London Craft Week continues to celebrate the best of British craftsmanship and with open access to all, it is an opportunity for brands to engage with consumers in an open dialogue around the making of their products.

I only had a few hours on Wednesday 3rd May, but managed to get around a couple of events which was well worth the dash across town.

Harrison, an apprentice Mulberry bag maker, was whisked up from the Somerset factory into the Bond Street store, explained how he and his brother have worked for Mulberry since they left school. He skilfully demonstrated how a bag is made with simple tools laid out on a table, beside an array of different leathers used to make their iconic bags. In reality there is much more of a production line in Somerset, but for the consumer to get up close and personal with a maker, really seals the understanding of the care and skill required to create these products.

Moving swiftly on to Saville Row to catch a taster of the Jimmy Beaumont capsule collection provided by many of the great tailors, including Anderson and Shepherd and newest to the Street, (or rather round the corner) Dashing Tweed. Guy kindly provided the photos taken at the Beaumont Hotel.

From there I headed across to the Hussein Chalayan Store only to find out that his event had been cancelled. Fortunately, I managed at the last minute to gain entry to the Anya Hindmarch talk, led by Caroline Issa of Tank Magazine during which Anya spoke with passion about her life’s work and how she has built her business based in London. The focus was on her “Bespoke” offering with great anecdotes around how customers embody such personal messages within her bespoke leather products. There will be more on this in the next post.

As part of a small audience of 30 in the store, it was wonderful to have direct access to such creative individuals who are masters in design and who speak with such passion about their journey and the skills required to manufacture within the UK.

Provenance-Meet the Manufacturer, The Old Truman Brewery, London 24th May, 10am.

In today’s increasingly competitive market the provenance of a product is more important than ever in order to attract the conscious consumer who seeks out a genuine and compelling story, when they look for the detail around the product they seek.

Provenance is only part of the picture and a Made in Britain label on its own is not enough to guarantee sales. The communication between the brand and the consumer starts by building trust. Trust is the fundamental basis of relationships and yet often brands miss this simple step when choosing traditional forms of “sell sell” communication to their prospective consumer. Savvy consumers see through this old style of marketing and instead are connecting with new content rich and relevant brands who have clear identities and genuinely stand for something.

Other than essentials, when given a choice most purchases are made through an emotional connection, whether based on recommendation, association or some other link that signals a positive message to the brain. Creating an emotional connection with your customer should therefore be a driver in your business.

Where you manufacture and the ingredients you use, becomes applicable to this discussion. Telling your story well through great visuals and focused relevant content will help connect and thus retain the consumer in the long term.

During the seminar at Meet the Manufacturer, London 24th May, I will explore this subject in more detail. Joan Johnston