Representing the creative future

London’s most exciting fashion residency is here

Paul Smith’s Foundation partners with the Mayor’s office & Projekt to offer 6 designers a mentoring program

Paul Smith learned most of what he knows about business on the job. On a mission to give young talent a head start, his Foundation has created The Fashion Residency: a one-year business development program, supported by GQ, which will see 6 designers receive over 80 hours of mentorship sessions and use of a 400 sq ft of workspace each in Studio Smithfield provided by Projekt.

Designed to address the gap between fashion education and the industry, the program provides designers with the business skills they need to successfully and sustainably run their businesses in the long term. Taking an education-centric approach, the program has been divided into four terms, with mentors from across the industry, including 1 Granary founder Olya Kuryshchuk. The residency’s values mirrors ours so greatly, that we were excited to jump on board to share our knowledge hands-on.

Term one: cashflow, legal, production, supply chain, merchandising and wholesale.

Term two: collaborations, partnerships, content creation, shoots and styling.

Term three: networking, communications, media training, social media and e-commerce.

Term four: succession planning, business plans, portfolio and showcase.

And before you start thinking that ‘succession planning’ means ‘How do I see my business long term if I’d leave my namesake label like Ann Demeulemeester, Jil Sander or Helmut Lang did?’ (scenes of the TV series Succession flashed in my mind), the approach is not that. Succession planning means that The Fashion Residency is not just a place of momentary support, but offers tools and guidance that are helpful for as long as possible. As such, designers will be introduced to the industry and start working properly on their business plans during the program, while receiving access to custom-built legal resources alongside marketing strategies. Another perk for those who finish the program is a subsidized workspace in Projekt’s other London sites.

This initiative was sparked by the Mayor’s office, who have demonstrated a dedication to offer more affordable workspace in the capital for creative talent. But Smithfields – isn’t that a meat market in the Square Mile? It was, for roughly 150 years. Now the market is moving to East London and the area is being redeveloped, in part with fashion in mind. And so, the mayor asked Paul Smith’s foundation to design a program from scratch for a particular kind of designer: young brands that already have 2-6 seasons under their belt. In order to be considered for the Residency, designers need to be able to demonstrate a level of grit and world experience. That’s required so that they can make the most of the mentoring sessions and apply it to their business. The residency program is planned to take place for at least the next three years, kicking off this summer.

If you’d like to apply, The Fashion Residency is accepting applications until the 14th of April. For more information:

Looking forward to the program’s unfolding, we took this opportunity to ask some of the mentors involved in the Residency a deceptively simple question. Young designers face many issues in today’s industry; which is the one challenge you hope can be resolved and how?

Adam Andrascik, co-founder and CEO of Provineer and Course Leader of MA Fashion: Digital Futures at Ravensbourne University London

Indecisiveness due to noise from social media is one challenge I’m increasingly encountering working with young designers. The ability to stand apart and define your brand requires a reaction against the current status quo which becomes nearly impossible if you are constantly second guessing your work against trends, micro trends and never-ending commentary swirling on social platforms. Having the confidence to cut through this noise and log off more often is, in my opinion, necessary to create something challenging and successful.


Alice Bouleau, Partner & Head of Creative Pole at Sterling International 

The main issue that emerging designers face today is that they often launch a brand based on their creative skills and their ability to design great collections and products, yet it takes more than pure creativity to build a business. Common challenges can relate to sales – which channel to consider, price point, payment terms, etc– production, organisational development, and so on. I believe this incubator program is highly relevant as it would support these designers in acquiring the right skill set to be able to manage a company, take smart business decisions, and avoid the common ‘traps; designers can often get themselves into when not properly equipped with sufficient business acumen.


Olya Kuryshchuk, Founder and Editor-in-Chief at 1 Granary

Independent labels need both space and time to thrive and expand. It’s unrealistic to expect emerging designer brands to compete directly with major luxury houses. Instead, we should focus on fostering alternative ecosystems that promote the sustainable growth of smaller brands. This approach is crucial for ensuring their long-term success and for transforming the fashion industry into a more inclusive space where younger designers can flourish alongside larger corporations.


Jason Leung, The Alphabet Showroom

I think one of the biggest challenges young designers face is getting noticed in what is an increasingly crowded market. Developing strong personal networks that don’t rely on social media can be powerful but take time and a degree of luck. Realistically, having strong social media skills is also important. So, a practical step to help young designers could be to try and provide some kind of training to improve the use of social media, to help them showcase their work. This could then extend to training in digital marketing and small grants to help them start experimenting online.


“For so many creatives in business, the challenge is balancing the financial and creative sides of building a new company and detaching their own self-worth from some of the challenges they might face.”


Orsola de Castro, Creative Director of Estethica and Co-Founder of Fashion Revolution  

For me it’s simple: young brands and emerging designers are crushed by a system that unequivocally supports size over substance. Usually, big brands soak up all the sunshine giving very little in return. We need visibility, long term commitment and sales moving from the mainstream to the fringe. We need wealthy customers to switch to smaller realities and we need the bigger brands to support the smaller ones even if it means losing a share of their market. It’s nothing more than a cultural change in fashion. Right now fashion is only a business, and creativity is an add-on, it truly doesn’t matter anymore. Let’s change this, let’s make a new formula where business isn’t the driver, craft is. Fashion = Business; Craft = Fashion.


Tamsin Blanchard, Editor of Hole & Corner and Editor and Curator of Estethica

There are so many challenges facing young designers. Perhaps the biggest is to find a way to navigate their own way to make a relevant, purposeful, sustainable (financially and environmentally) business they can feel proud of, despite an industry that is often out of kilter with the real world. Any fashion startup needs to be thinking about its impact on the planet as a fundamental part of its DNA. Have a mission, know your values and stick with them. It might mean thinking small and local. It might mean reworking materials already in existence. Then, build a community, a support network and a loyal fan base to help you grow slowly and steadily along the way.


Henry Holland, Founder of Henry Holland Studio 

For so many creatives in business, the challenge is balancing the financial and creative sides of building a new company and detaching their own self-worth from some of the challenges they might face. For me, when I was starting out, I just needed some reassurance that a lot of the issues I was facing were perfectly normal and easy to overcome. I feel that The Fashion Residency has curated a group of people who have lived experiences from all areas of the industry which will be invaluable for young designers, and we will be able to share our advice and equally the mistakes we all made so that they don’t have to.


Philipp Raheem, Photographer and Editorial Director of Vingt Sept Magazine 

In the fast-paced world of design today, young designers often find themselves struggling to stand out, to make a mark in a sea of talent. But I’ve come to realise that there’s a way to tackle this head-on. It’s all about being smart with how they present themselves online and who they connect with. Combining digital visibility with meaningful networking can help young designers break through the barriers and establish themselves in the industry.


“One of the significant challenges young designers face in today’s industry is managing their finances effectively.”


Mandi Lennard, Founder Mandi’s Basement

I always think the root is production. One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately with all the furore about Matches, is how many brands have not been paid by them, and how many will be small businesses. When I was a buyer at Browns in the early ‘90s and bought Vivienne Westwood – given it was the first time she had sold to a store – Browns owner Joan Burstein whispered in my ear to go up to the accounts department and ensure we pay her the moment they deliver, as she is a small business. There is a big responsibility when working with young designers. One of my pet hates is when a graduate is bought by a store, but only for one season. You can’t chop and change. You have to invest in them as much as they invest in you. Production is the biggest issue for designers. I still don’t understand why, say, the British Fashion Council, never bought a factory. I have worked with designers who would never compromise on luxurious fabrics even though they had no money, but today, with many repurposing fabrics, using end of line materials, and really thinking about sustainability, a solution to this age old problem of production must be nearer than ever. Many factories and small producers went out of business during the pandemic. I’d love to see a new template created for fashion production whereby we can support designers creating their first collections or fulfilling their first orders. Under the same umbrella, I’d love to see funding of artisans in embroidery and appliqué or other handiwork skills. I’m relishing my interactions with the Paul Smith Foundation, and production is undoubtedly going to be a subject we fully embrace, as well as how we can cut to the chase, create and identify some feasible production solutions.


Vikram Menon, Financial Advisor and Founder Fashionex 

One of the significant challenges young designers face in today’s industry is managing their finances effectively. The one challenge I hope can be resolved is providing young designers with the knowledge, tools and support they need to stay financially organised and successful.


To address this challenge, there are several key strategies that can be implemented:

Financial education: Providing comprehensive financial education programs tailored to the needs of young designers can empower them with essential skills in budgeting, cash flow management, pricing strategies and financial planning. Workshops, seminars, online courses and mentorship programs can all play a crucial role in enhancing financial literacy among emerging designers.

Accounting and bookkeeping tools: Encouraging the use of accounting software and bookkeeping tools can streamline financial processes, track expenses, manage invoices and generate financial reports. These tools can provide valuable insights into the financial health of their businesses and enable them to make informed decisions.

Budgeting and forecasting: Helping young designers develop realistic budgets and financial forecasts can assist them in setting financial goals, allocating resources effectively and monitoring their progress over time. Creating a financial roadmap can guide their decision-making and ensure financial stability and sustainability.

Financial management support: Offering access to financial advisors, consultants, or mentors who specialise in the creative industries can provide young designers with personalised guidance and expertise in managing their finances. These professionals can offer strategic advice, identify opportunities for cost savings and help navigate financial challenges.

Networking and collaboration: Encouraging collaboration and networking among young designers can foster a supportive community where they can share insights, best practices and resources related to financial management. Collaborative efforts can lead to collective learning and empowerment in navigating financial complexities.

By focusing on these strategies, we can equip young designers with the necessary skills and resources to stay on top of their finances, build sustainable businesses, and thrive in today’s competitive industry.