Representing the creative future

1 Granary TENCEL™ Club: Finding community after fashion school

We need more bridges between industry and education. This virtual community might be one.

Just imagine. You’re a fashion design graduate. You’ve spent the past four years experimenting with your creativity, exploring innovative techniques with the guidance of skilled tutors and exchanging stimulating ideas with passionate classmates.

You finalized your degree a couple of weeks ago and you’re excited to step into the industry with everything you’ve learned. You come back to your university to continue your research, you take out your uni card and… ‘denied’. You are no longer a student, so you can’t access the building and with the rising cost of living, all your classmates moved back home. It’s isolating, disorienting, and discouraging. It’s the reality most fashion graduates face. And it’s a big challenge, not just for the aspiring designers who find themselves lost on where to go next, but for the entire industry. Where does the network of knowledge and inspiration that is fostered in fashion school suddenly go? What if this energy was somehow preserved and guided in the right direction with the help of established professionals?

The 1 Granary TENCEL™ Club

That is the idea behind the 1 Granary TENCEL™ Club, a virtual community where recent fashion design graduates connect with industry professionals to exchange knowledge, ideas and advice, and connect with each other. It works like this: an expert is invited into a private chat group for 24 hours where grads from all over the world can ask their burning questions. And just like we all naturally communicate today, the expert-turned-mentor can dip in and out of the chat to answer a flowing stream of questions. During their morning porridge, while on a quick office errand, before a work dinner, after leaving a party with a midnight snack in hand.

We initially trialled this idea during the Covid-19 pandemic, when it was impossible to meet face-to-face. To make sure there wasn’t a lack of support or resources, we organized a group chat with roughly a hundred designers and invited guests like Stefano Pilati, Francesco Risso, Sophie Brocart, Christopher and Tammy Kane, Brigitte Chartrand, Libby Page, Charles Jeffrey, Trino Verkade and Adam Iezzi, to name just a few. Following the test-drive’s success, we are excited to continue and are inviting leading fashion directors, buyers, recruiters, designers, editors, stylists, and experts in sustainability, production and fabrics to become mentor-for-a-day.

What we’re really thrilled about and proud of is that the Lenzing Group is joining us with its flagship textile fiber brand, TENCEL™, as a partner to supercharge the project. You may have heard about their responsibly produced fibers before. In the industry, the Lenzing Group is recognised as a true leader when it comes to sustainably sourced and innovative wood-based fibers, so it’s incredible that we can work together to bring more knowledge of sustainability, new materials and production processes to young designers.

This collaboration fits naturally within the framework that’s been our raison d’être since humble 1 Granary beginnings in the early 2010s: to build bridges between the young and the established. And also, to get down and dirty with it. To understand how everything works and share these findings; to make sure designers are in touch with important developments in production and material innovation; to celebrate the supply chain rather than consider it an afterthought because (as we keep repeating) the next creative revolution will take place on the factory floor. Fashion success is not just about pure creative expression and vision, it’s about how to make it happen and problem-solve in real time; finding new solutions to old roadblocks. For that, you sometimes need the guiding hand and wisdom of those who’ve learned the hard way.

The graduate selection for the Club takes place throughout the year; our recruitment team reviews hundreds upon hundreds of portfolios. Rather than only focusing on the big fashion schools like Central Saint Martins or Parsons, we are tapping into our larger network of schools to scout talent on every continent. As graduation happens on a rolling basis – some show their collections in February, others in June – so does our selection.

This brings us back to the starting point concerning recent graduates: where does the network go? This Club is one way in which we keep it going while connecting diverse talent facing similar problems. They have a space where they can connect beyond the mentor chat sessions and brainstorm ideas, ask for help or insight, or spark a debate on something that irks them about the industry. We all have to work hand-in-hand to make the industry better. The 1 Granary TENCEL™ Club is one of the ways in which we’d like to instigate change and leave a lasting impact on the next generation of design talent. Key findings and advice will be shared on 1 Granary’s social channels throughout the year to continue and expand the conversations.