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Making for Change: breaking barriers to employment

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Making for Change (MFC), London College of Fashion’s groundbreaking social project, was established in partnership with HM Prison Service Business Development Unit and the Ministry of Justice in 2014.

MFC is a training and manufacturing programme, initially opened in HMP Holloway, women’s prison, transferring to HMP Downview in 2016 after Holloway’s closure.  

The project was set up as a response to the shortage of technically skilled people in the manufacturing industry in London and the UK, following the outsourcing of production by designers and retailers to overseas during the past couple of decades. Further exacerbated by Brexit and a number of practical, economic, ethical and environmental reasons, UK manufacturers struggle to recruit a skilled workforce due to a generation of lost skills.

Downview

Making for Change is a fully equipped manufacturing unit inside HMP Downview. It offers a safe space for women prisoners to gain industry-recognised qualifications and provides real work experience to utilize their skills in the manufacturing environment producing client orders. London College of Fashion provides a team of industry experts, the Cutting Room lecturer, delivers the Level 1 and 2 fashion and textiles modules, the Head of Business Development, secures a range of different commercial fashion and homeware orders that aims to build the income of the enterprise. The Quality Control Lecturer works within the team to ensure the production remains at a consistently high-quality standard.  The prison employs two production instructors who work alongside the LCF team, supporting the production schedule, whilst supervising the women.

A higher proportion of female than male prisoners have no qualifications, significantly higher than in the general population. The MFC programme supports women prisoners to develop new skills, to build pride through the creative process, improve time management and build confidence through teamwork—equipping them with the professional skills and qualifications to build new lives upon their return to society.

To date, MFC has supported more than 150 women in prison.  Out of these, 70 have completed Level 1 or 2 awards and six were able to undertake Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) London Living Wage (LLW) paid placements. Some of the women since leaving HMP are employed using the skills they learnt in the project, have become self-employed or have set up their own small independent business. When asked which three words they would use to describe their experience in Making for Change, women used words such as hope and confidence, achievement and success, perseverance, determination, and life-changing. 

Since 2016, Making for Change, Downview has worked with over 20 different customers, completing over 80 orders from emerging designers, charities and industry clients, completing over 10,000 items ranging from fashion to homeware products.

Poplar Works

Making for Change at Poplar Works, extends the work already being delivered in HMP Downview. It provides ‘through the gate’ opportunity for women to complete their training and access work experience in the community. The MFC programme has broadened its offer to women from marginalised community groups and provides employment and training to a local workforce. The project is situated in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, one of the most deprived boroughs in the country, which suffers with particularly high levels of female unemployment.

Making for Change in partnership with Newham College delivered its first training programme at Poplar Works in 2019/20, unfortunately due to covid restrictions further training has been delayed until September 2021.

The production programme started at Poplar Works in 2020 during lockdown making over 400 masks for the Limes Children’s and Community Centre and supporting the Emergency Designer Network and North London NHS scrubs network to make hundreds of PPE garments which are still currently in work.

Services

  1. Manufacturing Services

We manufacture production orders for established and emerging brands including:

  • Sustainable Menswear designer Bethany Williams (Winner of BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund 2021)
  • Social enterprise brand Circle Collective
  • Homeware brand – Aerende
  • Sample development and production services

We provide full sample development services including: design advice, pattern development, size specifications, fabric and trim sourcing and business support.  We are working with innovative emerging designers with sustainable and social responsibility at the heart of their brand.  These includes:

  • Adaptive fashion designer creating clothes for customers with dwarfism
  • Adaptive fashion designer creating clothes for wheelchair bound customers
  • Sustainable designer working with photosynthesis bacteria coating, creating garments that releases oxygen back into the air when worn.
  • Upcyling denim brand repurposing textile waste into contemporary pieces

Read more about Making for Change

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