A year in #FashionOpenStudio

By Tamsin Blanchard

4 years ago

Fashion Open Studio is Fashion Revolution’s showcasing platform established to celebrate the people and processes and create greater transparency around how our clothes are made. Fashion Open Studio curator Tamsin Blanchard reflects on a year of digital Open Studios which, despite the year’s challenges brought together creatives and audiences around the globe amid the strangest of times.


While it seems like the world has been on pause for 2020, we’ve been pretty busy at Fashion Open Studio. As the fashion industry has faced a crisis like it’s never seen before, this has been a year when the need for a total systems change has been laid bare for all to see. At Fashion Open Studio, we are three steps ahead, actively shouting from the rooftops about the designers and brands who are making it their business to urgently redesign everything from the materials they are using (in many cases, reusing) to eliminating plastic, focusing on local supply chains and markets, delving into every aspect of their work to ensure transparency, using social enterprise models to redistribute profits in equitable ways, and celebrating those dedicated to the small, the considered, the brave, the innovative and the independent.

It’s been a devastating year for so many designers struggling to make ends meet. As the conventional ways of showing fashion have imploded, the Fashion Open Studio showcasing initiative by Fashion Revolution is a way for us to support those who are actively creating change, and sharing what an industry that respects its workers, the resources it uses, and ultimately the clothes it makes to ensure they have longevity and lasting relevance, can look like.

In April, during Fashion Revolution Week and despite the lockdown affecting everyone taking part in Fashion Open Studio’s programme of events, we produced our most far reaching week of workshops, digital studio visits, specially commissioned films and interactive conversations yet. We were particularly inspired by those in our network including Phoebe EnglishBethany Williams who founded the Emergency Designer Network, and made time for FOS as they worked tirelessly to produce PPE for hospitals. We partnered with Somerset House and the Sarabande Foundation in London as well as Lagos Fashion Week, and Mode Suisse, forward thinking retailers like Aassttiinn in Tehran, Studio XYZ in London, and the visionary think tank, Earth Logic. We were also supported by ISKO denim for a day of rethinking how we make, use, and think about this most universal of materials.

We hosted over 50 events, representing designers in 13 countries including many whose designers are not usually part of the mainstream conversation. Some of the feedback we have received has been incredible and demonstrates why this platform is so instrumental in changing the balance of the fashion industry, elevating the creative voices of those who are not compromising in their pursuit of a fairer, cleaner industry. Bhaavya Goenka, founder and creative director of the ground breaking brand Iro Iro Zero Waste based in Jaipur told us: “FOS 2020 has been a transformative experience for us here at IRO IRO and for me personally as well. As a brand situated in a tier 2 city of a developing country it democratises the platform for us and has opened doors to many new opportunities.”

At a time of deepest self-isolation, we connected so many fashion creatives, bringing them together along with university students struggling with working from home, makers, buyers, academics, fashion lovers and activists. There is so much we can learn from each other. We would like to thank all of our country coordinators who were involved in activating the week’s events – India, Iran, Vietnam, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Switzerland, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Scotland, Czech Republic.

“Some of the feedback we have received has been incredible and demonstrates why this platform is so instrumental in changing the balance of the fashion industry, elevating the creative voices of those who are not compromising in their pursuit of a fairer, cleaner industry.”

It’s been a particularly difficult year for fashion graduates and we used our Instagram platform to showcase some of the designers who shone for us including Tamsin J Lines from University of Leeds, and Sandra Poulson from CSM (check out her extraordinary video on FOS IGTV). We also highlighted the work of the newly graduated Paolo Carzana who took part in our Somerset House event, and fellow CSM MA bright light, Matthew Needham.

Since April, Fashion Open Studio has activated events beyond Fashion Revolution Week. In September, the Fashion Revolution USA team worked with us on an event with the Brooklyn based brand Fly By Night for Sustainable Fashion Week. In November, we curated an event focused on regenerative and indignous yarns with 11.11 at the Sustainable Fashion Day at Lakmé Fashion Week.

As part of an ongoing partnership with Mercedes Benz, we have created a roadmap for better ways to showcase fashion to support them with the fashion weeks they partner with around the world. Thanks to them, we also took part in the Hyères Fashion Festival with a mentoring programme for the ten finalists to create a look created with the Fashion Open Studio vision and criteria in mind. The ten looks by designers including Emma Bruschi and Andrea Grossi will be showcased at Berlin Fashion Week in January 2021, where we will be activating Fashion Open Studio to help transform MBFW with the City of Berlin into a fashion week that has sustainability at its core. Watch this space for more information on the programme which will include ten designers working in Berlin.

We are thankful to the Mayor of London and the London Fashion Showcasing Fund for supporting Fashion Open Studio to create an ongoing programme of events which have included the launch of the Marques’Almeida manifesto and their publication See-Through during London Fashion Week in September, a short film introducing the craft community collaboration of emerging talent Cecily Ophelia at the Sarabande Foundation’s temporary store House of Bandits in December, and a hugely successful digital SpeedSHARE information exchange eve on the event of Black Friday with presentations by Dr Jen Ballie with the V&A Museum Dundee, Hasna Kourda of Save Your Wardrobe, and Layla Sargent of The Seam London talking about regenerative solutions to making our loved clothes last. The programme will continue in February 2021 with Congregation Design and the adaptive clothing brand startup, Reset.

We are excited to announce the FOS 2021 programme in the new year with a new cohort of diverse and exciting talent from 18 countries in the Global Network as well as highlighting the work of some of the UK’s designers leading the way in innovation.

Looking beyond Fashion Revolution Week 21, we are very excited to be working with the British Council to create a series of events in the run up to COP26 in Glasgow. More on this later in the new year!

We are committed to amplifying all cultural perspectives through FOS and to challenging ourselves to seek out the many who have been under-represented by the industry for so long. We are delighted to announce that to ensure we do not compromise on this, we have been joined by the first FOS advisory board: Dio Kurazawa, founding partner of the Bear Scouts; Jennifer Ewah, lawyer and founder of Eden Diodati; Kellie Dalton, responsible fashion consultant, The Right ProjectSunny Dolat, creative director and co-founder The Nest CollectiveMatthew Needham, designer and Fashion Revolution creative collaborator. We welcome the scrutiny, experience, wisdom and rigour they bring to Fashion Open Studio and look forward to growing the initiative under their watchful eyes.

Thank you to everyone who took part in Fashion Open Studio this year. We welcome your ideas and feedback and look forward to working with you in 2021.