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This project acknowledges the pivotal role of the UK’s design-led fashion micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in pioneering sustainable practices. In the UK, most policy attention is devoted to the mass market segment of the industry, not recognising the value, particularly of MSMEs in economic, environmental, and social terms. Instead, the policy focuses on end-of-pipeline waste initiatives above creative innovation in products, services, and systems.   


Managing Transition in the UK Fashion Sector will apply findings from recent research led by Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF), into the sustainable practices of fashion MSMEs from the Fostering Sustainable Practices (FSP) project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Combined with new research mapping the changing geographical configuration of the industry. It will provide vital new evidence of best practices across UK regions and assess the most critical areas in terms of policy.


The UK fashion industry, in tandem with other sectors, is experiencing significant transformation due to the convergence of three major issues: climate emergency, Brexit transitions and the economic and social crisis caused by Covid-19. In response to this 3-fold challenge, shifts in the geographical configuration of supply chain and creative business practices have the potential to invigorate, or decimate a sector that has huge soft power and economic significance for the UK.  

Project Objectives

The project extends and builds upon research developed as part of the FSP project, which contributed a unique evidence-led guide to the sustainable practices of fashion MSMEs as drivers of innovation towards social, environmental, cultural, and economic prosperity.   


The project will develop and translate these research findings to:   

  • inform policymakers of the needs of this economically important segment of the creative sector  

  • identify ways to economically invigorate the sector   

  • support industry net zero goals in the face of the 3-fold challenge outlined above 


The FSP project worked with 48 (mainly London-based) fashion MSMEs and 15 UK support organisations for 30 months, to inform the comprehensive guide – Fashion as Sustainability in Action. The guide is targeted at business support organisations that mentor, showcase and invest in fashion MSMEs and/or new enterprises in the creative industries, to extend their knowledge for supporting sustainability ambitions and practices. 


This next phase of research will apply this innovative resource in three regions outside London and the Southeast, with new and different support organisations, MSMEs, and stakeholders from three identified areas of the UK:  Scotland, Midlands and the Northwest.  


Fashion MSMEs within the creative industries are the most economically vulnerable actors experiencing increased risks through the combined impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit, though at the same time, MSMEs tend to be more agile and mobile when dealing with seismic shifts. Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic has forced many companies to rely on new local partners to overcome the upheaval brought by severe supply chain disruptions. On the other hand, Brexit has forced many companies to rely on foreign partners as they were forced to relocate some of their supply chain operations in mainland Europe.  


By implementing a UK-wide regional survey of fashion MSMEs, the team seeks to provide targeted and improved understanding of how Covid-19 and Brexit have transformed the key drivers, opportunities and challenges associated with supply chain relocation strategies. 

Project Outputs

  • 2 Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) discussion papers, 1 focused on the needs of the sustainable fashion MSME sector across the UK to enable inclusion of climate justice actions and other critical activities that contribute to net zero targets and foster sustainable prosperity. The other, focused on policy interventions to facilitate the retention of high value activities for ‘virtuous growth’ (e.g. reduced environmental impact) within the supply chain and to curb supply chain relocations outside UK.  

  • 3-5 summary case studies to evidence practice in regional sustainable fashion MSMEs. 

  • A policy workshop with policymakers and industry representatives to evidence required policy steps, including how the FSP Guide can inform and invigorate the sector’s contribution to a zero-carbon economy.  

  • A workshop with stakeholders to disseminate the findings of our survey, translating them into actionable insights for industry practice and policy makers. 

  • Academic journal article analysing impacts of transitions in the designer fashion sector related to both Covid-19 and Brexit. 

Managing transition in the UK fashion sector 

Managing transition in the UK fashion sector: design-led micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) as catalysts for net zero goals, resilience, and sustainable prosperity.

Project Team

  • Prof. Sandy Black, Centre for Sustainable Fashion (Project Lead and Investigator) 

  • Prof. Dilys Williams, Centre for Sustainable Fashion (Investigator and Advisor) 

  • Dr. Mila Burcikova, Centre for Sustainable Fashion (Investigator) 

  • Dr. Alessandra Vecchi, LCF Fashion Business Research Centre (Investigator) 

  • Dr. Emmanuel Sirimal Silva, LCF Fashion Business Research Centre (Investigator) 

  • Prof. Finola Kerrigan, LCF Fashion Business Research Centre (Advisor) 

  • Monica Buchan-Ng, Centre for Sustainable Fashion (Research Assistant) 

  • Zoe Norton, Centre for Sustainable Fashion (Research Assistant)

Get Involved

Are you a Fashion Support Organisation?

The project team are seeking support organisations that are interested in using this guide within their organisations. We are looking for support organisations in the Midlands, the Northwest, and Scotland, who would be interested in attending a half-day workshop followed by a 6-week period of testing delivery formats in their work.  


Interested in this opportunity?
Contact Zoe Norton,


Are you a fashion UK MSME? 

We have launched a survey that seeks to understand how Covid-19, Brexit and the Climate Emergency have transformed the key drivers, opportunities and challenges associated with supply chain relocation.   

Complete the Survey +

Contact for the project 

Zoe Norton, Research Assistant



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