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  • Dr. Mila Burcikova

Small Matters

Emergency Designer Network
Image copyright of Jamie Hawkesworth for British Vogue

Over the last few months, the team of our Fostering Sustainable Practices project have been busy writing a guide for those who support micro and small fashion businesses. The purpose of the guide is to help mentors, business support organisations, funders, investors, incubators, and accelerators to better understand the distinctions of micro and small fashion businesses.

The designers we have been working with over the last two and half years differ from many larger fashion companies by their powerful sense of purpose, the kind of things they care about, and also how they think about success for themselves and the people they work with. They prefer to be recognised for social and environmental impact, rather than for the number of shows or wholesale outlets, they balance personal fulfilment and creative expression with financial viability, and they value the sense of community, trust and long-term working relationships over high profit margins and accelerating turnover.

While we have been working towards supporting the micro and small fashion businesses in what matters to them, they themselves have been busy supporting others. The Emergency Designer Network, founded in early 2020 by the designers Phoebe English, Bethany Williams and Holly Fulton, have just issued another appeal for donations towards making the much needed scrubs for NHS staff across the UK. While they received a generous donation of fabric needed, they still need help towards funding the production by their network of sewers, machinists, and manufacturers across the UK.

Any help, however small, from those whose circumstances allow to do so, is much appreciated. The donations will enable a prompt delivery of scrubs that are again urgently needed in UK hospitals.

Back in 1973, the famous advocate of the beauty of small scale, the designer and educator Victor Papanek wrote:

“Now, it is quite true that today there are more large organisations and probably also bigger organisations than ever before in history; but the number of small units is also growing and certainly not declining … many of these small units are highly prosperous and provide society with most of the really fruitful new developments.” [1]

The Emergency Designer Network, who are mobilising their skills and volunteering their time to respond to an urgent need amongst the Covid-19 pandemic, are a compelling case in point here. They are the perfect example of how small matters. They also show that the new designers are increasingly redefining how we think about fashion and its contribution to the community and the society.

If you can support the Emergency Designer Network efforts, donations can be made via the Go Fund Me platform.

[1] Papanek, V. (2011 [1973]). Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered. London: Vintage, p. 48


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