FAD: Fashion that makes a difference

4 Mins read

FAD Charity is the fashion company set to make a difference. The award-winning charity offers young people the chance to get ahead in the creative industry whilst also campaigning to make vital changes in the fashion world.

FAD stands for Fashion Awareness Director: “We’re FAD. We help young people make it in fashion. We work with the industry to campaign for fair access, improved diversity and better representation,” they say.

Photograph of Joanne Matthew, the Creative Director of FAD. Black and white portrait photograoh.

Joanne Matthews [FAD]

We spoke with Joanne Matthews, creative director of FAD, on their grand visions for fashion, the programmes they offer to help young people in the industry, some of the projects they run and of course their London Fashion Week shows.

The company was founded in 1998 with a broad aim of doing something positive in the fashion industry. “Fashion affects us all and there have been lots of negative issues associated with fashion. We wanted to do something positive and make a difference in the industry,” said Matthews.

“2018 was a pivotal year for fashion. It was the year where the fashion industry did realise it had a problem with diversity, it didn’t represent everybody,” she told us.

“Although 2018 was a very important year, there is still lots of work to do. Representation is a lot better, it’s more diverse and representational. Fashion is doing a better job of realising it has customers of all types of background, from all walks of life. It needs to listen to the wants and needs in terms of its employees too. Fashion has been overwhelmingly white and opportunities within fashion have been much easier for people of privileged background.”

“We work with all types of people from all walks of life. We work very hard to be inclusive and give people the skills and experience to network and have a successful career in the fashion industry.”

FAD run a project called Fashion Futures. The project has run for 14 years and is essentially aimed at 16 to 19 year-olds wanting to pursue a career in fashion design. Participants showcase their work at London Fashion Week with FAD’s partners, Fashion Scout.

Its designers are among the youngest ever to exhibit their collections at LFW. Matthews told us: “Fashion Futures is our flagship project that’s run since 2005. We work with young people from all across London, who work with volunteers from the industry to teach skills in the design process, primary research, mood-boarding, technical drawing, and construction.” 

FAD at London Fashion Week. Three models walking down the runway in FAD Fashion Future designs.

FAD Fashion Futures at LFW [FAD]

In the first stage of the project, 70 young people from all walks of life, with and without fashion experience are selected. They then go through a design process and present their work to an industry panel.

Twenty of those candidates are selected and go on to do a summer school to develop their project into a finished outfit which goes into FAD’s September LFW show. 

“We first partnered with Fashion Scout in 2008. Fashion Scout make sense as a partner for us because they are about showcasing new and diverse talent, something we find we need for our projects,” said Matthews.

The organisation encourages young fashion enthusiasts from different backgrounds to pursue their fashion dreams. They believe that by being inclusive and championing diversity, it strengthens the culture within fashion. Matthews said, “the young people we work with are from the most creative cities in the world.

“They are the reason London is the most creative city in the world. The imagination and spark the fashion industry draw from these young people is extraordinary and young people should be credited for their creativity and ideas. They should be given equal opportunity for a successful career in fashion.”

Although the company are all about the future they also draw inspiration from the past to inspire some of their present projects, for example, their Black Icons project looked at the British Jazz age. 

“Black Icons, was a project in which we researched black presence in Britain in the ’20s and ’30s. We chose 13 prominent black people in the jazz era. We worked with archives, like the British Library and BFI to gather information,” Matthews explained.

“We then took that information and created a magazine showcasing those people. Fashion is a universal language so we thought a magazine would best appeal to young people to get that information across.”

In addition to Fashion Futures, their undergraduate programme, the organisation also offer INTO Fashion. INTO Fashion is a postgraduate course designed to help post grads break into the fashion industry if they haven’t already.

 “INTO Fashion is our graduate scheme. It’s for those who leave university with their fashion degree and find they can’t get a job in the industry straight away and can’t afford to intern for free, and they aren’t sure how to take next steps,” Matthews said.

FAD Fashion Futures workshop in practice.

FAD Fashion Futures workshop [FAD]

“INTO Fashion is about helping them get industry-ready and help them understand where they want to go in the industry. We then pair with a mentor (from the industry) they give advice on applications, CVs, cover letters and portfolios, that kind of thing. We create a community and get together every month with the participants and share and learn from one another and create a network.”

FAD is a well established and recognised organisation that strive for change in the industry. As a result of their endeavours, they often collaborate with designers for their Fashion Futures projects, in the past pairing with Missoni and the V&A.

The organisation have also worked with a number of high streets and high-end brands. “We have worked with multiple brands and designers, for example, Asos, River Island, Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, and Karen Millen,” said Matthews. 

As well as offering the projects Fashion Futures and INTO Fashion the company are all about offering real fashion industry experience, and work with a number of volunteers all year round.

“Volunteering is a massive part of what we” she continued “In the last year we worked with 189 volunteers and they had given 1727 hours worth of work.”

They also have volunteering opportunities from teaching and mentoring to masterclasses, plus modelling and events.






To catch their next Fashion Futures collection, it will be showcased at this years September’s LFW with Fashion Scout. To follow FAD’s journey you can visit their website, Twitter or Instagram.

Featured Image by FAD

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