Fashion Enter | EEF

Fashion Enter

Fashion Enter, a not-for-profit social enterprise based in north London, is a centre of excellence for production and learning within the fashion industry

  • Not-for-profit, social enterprise, which strives to be a centre of excellence for sampling, grading and production - and learning and development - within the fashion industry
  • Based in Haringey, North London in a 7,500m2 factory, in use since 2010 
  • Production centres on ladieswear, manufactured by a team of 40 machinists with 10,000 garment produced a week


Jenny Holloway, CEO of Fashion Enter, is passionate about her job: "I just think life's for living - I just think embrace change, embrace newness. We just want to be the best that we can."

Fashion is highly competitive industry, with an estimated 95 per cent of start-ups failing during the first five years. Jenny describes the risk-taking and determination it took to build Fashion Enter into an established destination for fashion production and education. 

"We started the company in 2006, it started with very little finance. I had £8,000 worth of shares which I cashed in. Of course we made mistakes at the beginning. I would probably hazard a guess that for the first three to six months I would probably have cried most days. I was completely out of my comfort zone. 

"Then very fortuitously I met with the CEO of ASOS at that time, a guy called Nick Robertson and I said a throw-away comment: 'one day ASOS is going to need fast-track production' because you could just tell that was the way the whole environment was going with retail and he said 'what a great idea, how much do you think that would cost?'

"What an opportunity! How could anybody not come up with a figure? So I thought about it for a few seconds, and it was a few seconds, and I estimated that it would be about £250,000 that you would need to set up a factory. You think about all the machines that you would need, the workforce. ASOS then provided a loan which was converted into a grant of £230,000. So how lucky were we?" The factory now produces 10,000 garments a week for online retailer ASOS.

With 80 to 90 per cent of the workforce of Eastern European origin, what impact will Brexit have on the business? "I'm positive about the future, however horrendous at the moment Brexit is, we have to make the situation work. and we're very dedicated we're going to."

Caroline Ash, the Production Director, points to a collage of staff photos: "We really care for our staff. We do English classes for them, which are free. We have various events: Halloween parties. Christmas parties Valentine's parties. Discos, really!"

Jenny says: "We certainly do not give enough reverence to the technical skills of our cutters, machinists the pressers, the packers - it's a fantastic world to be involved in."

"Factories only work if there's flow. Factories only work if there's a pipeline of talent. We realised there was going to be a skills shortage about 2010. We had to invest in skills and the way we did that was with our Fashion Technology Academy."

A grant from Harringay Council, plus a soft loan from ASOS, helped to set up the Academy. Today it works with 33 retailers to offer qualifications from level 1 all the way through to level 5, bespoke tailoring.  

Jenny plans to expand the 'Saville Row' end of the training. "We're going to be opening up a tailoring academy. This is 100% the right thing to do. We've now got to invest in those finite, high-end, bespoke skills and leave a legacy for a future generation."

Trusting in her tight-knit team, Jenny has chosen to avoid a traditional corporate structure. "We are unusual, we're very flat here, flat structure. I don't agree with big boards. I do not agree with writing huge business plans because by the time you've done your huge business plan, the market has changed.

"What do we do when we have an important decisions to make? We have a cup of tea, we talk it through. We do not have a finger-pointing blame culture within the company because we recognise that everyone's going to make mistakes and we are a risk-taker as a company."

To stay ahead in the fashion industry, the team know Fashion Enter has to keep its cutting edge.  

"We've not averse to thinking: yeah, we don't know if it's going to work but I'd rather make the decision and then make the decision work than pontificate and miss an opportunity."


Sewbots & Brexit: Jenny Holloway on the future of Fashion Enter

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