The Enterprise of Culture

Entrepreneurship in Fashion: student, academic and industry perspectives

Taking place at the James Watt Conference Centre at Heriot-Watt University on 5 March 2015, Edinburgh, this free public event engaged multiple perspectives around the exciting concept of entrepreneurship in fashion and welcomed thoughts, ideas and debate from the public, the industry, the museum sector and the research world.

The conference themes moved beyond the ‘great designer’ focus in much of the literature on European fashion, and examined the business professionals who ensure that fashion brands connect to the larger culture, past and present. Speakers and round table guests considered questions such as: Does fashion need good designers or good entrepreneurs? Are there unique barriers to entrepreneurial behaviour in the context of the fashion industry? What is the creative process of entrepreneurship? Is entrepreneurship in fashion born or made?

Participants from industry included Anna Freemantle-Zee, Director of the Edinburgh International Fashion Festival, Tom Hendren, CEO at Array Marketing (one of the world’s largest designers and manufacturers of retail merchandising solutions for companies such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Tom Ford and H&M) and Colin Temple, Managing Director at Schuh (the UK’s largest footwear retailer). They joined a round-table discussion with academics Professor Laura Galloway (School of Management and Languages, Heriot-Watt University) and Professor Alan McKinlay (Newcastle University Business School), chaired by Ingrid Giertz-Mårtenson of the Centre for Business History Stockholm.

The conference also welcomed fashion student Amy Johnson (Manchester School of Art), the winner of a competition to find high quality undergraduate research on entrepreneurship in fashion. In her talk on Stereotyping culture: how our personal style dictates social perception, Amy suggested that ‘we all have an ideal self we wish to display, and want to be complemented and accepted by others’.

Current research from team members from The Enterprise of Culture was showcased in a session by Dr Shiona Chillas of the University of St Andrews. In Searching for ‘The Real McCoy’ in Scottish indigenous textiles, Shiona explored the role of cultural heritage in the separate yet overlapping fields of textiles and fashion and considered images of ‘Scottishness’ and fashion aesthetics. Professor Regina Lee Blaszczyk (University of Leeds) presented a short overview of The Enterprise of Culture project and took a glimpse at entrepreneurship in fashion, past and present.

The conference welcomed four other speakers from academia and the museum sector, who will explored the conference themes from many perspectives. Danielle Sprecher of the University of Leeds talked about the importance of Leeds in the past as an important centre for multiple tailoring in A good fit? The collaboration between fashion designer Hardy Amies and Leeds multiple tailors Hepworths,1960-1980. Dr Patsy Perry (University of Manchester) and Dr Kathryn Waite (Heriot-Watt University) demonstrated the usefulness of a relatively untried form of digital innovation in The application of gestural interactivity technology to small and medium sized online fashion retailers.

Cher Potter (V&A London) spoke on ‘Collecting the New’: employing the methodologies of fashion forecasting to enhance the entrepreneurial strategies of museums. Sharon Bainbridge (Leeds College of Art) considered how engaging fashion students with a Bradford company that still manufactures all processes in fibre and cloth manufacture developed a stronger understanding of enterprise, value and the narrative around cloth (in From Fibre to Fabric: can the industrial entrepreneurs of the past inspire new enterprising designers?).

Delegates had the opportunity to network at various points across the day with a diverse range of attendees, including academics, fashion industry practitioners, students, archivists, museum curators, entrepreneurs and the general public. They also had the chance to take away a bespoke Enterprise of Culture conference bag, kindly provided by jutexpo. The conference was supported by a team of volunteer helpers from the MSc International Fashion Marketing course at Heriot-Watt University.

The project will return to Heriot-Watt University on 10 March 2015, for a public conference on Harnessing uncertainty: social, cultural and economic capital in fashion. For more information, please email

This conference was organised by the School of Management and Languages, Heriot-Watt University, on behalf of The Enterprise of Culture

Photography: Tom Finnie

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