The Fashion Technology Academy – Fashion’s Future
As part of a series of interviews by editor JoJo Iles with Fashion Enter’s CEO – Jenny Holloway JoJo questions why the educational division of the company – the Fashion Technology Academy is so important to the industry today…
JoJo: You have always been known for helping designers; advising, mentoring, creating samples and production, so what made you go down the education route?
Jenny: Actually I have always been interested in education JoJo but I didn’t have the knowledge, resources or time to concentrate on setting up the UK’s first Fashion Technology Academy (FTA). I am also a stickler for detail, so I wasn’t going to just open up any old FTA, I wanted the training to be the best it could possibly be and for that I needed to understand how teaching works.
JoJo: What do you mean how teaching works?
Jenny: I wanted to know what it was like to be a good teacher – how to engage with learners, how to teach myself so I could then have empathy with and support teachers’ myself.
I went back to night school and spent four years studying to be a teacher with my PTLLS and DTLLS – Level 5. I then trained to be an assessor and then an IQA and now I am training to be an EV with ABC Awards.
If you want be the best at a service then you have to understand attention to detail and be there for the teachers themselves.
JoJo: Did you enjoy night school – going back to learning?
Jenny: No, not always! I had a few wobbly chins when I had to resubmit course work, when I failed my first ever teaching class and my husband thought I was having yet another mid-life crisis! Going back to college from 5pm to 9pm every Thursday at Waltham Forest College after a full day’s work, I live in Kent, would make for one late night!
I found it hard too because it’s harder to learn when you are older, plus there is so much to learn as well. Teaching is a whole new profession but I do love it. I love what education and confidence can do for the learners and seeing them flourish and grow is the most rewarding aspect of my entire job. I have made some wonderful friends now from the FTA.
JoJo: Does the FTA sit as part of the company? Or is it all separate now?
Jenny: Both actually. I don’t believe you can teach without industry best practices and this was very much picked up by Ofsted when we had our Provider Monitoring Visit at the end of May 2019.
When we first started the Stitching Academy there was no stitching qualifications available – we had to write them with the support of ABC Awards. Can you believe that! We did this with patterns too and quality control plus machine maintenance. That was definitely a unique learning experience!!
I am really glad that we did it though. It all worked well and today we are absolutely at full capacity on both Level 1 and 2 on both stitching and patterns. I am sure this is because of our exceptional teachers who are themselves so kind and patient and really want to pass on their industrial skills. We have such a great team.
The way we split up the company is that each part of the company i.e. FashionCapital, Belles, Factory, Fashion Studio and FTA are all separate but are all under one company Fashion-Enter Ltd. That way we are totally transparent and everyone knows what their targets are.
It really works well – I have heard of some companies siphoning off money into different businesses and different accounts. We don’t do anything like that we are totally transparent. The company is Not for Profit limited by guarantee so that means I can never take out a dividend – it’s genuinely all about the business.
JoJo: So what is next for the FTA?
Jenny: We have received funding from the GLA and the Good Growth Fund to open a Tailoring Academy this year. It has been very slow with issues of leases, building, budgets but we are getting there. I am so excited about this as I really do believe there is a huge future for tailoring in the UK especially with the dreaded ‘B word’ around the corner in October.
JoJo: Don’t you get tired Jenny?
Jenny: Yes of course I do! By 10pm I am shattered as I get up early with our relatively new puppy Charlie. What possessed us to buy a Collie I will never know! He is absolutely huge and needs four walks a day. Then I have a horse too – the same horse that threw me off two-years ago breaking my arm, hip and rib! I am not giving up on that horse!
However, it’s the workforce that keeps me going Jo. I have worked the longest with you…17-years on FashionCapital, and then Jenni Sutton was here from the start too. I have this huge issue about not letting people down and my Dad drummed it into me when I was younger that your word has to be bond or you have nothing in life.
However, we do have one amazing team now; we have over 100 employed and we have to have amazing managers for them to work as one team. Caroline in production is just awesome and Chris the factory manager is basically the guru of all fabrics and construction. He has a huge brain! Beth in design, Andres in the FTA also supported by Esme, Jennybeth in the Fashion Studio and Claire in patterns, Elle the garment tech…the list goes on and on. I just feel blessed to have one amazing team.
JoJo: And the future…
Jenny: The future is bright and very orange! We have recently won a few bids that we can’t disclose yet but they are so exciting. We are looking at a retail opportunity and incubation space too. Then there’s new learning platforms to consider! So much to do! However, my budding desire is to open a ‘Winnie Centre’ in aid of my mother who had mental health issues. I want to create a place in the country for parents and guardians to bring their children for a free weekend to just get away from the city and embrace the countryside. When my mother was so ill all the money in the world would not have made her well but having a few friends would have helped. However she was in such a dark place she was just alone. A Winnie Centre (Winifred was my mom’s middle name) will allow people from the similar communities to get together for a free weekend where they can relax and allow their children to just experience the countryside – feed the one-eye donkey, the one legged goose, groom the neglected horses that have been rehoused…my only fear is running out of time!
To find out more about the FTA and the courses, workshops, factory tours and apprenticeships it provides click here.