It’s a brand new look for empty garages

Fashion designers love their new space in Finsbury Park

Friday, 24th September 2021 — By Helen Chapman

FC Designer Collective

Cllr Asima Shaikh with staff and students at the FC Designer Workspace, including including Taylor Rapley, Ussainato Djalo Ribeiro, Jenni Sutton, Tricia Blake and Mary Obaseki

DISUSED garages in Finsbury Park have been transformed into a fashion workspace with studios and sewing machines to teach stitching.

The FC Designer Workspace opened this month on the edge of the Andover Estate in Durham Road.

Jenni Sutton, development director of the designer workspace, said: “We are in the midst of residents – we have Andover Estate right there – so it is a huge project to transform this space.

“The aim is for an individual to come in here and be ready for a traineeship or work in industry.

“There is real progression, there are jobs for all these people to go on to. We have so many design graduates who might have left university, incredibly talented and full of ideas, but they don’t know how to construct.

“We noticed a real gap between education and industry. What we do is we teach how to construct a garment. We teach pattern cutting courses and stitching courses – things that as a designer can be really daunting.”

Student Ussainato Djalo Ribeiro

The FC Designer Workspace is run by Fashion Capital who have a factory in Manor House where they produce clothes for ASOS and high street brands.

The fashion collective also have a shop in Fonthill Road – the two spaces work closely together helping makers and designers get sales.

Studios and sewing machines are on offer for Islington residents to use for free at certain times in the week.

Mary Obaseki, who lives in Andover Estate, designs headwear and has been using studio space in the new fashion centre since it opened two weeks ago. She said: “It has been really tough over lockdown so it is lovely to now have the space here to work. It is lovely to be with people again and I can walk to work in two minutes. It is truly affordable and there is all the support I could dream to get.”

Ms Obaseki helps make hats, crowns and masks for weddings, festivals and theatre.

Tricia Blake, who runs a company called Diva Choice, is a jewellery designer who also uses studio space. She said: “My company was born from me feeling frustrated. My three older brothers all passed away and I was made redundant so it was during that time I started a company to make women feel good.”

The fashion studios in the former garage site

Taylor Rapley started a sewing course at the fashion workspace on Monday.

He said: “I’ve been designing since I was a kid and now I have gone through uni and I am ready to sell my brand. Here I am learning in a practical space and it is great because getting space in London is usually so expensive. It is unbelievable how good it is. It is all my dreams come true.”

Ussainato Djalo Ribeiro is a student who lives near Caledonian Road. She said: “I find it a nice place to be. I started the course on Monday and it is really flexible. I have got kids and I am a single mother. I used to work as a carer but I want to run my own business so coming here helps me work on my own time.”

Council business chief Councillor Asima Shaikh said: “We are doing the new build housing on the Andover Estate so going back five years we were wondering what to do with these disused garages. At the same time I had local women’s groups coming to me saying they wanted more apprentice­ships.

“There were community centres making clothes and down Seven Sisters Road there were fabric shops, there are also the clothes shops in Fonthill Road. We had lots of people approaching us saying what are you going to do for this industry.

“We wanted to choose a use that was for the local community. It is shaped by the local community and it is for the local community.

“We know there is local talent – there is talent on the estate so we are located on the edge of the estate. The interest from local women and men has been fantastic.”

She added: “We are delighted because it is precious – it is going to be there for the local community in the long term.”
The FC Fashion Workspace is part funded by the Mayor of London Good Growth Fund.

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