London is a hub of pioneering fashion talent, leading designer brands, and a centre for creativity. It is not only home to the top fashion and art institutions but is also a huge centre for investment and business programmes that stimulate growth and innovation across the sector. And as Europe’s largest technology ecosystem, London is a place where world class fashion and technology industries are colliding to create game changing companies.
In a world where technology is seemingly part of everything we do and is transforming a range of sectors, tech is being increasingly embedded in the world of art and fashion. Over the last few years there has been a clear move towards adopting new technologies in the fashion industry driven by the need to keep innovating.
London has seen an increase in new VCs and investment firms specifically dedicated to raising funds for businesses integrating technology to offer solutions to the fashion industry. As a result, the UK capital is fast becoming one of the most attractive places to start or grow a fashion technology business.
The city’s thriving ecosystems in technology, creative industries, and finance, supports initiatives that tackle challenges such as climate change, deliver new brand to consumer experiences, as well as problem-solving in e-commerce. From embracing the power of the metaverse to implementing more efficient digital payment, authentication and production methods, London companies are often leading the way in pioneering new technologies.
In terms of sustainability, the integration of technology into existing modes of working in the fashion industry offers the ability to conduct leaner, more cost-effective and sustainable ways of doing business. For example, more predictive demand forecasting and production creates a more accurate picture of order quantities and stock fulfilment. When it comes to designing products, the integration of technology is helping to eliminate waste involved in production, as well as limiting the often-long lead times related to the physical production of samples. As a city, London has set ambitious targets to become net zero carbon city by 2030 – and its fashion and technology sectors have a big role to play in this.
The opportunity for growth in fashion technology is endless. A huge number of businesses from scale-ups to more established companies, institutions, and VCs are increasingly directing their missions and resources to disrupting and tackling issues across the fashion value chain.
Here are some examples of exciting fashion technology companies we have seen grow and move to London across a variety of sectors.
London has recently seen a number of global ecommerce companies setup an office in the UK capital, including international brands such as Klarna, Stitch Fix and Faire. A recent report from London & Partners and Dealroom.co revealed that the UK ranks fourth globally for venture capital (VC) funding into digital shopping, with London ecommerce companies attracting $5bn in 2021.
Exciting ecommerce business that have setup or landed in London include:
- AGORA app, a safe platform for consumers to share their beauty reviews via shoppable content.
- By Rotation, a social networking platform for renting, reselling and buying designer fashion.
- Farfetch, a leading London-based unicorn in the e-commerce space which has also set up the ‘Dream Assembly Base Camp’ which offers selected participants a 12-week programme, featuring mentorship, networking and support surrounding digital fashion, immersive experiences and the creator economy.
On the sustainability front London is home to some of the most exciting businesses in sustainable fashion. From new e-commerce platforms to the development of new materials and waste management, some examples of businesses in this area include:
- Save Your Wardrobe, a platform which guides consumers on how to make the most of existing wardrobes, reconnect with the content of their wardrobe, thus encouraging people to buy less, and better has set up in London.
- Petit Pli, founded in 2017 by aeronautical engineer Ryan Mario Yasin, invents and applies ground-breaking material technologies that solve problems for individuals, businesses, and the planet across the textiles value chain.
- Nanoloom which develops biodegradable recyclable graphene-based fibre to be used in a wide variety of applications.
London is already home to a thriving ecosystem of immersive technology companies with many of them innovating in the fashion space. In fact, London is home to over 215 immersive technology companies – representing 48% of all businesses in the UK. London-based companies that are applying immersive technologies to the world of fashion, include:
- M-XR, which provides realistic 3D scanning technology for games, film and fashion. The company has worked with brands like Mulberry to create a new brand experience with AR by producing a hyper realistic 3D model of the Iris, a luxury handbag which features an interchangeable handle
- Drest, the world’s first luxury fashion styling mobile game. The app makes the world of fashion available to all, offering a place for brand discovery and engagement.
Investment and VCs
Looking more widely at accelerators and incubators with a focus on investing in fashion technology companies, London is home to:
- The Mills Fabrica a go-to solutions platform accelerating techstyle and agrifood technology innovations for sustainability and social impact. Fabrica expanded to London in 2021 with a mission to create positive social impact by focusing on incubating and investing in sustainable innovations, building an international community of sustainability, innovators, entrepreneurs, and visionaries.
- Farfetch’s Dream Assembly Base Camp, a new web3 accelerator powered by a strategic partnership between FARFETCH and Outlier Ventures to support startups shaping the future of Web3 luxury commerce.
Wider industry support
London’s fashion technology sector has also been boosted by the support of several institutions geared towards driving growth and innovation in the UK’s fashion industry. These include, the British Fashion Council (BFC), which helps to bring together designers, creatives, brand partners, media and retailers from the British fashion industry to promote positive growth. It also creates pathways to support talent and businesses leading the way in terms of environmental and community impact.
Additionally, the Fashion Innovation Agency (FIA) part of the London College of Fashion, works to harness emerging technologies to disrupt existing practices in the fashion and retail industries. These efforts are boosted by more local initiatives such as the Fashion District , a dedicated area in East London to bring together fashion, technology, business, and educational organisations. The district facilitates collaboration, education, and innovation to develop a strong, sustainable network within the UK fashion industry.
The British fashion industry has a reputation for leading in creativity, innovation and responsible business, and London serves as a headquarters for this activity. Success in these areas, is largely driven by London’s enduring creative energy. The integration of technology into this already thriving industry is allowing brands, designers, creators as well as consumers to step up to a new level and experience fashion in a more advanced way.
Laura Citron, CEO of London & Partners said: “London has long been recognised as a global leader for fashion, creativity, and design. In more recent times, the city has also emerged as Europe’s largest hub for technology and innovation, responsible for creating some of the best cutting-edge technologies. From financial services and fashion to retail and health care, technology continues to disrupt traditional industries. With strengths across all these industries, London is at the forefront of the convergence trend. The combination of our world class fashion and tech industries makes London a unique place to grow and scale a fashion technology business.”