London-based design house and pioneer of Noble Yarns and Noble Fibres, Tengri, has been awarded part of an over £1.2 million fund by the Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT) Creative R&D Partnership.

This programme, led by University of the Arts London in partnership with some of the UK’s leading Universities is part of the AHRC Creative Industries Clusters Programme (CICP), funded by the UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The CICP aims to boost productivity by backing businesses to create good jobs and increase the earning power of people throughout the UK with investment in skills, industries and infrastructure. In today’s challenging climate, a comprehensive support package of this type that enables SMEs to drive forward sustainability-driven innovation is more crucial than ever.

From over 80 applications, Tengri was one of 13 businesses shortlisted and provided with one-to-one mentoring, business workshops and training to help develop their initial concepts into fully fledged business plans. The studio made the final cut of ten following its pitch to a panel of industry and academic experts.

The awarded projects cover a range of subsectors and R&D areas, including: bio-material development to non-woven textiles; a global design crowdsourcing platform; sustainable surface finishing processes; on-shoring of state-of-the-art sustainable manufacturing; novel digital solutions to increase transparency and improve sustainability in the sector. Tengri will be working with The London College of Fashion (UAL) on an R&D project to further explore and codify existing UK heritage manufacturing techniques and new technologies, applying this development to the creation of new natural and sustainable fabrics from the by-product of luxury woollen fibres, found at the start of many luxury fashion supply chains where they are sourced from remote parts of the world.

Nancy Johnston, Founder of Tengri, comments. “We are honoured to have been recognised by the BFTT as one of the UK fashion industry’s top ten most innovative and sustainable brands. The results of this critical R&D development will work towards creating lasting environmental impact, supporting our work to preserve remote landscapes, protect wildlife, and support the livelihoods of indigenous communities threatened by rapid industrialisation and land degradation.”

Johnston continues. “The majority of our development to date has focused on  on the finest grade fibres of the endemic Khangai yak and camel. However, these animals produce multiple types of fibres and an unreported 70-90% of fibre by-product is created at the start of many luxury woollen fibre supply chains in the fashion industry. The fibres of these ancient animals bear exceptional properties with exciting and critical potential for product development. With the BFTT’s creative R&D partnership grant, and incredible support of UAL’s academia, we will have a powerful opportunity to further explore the commercial potential of these natural and sustainable fibres, and to work towards educating the market and introducing the rare properties and capabilities of these by-product fibres, while managing the perception and application of ‘bio-waste’ within the industry.”

Professor Jane Harris, BFTT Programme Director said: “Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are critical to the economy and critical to the creative sector in particular, making up over 95% of creative businesses in the UK. The Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT) SME Research and Development Programme seeks to highlight the value and impact SMEs can have in our sector and on the economy, when provided with the right type of financial support and research expertise.” ​

Awards totaling over £1.2m will be made to: Ananas Anam, Anna Glover, AWAYTOMARS, Blackhorse Lane Ateliers, Chip[S] Board, Doppelhaus, Elvis & Kresse, Segura, Tengri, Tibor. In addition each recipient will receive a comprehensive package of research and development support, including mentoring from leading academics across the partnership, hands-on specialist creative and technical support as well as ongoing project management and strategic business support from across the BFTT team.

The BFTT SME R&D Programme is hosted by University of the Arts London (UAL), in partnership with: Loughborough University; University College London (UCL); Queen Mary University London (QMUL); University of Leeds and University of Cambridge. The programme consists of a bespoke support package designed to enable small and medium enterprises from across the fashion, textiles and technology sector, access to expertise and resources to develop the next generation of sustainability-driven products, services and experiences. Over 2020 / 21 BFTT will be launching further funding support to the value of £1.2 million.


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