Space + Tools + People = Creativity

Best Maker Spaces in London

As part of funding I received from the Arts Council of England to develop Fashionivity I have committed to sharing the ups and downs of being a designer. I know one of the challenges designers face is igniting the creative spark so I hope this helps other designers looking for creative co-working spaces.

While working from my home studio has its creature comforts, lately I have started to lose my creative spark and those big ideas just don’t show up as much as before. I can easily spend hours ‘researching’ kitten videos on instagram (its highly addictive let me tell you!)

I know all too well that when working in a creative co-working space you will find yourself engaging with other creative minds, develop new ideas and building great networks. Getting out of that creative rut can be difficult but often a change of scenery is all you need to get your juices flowing again, hence I decided to join a maker space to get access to equipment as well as build routine in my day and learn from others. A recent research paper suggests the “third Industrial Revolution” is where independent, garden-shed companies sell small batches of their product locally hence maker spaces are popping up in every city around the globe. Many spaces are targeted specifically towards creatives and makers and provide studio areas, printers, and desk areas that suit more hands-on production work. My current needs are access to 3D printers, laser cutters (someone who knows what they are doing with them is a plus) and preferably pattern cutting and assembly tables. After lots of research and onsite visits I have compiled my three favourite maker spaces in London (where I am currently based).

Makerversity London

 Maker Space London

As the name would suggest, this is a great office space for all makers and crafts folk. It is located at Somerset House and your monthly rent includes access to their fully equipped workshops where you can 3D print, laser cut and sew to your hearts’ content. They also have an event space where you can learn from other crafts people and gain new knowledge and insight into the latest developments in a wide range of crafting fields.


1).   Unlimited use of equipment (3D printers, laser cutters and sewing machines

2).   Great community of creatives from start-ups to SME’s

3).   A host of events to inspire and educate tech newbies like me


1).   Commuting into central London everyday can be a drag

2).  Is often very busy

3).  No designated lab technician

Barclays Eagle Labs

Barclays Eagle Labs

One drizzly Tuesday morning I randomly went into Barclays Eagle Labs thinking it was still my local Barclays branch. The new Barclays Eagle Labs provide access to resources including mentoring, 3D printers, laser cutters and an events space, giving the UK’s start-up community a boost. Their maker spaces include access to 3D printers and laser cutters. This means businesses have access to the tools they need to rapidly produce and test prototypes without having to import from overseas, and can significantly reduce the time and cost taken from concept to market.


Whilst this is great in theory and the labs are a non-for-profit the price of renting equipment is still very high and there is a heavy focus on tech start-ups who do not need to make large prototypes making this space not right for me as I need to prototype hard!


1).  Convenient location (I can cycle there in 15 minutes)

2).  Small enough community that you have access to all the equipment (plus free access to equipment on Friday afternoons)

3).  Designated technical support from 9:00 to 5:00pm on weekdays


1).   Very diverse members mean they don’t catering for design community

2).   Very expensive to rent the equipment

3).   No pattern cutting or assembly tables available

Fab Lab London


Fab Lab London is the City of London’s first purpose built digital fabrication and rapid prototyping workspace. With space in Bank they are a 4000 sq.ft. creative space that provides open and membership based access to digital fabrication tools, an electronics lab, education workshops, making events and a vibrant community.

They have a range of fabrication platforms and tools on site including laser cutters, 3D printers, milling machines, sewing machines, 3D scanners, traditional hand tools (saws, drills, hammers, chisels etc) and CNC machines.


1).  Unlimited use of equipment (3D printers, laser cutters and sewing machines)

2).  Provide open and membership based access

3).  A host of events to inspire and educate tech newbies like me


1).  Is located in the financial center which does not feel very creative

2).  Is often very busy

3).  Feels slightly impersonal


Somerset House

Overall I decided on working at Makerversity as they have the best customer care (their team in Amsterdam in particular Lucas has been incredibly supportive and connected me with events and training), they have a designated fashion studio in Somerset House and the members are always on hand to support a tech newbie like me.

If you would like any further info or tips don’t hesitate to drop me an email!

Fashionivity: Design for Impact

Francis Bitonti 3D Printed Dress

Francis Bitoni’s three- dimensionally printed dress for Dita Von Teese has been one of Fashionivitys inspirational points.

Since graduating from Goldsmiths College in 2007 I spent 3 years developing work around hand and digital textile production processes before launching this website. Prior to launching my brand I collaborated with artists and designers in both the UK and Iran. My first collaborative body of work ‘Impossibility of the Mundane’ questioned reality by placing what seemed absurd into genuine landscapes or settings. I created illusions; mixing the believable and the unbelievable using a visual language that combined elements of pop art, kitsch and the obscure with existing locations.

Impossibility of the Mundane 1

A still from the ‘Impossibility of the Mundane’ (2007)

The work I developed was exhibited in Asia House (Solo Exhibition, 2008), Shirin Gallery (Solo Exhibition, 2008) and among other notable galleries. In 2009 I was commission by the Bucharest Arts Council to produce site-specific work for the third Urban Art Festival. From 2010 I shifted to designing prints for fashion under my brand Mia Jafari London, which were featured in Grazia, Nylon, Harpers Bazaar, Hello, Guardian among other publications and were sold in S*uce, Dubai and Debut, New York as well as online.

Fashionivity In a Nutshell:

After a few years away from designing I have decided to come back to fashion but look at the use of emerging technology and traditional craft techniques to create new pieces hence the launch of this project. Inspired by ‘Jupiter and Lo’ by Correggio (I’ll delve into this inspiration in my next post) and supported by the Arts Council of England, Fashionivity will examine the use of solid and transient imagery, amorphous mass juxtaposed with distinct lines within the painting to recreate these polarities through both hand and machine production methods. My aim is to create wearable art pieces that utilize the latest technologies e.g. 3D printing, laser cutting, smart textiles, combined with hand embroidery and fabric distressing to reconstruct these polarities.

As this is a new process for me I will collaborate with designers, artists and sculptors who can bring new approaches, skills and mind-sets to the pieces.

To get started, I attending a workshop in Amsterdam with Francis Bitonti to explore how he generated the gold-plated 3D printed shoes for United Nude and the world’s first 3D printed dress  for Dita Von Teese.

Francis Bitonti United Nude 3D Printed Shoe

Francis Bitoni teamed up with United Nude to create these 3D printed  gold plated shoes.

The New York based designer teamed up with United Nude and 3D systems for the release of the ‘Mutatio’ collection, a wearable project that considers the future of customization. Each shoe in the edition is completely unique, generated by an algorithm developed by the designer.  Furthermore I explored through conversations and workshops with Francis the world’s first three- dimensionally printed dress he designed for Dita Von Teese. The mesh number consists of thousands of individual nylon components, dyed black, lacquered, and embellished with more than 13,000 Swarovski crystals to achieve its drastically beautiful appearance.

This was my launch point to further create my own fabric prototypes using 3D printing but found them too rigid so now working using filaments that are softer and have the potential to bend like fabrics. I am also looking at using recycling filaments.

My Key Takeaways:

1).   I need to think of 3D printing as designing a textiles but just using a 3D printer.

2).   I need to find a softer filament that can be easily molded and has more of the qualities of a textiles, such as ninjaflex.

3).    3D printing is a disruptive technology, hence I need to learn how to implement it into my process.

As I transition into the design phase of Fashionivity, I realise that technology cannot replace the legacy of traditional know-how; I have to find a way to mix it into my practise!

My ‘Dubai Edition’ Scarves worn in Dubai

Young, bold, and ambitious with a traditional and spiritual edge, my ‘Dubai Edition’ scarves are inspired by my trip to Dubai earlier in the year. Each print its inspired by a unique part of the Dubai’s ever-changing milieu; from the sun-kissed scorching heat of the dessert, to the lights and energy of it’s night life to it’s iconic skyscrapers under a azure skyline and whilst in Dubai promoting the scarves I felt it was only fitting to wear the scarves out to the locations that inspired them.

First up is ‘Royal Place’. This retro-futurist scarf marks the architecture for a utopian Dubai. Predominantly I conjured up a more exotic image of what lay inside the toppling skyscrapers by fusing influences from Indian architecture and interiors with Islamic motives to create this lavish yet playful kaleidoscopic print.

Royal Palace Scarf

Inspired by my own ambitions for the architecture that surrounds the marina, make the  ‘Royal Palace’  a perfect accessory for dinner at Toro Toro at Grovsners House.

Next up is my Mixologist’s Delight scarf worn at the Marriott Hotel (again in the Marina). This near-neon lit scarf is filled with the noise, lights and energy of Dubai’s night life.  When I was designing this print I kept thinking back to happy hour at the Observatory, on the top floor of the Mariott Hotel, Dubai Marina. Whilst enjoying mt happy hout cocktail I was blown away with the panoramic views across the city from the Observatory so I got my sketchbook out and started sketching a scraf worthy of the delicious cocktails and breathtaking views across the Palms.

Mixologist’s Delight Scarf

The soft, lightweight Mixologist’s Delight features designer cocktails, Islamic motifs and Dubai skyscrapers blended and served like a cocktail at the Mariott.




Timeless Italian Glamour at La Parisienne

On a recent trip to the island of Capri in Italy I came across the beautiful boutique La Parissienne . Opened 1906  and best known for introducing Capri pants in the 1960s, famously worn by Audrey Hepburn (who bought them from here), La Parissienne can run you up a made-to-measure pair within a day. They also sell off-the-hook Capri pants (from €200).

I love their use of bright vibrant prints and light summer digitally printed kaftans and inspired by the feel of my next look book (Capri pants won with bright silk georgette scarves with Aubdrey Hepburn inspired make up anyone?).

The website itself is worth a visit for its nostalgic feel of old Italian glamour.