In the heart of London, a Hong Kong sustainable innovation lab has established a European beachhead as it expands its focus from TechStyle to AgTech.
The Mills Fabrica is a venture created by the Nan Fung Group, a textile company that has converted a former fabric-manufacturing facility in Hong Kong into a retail and innovation space hosting startups, fostering innovation in sustainable fashion initiatives, and creating a destination for people interested in fashion, art, technology and lifestyle.
The project was the brainchild of Vanessa Cheung, group MD of Nan Fung Development, named one of Hong Kong’s Top 50 Most Innovative Retailers in 2019.
The aim of The Mills is to provide visitors with a hands-on learning and experiential retail experience, promoting the maker culture and exploring the relationship between inspiration, innovation, fabrication and production. Now it has opened its doors in London’s King’s Cross, using the facility to foster sustainable innovation and creativity to “redefine the realms of how people grow, make, transport and discard what we wear and what we eat,” according to the company.
“We’re confident that having a hub in London’s King’s Cross can only catalyze our mission to drive a resilient and positive future with an ecosystem of innovators, collaborators and passionate souls,” said Cheung of the new London facility.
The base is housed inside a three-storey Victorian warehouse designed by architects Barr Gazetas. It encompasses Fabrica X, an experiential concept store and innovation gallery for sustainable brands, a cafe by Mouse Tail Coffee, membership-led workspaces, a tech lab for prototyping, a start-up incubation program and curated events dedicated to nurturing a community of sustainable innovators.
Christian Layolle, head of UK for The Mills Fabrica, said the London base is set to become the destination for driving change and minimising negative social and environmental impact.
“Through our concept store, Fabrica X, that is filled with pioneers of sustainable fashion, our co-working spaces down to the menu in our cafe, The Mills Fabrica will offer an ecosystem of sustainable circularity here in London.”
To date, The Mills Fabrica says it has invested in more than 25 startups collectively valued at over US$1 billion, tackling systemic issues at the material level, within the supply chain and all the way down to the business models in need of driving better environmental, societal and governance outputs.
Among the startups it has backed: Nasdaq-listed garment fibre recycling pioneer Renewcell, Geltor a biodesign company developing collagen-based vegan ingredients for the beauty industry, and social-media platform for conscious consumers Abillion.
Among the features of The Mills Fabrica’s London facility is an immersive installation inviting visitors to experience the UK’s first 3D body-scanning technology to create custom-fit denim jeans, created by Hong Kong startup Unspun.
Upcycled trainers by Italian-based Womsh, brought to life from apple skin, organic cotton and water bottles collected from Northern Italy; and Waes, the world’s first plastic-free footwear brand also have spaces there.
Vertical farming units growing fresh herbs and fruit will be harvested and used in the kitchen of the ground-floor cafe, Mouse Tail.
The upper floors will house membership-only flexible office spaces, from floating and fixed desks to permanent office residences uniting thinkers, creators and entrepreneurs focused on pursuing a sustainable future.
The Mills Fabrica will expand its incubator program into London, collaborating with entrepreneurs and emerging start-ups revolutionising food and fashion tech, such as Colorifix – the first company to use a biological process to produce and deposit pigments onto textiles – along with an advanced plant-based sugar alternative Supplant, luxury second-hand marketplace Reflaunt, and Provenance, a software solution for sustainably transparent communications enabling brands to communicate social and environmental impact with shoppers online and instore.
Fabrica X and Mouse Tail at The Mills Fabrica will open to the public throughout the week, but not at weekends. Memberships to the co-working space and Fabrica Lab start from £349.
The Mills Fabrica London is located at Cottam House, 36-40 York Way, King’s Cross, N1 9AB, London
Images credit: Mariell Lind Hansen.