Industry insight at GCU London graduate ceremonies

Two inspirational figures from the fashion industry will deliver keynote addresses at GCU London’s graduate ceremonies this week (Friday, May 13).

Maggie Smart and Hannah Coffin will attend a special ceremony for graduates who missed out on their big day in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A GCU alumna, entrepreneur Maggie Smart has founded a series of businesses weaving together fashion, music and sport.

With more than 20 years’ experience in creating fashion businesses encompassing wholesale, distribution, retail and e-commerce, Maggie is co-founder of Folk Clothing, Macandi Showrooms, and Sounder, and Commercial Director of Magic Castles.

Established in 1999, Macandi grew into a revered fashion distribution agency launching brands into the UK and Asian markets, including its own men’s and women’s label, Folk. Folk now operates three stores in Central London and an online store.

The newest ventures are Sounder, a lifestyle golf brand, which has opened its first stand-alone store this year in Seoul, and Magic Castles, which collaborates with artists and musicians to create its collections.

In 2015 Maggie helped GCU London’s British School of Fashion design its unique Masters in Fashion Business Creation. She continues to share her expertise with students at GCU, helping to shape the University’s future fashion entrepreneurs.

Maggie is a passionate advocate of children with special educational needs and is a governor of London South East Academy Trust Schools, a group of schools providing specialist provision for children with additional educational needs.

Award-winning businesswoman, respected designer and female entrepreneur, Hannah Coffin, is the founder of luxury fashion brand Needle & Thread, which boasts a dedicated client base including the British Royal Family and Hollywood’s elite.

The highly profitable global business was championed early on by luxury retailers including Harrods and Selfridges, and is now stocked in over 50 retailers worldwide.

The seeds of the brand were sown in Hannah’s childhood, when she was taught how to knit, sew and embroider by her grandmother. By her early teens, she was making garments for friends and family. A fashion and textiles degree at London’s Ravensbourne University followed.

Hannah then spent over a decade in the fashion industry honing her craft creatively and commercially, making her career debut at Karen Millen, before taking on the role of Design Director at All Saints. She was then ready to follow her childhood dream and launch her own brand.

In 2020, Needle & Thread was awarded the coveted Butterfly Mark by Positive Luxury, in acknowledgement of its shift towards responsible sourcing and a more sustainable future. Hannah is committed to ensuring that by 2024 up to 90% of the entire collection will be made from recycled materials. The brand has also won a place on the renowned Sunday Times Fast Track 100 list.

Hannah is also personally involved with a number of philanthropic enterprises involving The Prince’s Trust, Save The Children, Women for Women International and Smart Works.


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