Hong Kong Innovation Hub The Mills Fabrica Set To Launch A London Location

By Lee Williamson

The Mills Fabrica, a platform and incubator for early-stage startups in fashion and food focused on sustainability, will launch in London's Kings Cross this summer

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Cover  A rendering of The Mills Fabrica's London location. (Photo: handout)

The Mills Fabrica is launching a UK outpost this June, in a move the organisation describes as "the next step in building a global community of innovators and entrepreneurs who are taking action to drive a more sustainable future".

Launched in 2018 as an innovation arm of The Mills, a property revitalisation project by the Nan Fung Group to transform its old Hong Kong textile factories into a heritage and innovation centre, The Mills Fabrica identifies and supports sustainability-focused startups in both fashion and foodtech. 

The Mills Fabrica's founder, Gen.T honouree Vanessa Cheung, is also managing director of Nan Fung Group and granddaughter of the Hong Kong property giant's founder. 

The UK outpost will launch in early June 2021. Located in a three-storey Victorian warehouse in London's Kings Cross district, itself the subject of a revitalisation drive over the last decade, the London base will feature a startup incubator, investment platform, laboratories and a co-working space. The Mills will also host cultural and industry events, and house an experiential retail space and cafe open to the public.  

The London location will be overseen by the organisation's new head of UK, Christian Layolle, formerly the global head of business development at online fashion platform The Business of Fashion.

The goal of The Mills Fabrica is to bring stakeholders together to catalyse companies using technology to develop the circular economy; the London location will share the same mission, with a focus on bringing together players in both fashion and food innovation from around the world. "We like to describe ourselves as ‘ecosystem builders’," says Layolle. "As a platform, we’re able to connect the dots between various stakeholders, from the startups innovating, to the corporates implementing at scale, to the NGOs and governments regulating, all the way to inspiring and helping students."

In Hong Kong, The Mills Fabrica's portfolio includes a number of startups founded by Cheung's fellow Gen.T honourees, including fashion discovery platform Goxip, co-founded by Juliette Gimenez; wearable tech startup Origami Labs, co-founded by Kevin Johan Wong; and Walden Lam's sustainable fashion label Unspun.

With London's Central Saint Martins College of Art one of The Mills Fabrica's key industry parters, London seems an obvious fit for the organisation's second location. "We are excited to be opening our doors in the UK," says Cheung. "Over the past year it has been a pleasure to work with our various international partners in this region, be it universities, retailers or other incubators and investors. With this new expansion, we look forward to working with new and current partners in building out an international community of innovators and to continue to support these innovators to take their ideas to market.” 

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Above  Gen.T honouree Vanessa Cheung. (Photo: Moses Ng)

Its programme for partner startups in fashion includes supporting with identifying sustainable supply chains, processes and materials, as well as developing more sustainable business models. Its foodtech incubation programme will focus on "future foods" with lower carbon impact, animal health and precision agriculture as well as circular solutions to food waste. 

Vanessa Cheung was awarded on the Gen.T List 2018. See her fellow honourees from Hong Kong or see the full 2018 list

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