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Making it in Textiles 2015

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We had the pleasure of joining 130 final year textile students in Bradford for a series of inspiring talks from industry insiders at this year’s Making it in Textiles Conference. In its second year, the two day conference is organised and funded by the Clothworkers’ Company, the Worshipful Company of Weavers and The Campaign for Wool.

The UK textiles industry is currently experiencing a resurgence in demand and popularity, creating increased opportunities for graduates. Organiser James Sugden of The Weaver’s Company commented “There is a vibrant industry out there, with 100,000 people working in the textiles in the UK.” However, there are only a finite number of pure design roles available. Textile companies need young people with a range of skills who are interested in building on their design expertise to work in areas such as logistics, manufacturing and quality control.

The conference opened with lively and frank talks by experienced members of the fashion and textiles industries who discussed their own career paths; tips for getting started; and advice on employers’ expectations. On the second day, students gained first-hand experience of modern textile production methods through tours of five local textile manufacturers – all of which are world-leaders in their fields. The participating companies were felted wool specialist AW Hainsworth & Sons, woollen weaver Abraham Moon & Sons, interiors and transport fabric specialist Camira, Pennine Weavers and worsted weaver Stanley Mills.

We caught up with Kirsty McDougall of Dashing Tweeds who spoke on day one of the conference and gave us her first hand experience of setting up a business in the textiles industry. Kirsty is the co-founder of menswear textile brand Dashing Tweeds, which won the Scottish Fashion Award for Textiles in 2012. She reflected on her journey of establishing the company, from a small studio in Dalston to its recently opened WC1 shop just around the corner from Savile Row. She is Senior Tutor in Weave at the Royal College of Art (RCA) and she is also director of Kirsty McDougall Woven Textile Design.

What is it like to work in the modern textiles industry?

I love working in the textile industry as you are continually learning – it never stops. I work with a diverse range of people from fashion designers, yarn merchants, mills and finishers, museums, tailors and students. It’s a fast pace and you have to learn to deal with things going wrong, supply chains not always operating smoothly etc. as well as achieving things you never thought you would. It’s a diverse industry in my experience – with various new channels and systems opening up. In my role as a designer, I enjoy continually having to solve problems in concept, weight, function, aesthetic and structure. Due to events like Making it in Textiles, greater connections are being made between design, industry and education which is essential for the future.

The UK industry is experiencing a resurgence, and this is creating jobs. However, there are only a finite number of pure design roles available. How can new graduates stand out from the crowd?

I think students should be closely researching current industry and not just designing fabric but ‘designing’ how they want to work in the future – looking at new ways of working, particularly with a view towards sustainable manufacture. In many ways I think it is enough to be a fantastic designer of cloths in terms of aesthetic and handle (many parts of industry still require this) but if a student can augment this with innovative techniques, an exploration of new materials, an idea of new applications and in collaboration with other disciplines, they will stand out. Not much to ask!

Download the event press release for more information

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