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Industry Talk

Making It in Textiles 2016 connects textile undergraduates with industry

The conference encouraged 120 design and technology students from 23 universities to consider the wide range of roles open to them in the UK.

26th October 2016

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Bradford

Clothing/​Footwear, Industrial, Sports/​Outdoor, Transport/​Aerospace, Interiors

The Campaign for Wool, The Clothworkers’ Company, The Drapers’ Company and The Weavers’ Company collaborated for a third year to provide a free conference for final-year textile degree students, GGHQ Fashion Intelligence reports.

Making It in Textiles careers conference reveals the opportunities open to new graduates in the UK’s diverse and creative manufacturing industry through interactive talks and West Yorkshire mill visits.

Bradford hosted the third annual conference this month, which encouraged the participating 120 design and technology students from 23 universities to consider the wide range of roles open to them in the UK’s “diverse, creative and fascinating industry” over two days of interactive talks and visits to world-leading textile mills in West Yorkshire.


Held at the Midland Hotel, the conference brought together industry professionals, educators and undergraduates for a packed programme, which this year included personal and professional journey narratives by both new and experienced members of the industry, as well as explanations of the supply chain, textile manufacturing methods in the UK and potential roles open to textile design and technology graduates at every stage of production.

The event also featured a first opportunity for most of the students to tour one of six world-leading mills in the West Yorkshire area – AW Hainsworth & Sons, Abraham Moon & Son, Camira, Pennine Weavers, Stanley Mills, Luxury Fabrics and W.T. Johnson & Sons – and see textile production on an industrial scale.

Inspiring new generation

One of the most inspiring stories of the conference was delivered by Richard Humphries, who established a silk mill in Sudbury, Suffolk after facing redundancy in his twenties, organisers report. The eponymous company produces luxurious jacquard silks for interiors and gowns. The mill’s work can be found in stately homes including Chatsworth House and Buckingham Palace.

Students were able to see textile production on an industrial scale. © Gill Gledhill (GGHQ)

On the importance of the conference he said: “We need to inspire the next generation and show them that there is a future in British textiles. But also make them aware that you can’t just be a designer but you need to have business skills as well.”

Diverse and creative industry

“It is programmes like Making It in Textiles that remind me what a diverse, creative and fascinating industry we belong to,” said Paul Johnson, managing director of fabric finisher W.T. Johnson & Sons, during his presentation. The Huddersfield-based company is developing finishing methods using plasma and lasers to make fabrics last longer and be more sustainable.

“We as manufacturers have to be driven by innovation, we have to be better every day,” he noted. He offered a word of advice to the new designers watching his talk: Differentiate yourself and be passionate.

Career stories

During a group discussion, five textile designers shared their career stories and advice with the audience. Two of the panellists, Andrew Stephenson, woven and printed fabric designer at Paul Smith, and Cherica Haye, colour and material designer at Rolls-Royce, are both Texprint alumni.

The aim, as with the previous conferences, is to forge stronger links between educational institutions and the UK textile manufacturing industry and in particular to provide support to final year textile students. © Gill Gledhill (GGHQ)

Two others on the panel discussed how being in the workplace had changed their views their career directions. Towera Ridley is working as a sales coordinator at Batley, West Yorkshire-based cashmere weaver Joshua Ellis. Her salary is part-funded by The Weavers’ Company. She explained: “I didn’t aim to be in sales, but I was open to do something different. I am not a designer in my current position but I am using my knowledge when liaising with production. There are other routes just as exciting as design that utilise your creative and textile knowledge.”

Seizing opportunity

Julia Skliarova, senior textiles editor at WGSN, wrapped up the conference by sharing the story of her dynamic career path during which time she has worked in the US, won prestigious awards, trained at two of the UK’s leading art schools and has worked in the design department of a major UK retailer before joining the fashion news and trends website.

She advised the students to “seize any opportunity to learn about the commercial market that will give you industry skills which are useful and transferrable, and will enable you to move with the times and adapt to the ever changing industry. Challenge yourself and your tutor.”

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