Expert opinion: Why forecasted boost to textiles is welcome news for Nottingham

Dr Amanda Briggs-Goode, head of Fashion, Textiles and Knitwear at Nottingham Trent University's School of Art & Design, welcomes news that the textiles industry is set to grow.

Increasing evidence shows that the UK textiles industry is growing. After many decades of decline, there is a predicted increase of 20,000 jobs by 2020.

In the weeks and months before a general election, discussions about manufacturing industry resurgences and thousands of jobs being created should generally be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt. But these statistics are exactly what the The Alliance Project report, published last month, claims.

Cynics amongst us might be surprised to hear the research was funded by Baron Alliance, a Lib Dem (who, with our University supporter Harry Djanogly, formed Coates Viyella) and the director for the project was Lorna Fitzsimmons, a former Labour MP.

The claims made in the report, the biggest study of textiles in UK manufacturing in 20 years, is that there is an increased demand for the repatriation of textile manufacturing in the UK, after decades of decline and a retailer focus on 'offshoring'.

The rationale for this shift, it is argued, is that the sourcing from low-cost countries has weakened due to increasing costs from competing countries; the demand for 'fast fashion', where shorter lead times create a faster turn over of new products in store and an increase in the consumption of homeware products.

To give some context, Britain is the 15th largest textile manufacturer in the world and has a total manufacturing value of £9 million, employing around 90,000 people, while the global context in 2014 sees a market of around £520 billion, mainly situated around the Asia-Pacific region.

The 'resurgence' within this industry could be a social and economic boost in areas of high unemployment in the UK, where there still remains significant expertise in this field. These skills are situated amongst traditional textile homelands: Lancashire, Yorkshire, Scotland and, of course, the East Midlands.

In particular, the traditional sectors such as yarn-spinning, knitting and weaving, and 'making up' alongside a growth in technical textiles, materials and composites, are areas where growth is noted. While there is still expertise available in these areas, there are also skills shortages and investment in training is part of the vision for building sustainable growth.

Along with this capability in manufacturing, there is also strength in quality control and experience in 'design-led' textile manufacturing, a model which was common in the UK, through companies such as Coates Viyella, or Courtaulds Textiles, where I worked when I graduated. These manufacturing plants had design teams who could adapt and develop new designs on site, responding to retailer requests quickly. It's argued that high-end and mid-market fashion and interior products are the markets where added value in print, embroidery and digital processing support repatriation most strongly.

Alliance makes six recommendations for the UK government to implement to support this growth:

  • Help industry map the supply chain nationally and develop a sourcing asset register. This database is intended to support domestic and international buyers in sourcing from the UK.
  • Support national and international trade fairs. This will enable the buyers to meet the manufacturers, particularly those micro-businesses which find resourcing such external events challenging.
  • Address immediate skill shortages alongside image and branding of the sector. While there is still expertise in make-up / cut and sew in particular, there are shortages and this requires addressing, as does the image problem that the 'rag trade' has had in the UK.
  • Investment in the micro-size UK supply chain. Investment is required to support small entrepreneurs into SMEs, the encouragement of collaboration and consortia and support the circular economy (reuse and recycling).
  • Support for product and process innovation. The encouragement of stronger relationships between industry and universities to promote and develop innovation.
  • Address the issues of payment terms. It would support industry if good practice was rewarded and promoted to enable micro companies and SMEs in particular to be able to function.

For Nottingham, with its huge decline of the textiles industry (lace once accounted for 25,000 jobs alone) this forecasted growth would have a tremendous impact upon the city and county.

Dr Amanda Briggs-Goode
Head of Department Fashion, Textiles, Knitwear
School of Art & Design

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Expert opinion: Why forecasted boost to textiles is welcome news for Nottingham

Published on 25 March 2015
  • Category: Research; School of Art & Design

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