Material World: focusing on the textile industry

Material World took place in June 2014 at the Houses of Parliament in London and hosted the UK final of SDC’s International Design Competition. You can read about the design competition finalists and their work here, but in addition, the event (which had been fully booked for several weeks), brought together representatives from the UK textile industry, academia and parliament, to highlight and discuss the challenges and opportunities for the textile industry in the UK.

If you’ve never visited the Houses of Parliament before, the whole experience was incredible, and very exciting for the students (and others!) present. The whole evening had a real buzz, and we’ve had some great feedback.

20140617-DSCF8473Chaired by the renowned industrialist Sir James Hill, it started with a networking drinks reception. We were delighted that 15 MPs and Lords accepted the invitation to attend, and a number of them took a particular interest in seeing the work of the students and meeting with the finalists.

There were three keynote presentations.

Malcolm Campbell (Retail and Textile Co) spoke about the importance and value of Scottish and English textile provenance, heritage, quality and innovation to develop, market and sell British cloths to a global luxury market. He also highlighted the launch of the new Pendle Tweed brand. Malcolm is also the author of SDC’s latest publication, Weaver of a Life in Colour, which is a great introduction to colour for young children and gives an insight into the dyeing and weaving processes. The book is available from SDC’s online shop.20140617-DSCF8415

John Taylor focused on the Livery Companies Apprenticeship Scheme (LCAS). As well as introducing the various Livery Companies, he gave an overview of the Employer Ownership of Skills Pilot Scheme, which has received £1m in funding and £1m of support in kind. This pilot scheme has supported 13 trade-specific frameworks, with 52 apprentices signed up by July 2014. The apprenticeships are mostly three year, with LCAS providing central coordination and monitoring. In addition to outlining some of the challenges the scheme has faced, John also looked at the future opportunities.

20140617-DSCF8650Katy Percival (Head of Design) and Paul Smith (Head of Technical and Sourcing) (photo: left) from Nutmeg talked about the launch of this new children’s wear brand at Wm Morrison Supermarkets. They spoke about why the brand was launched, how it was created from concept to store, and their philosophy of ‘clothing designed for life’. They also looked at some of the ethical questions raised and what had been achieved in a short space of time – Nutmeg launched in 2013 and is on course to be one of the top five performing children’s retailers this year.

All the presentations were informative and provided inspiration for the students present. We’d like to thank the speakers, and also David Ward MP, who sponsored the event.

We’re already looking at options for the 2015 UK final of the design competition. If you have any suggestions for venues, speakers or judges, we’d love to hear from you, please email:  If you have suggestions for future topics, speakers or events for the UK textile industry, then do please get in touch.

A gallery of images from Material World is available on SDC’s website.20140617-DSCF8544

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