Evolution and Design Leicester

By Pam Morris, Honorary Secretary of the SDC Midlands region

This half day seminar was presented by SDC’s Midlands region and took place at De Montfort University. It began with an Opening Address by Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor of Leicester.

Sir Peter has been Mayor of Leicester for six years and feels very much a part of the city as he was once a student here at a college which has now become part of De Montfort University.

Leicester has a 2000 year history, pre-Roman. Quite recently there were further discoveries of Roman mosaics. Leicester was a military centre in Roman times.

In the 16th and 17th centuries the city prospered as a centre for the wool trade. William Wyggeston a former city mayor was a wool merchant, and very wealthy. He is one figure on the statue of the clock tower. In the late 18th century the wool trade transformed into the knitting industry in the city, initially in peoples’ homes but then it became more industrialised, and the city became known as the stocking hub.

Leicester was a prosperous city, New Walk a very wealthy area, and a tree lined walk from Victoria Park to the Assembly Rooms, (now the City Rooms) on Hotel Street.

The knitting industry escalated and Corah’s, the largest knitwear producer in Europe, was knitting on a massive scale. Other manufacturers also set up in Leicester, for example Wolsey, a supplier of wool underwear to the forces and Captain Scott who took the Wolsey name to the Antarctic. Leicester soon became one of Europe’s top producers of knitting machinery, Stibbe being one of the first companies.

Leicester not only became famous and prosperous through knitting but had a large and healthy boot and shoe industry.

In 1938 and again in 1965 Leicester boasted a slogan ‘Leicester Clothes the World’.

In the late 50s and early 60s Britain was changing with immigration and Leicester was one of the cities to be affected by this change. Many of these immigrant people had entrepreneurial skills but Leicester was slow to realise this. Over a period of three decades there was a decline in the major manufacturing industries, and today very few of the big names still exist.

The new families that settled have transformed the life of the city and especially the manufacturing industry.

More recently the discovery and reburial of Richard III and the success of Leicester City football team have highlighted once again to the world our presence, but what of now? Old factories have been saved and renovated and put to good use – Makers Yard now houses the oldest hosiery factory in Leicester offering workspace for creative entrepreneurs. Friars Mill, Donisthorpe, was derelict for 10 years and has been redeveloped by the Chamber of Commerce, Leicester and the European Development Fund.

Leicester City Council have ongoing talks with companies such as Next and ASOS, regarding manufacturing in Leicester. Jack Masters currently manufactures knitwear at its Grace Road unit. In the past 78,000 people were employed by the manufacturing industries in Leicester but it is unlikely that we will reach those figures again although there is an emergence of individuals showing creativity and design. De Montfort University has played an important role in the education of the people in the industries of the past and continues to train our future people. There is a £3 million support fund available to develop the supply chain and educate the future workers.

Sophie Kinns, Print Designer for children’s wear at Joules, spoke about ‘Design within Retail.’ Sophie trained in Freelance Illustration at Falmouth University College. On graduating she contacted Joules as she was eager to get some unpaid work experience, she was given one months’ work experience and took an unusual trail to what is her career now. After two years as a junior graphic designer Sophie was made responsible for all design and artwork of printed motifs.

Joules, once a small company, became enormous in seven years. Tom Joules transformed his dad’s company that sold ‘country style clothing’ at country fairs in fairly dull, drab colours. First he introduced yellow bags for the items, then 100 pink wellies which sold out in two hours, and from this grew the multichannel lifestyle brands, Colourful Country Clothing and 25 years on Joules has 100 UK stores and UK and German specific websites. Joules was floated on the stock market in 2016.

Joules always keep their customer in mind when setting their trends, they have a focus on countryside, coastal and family leisure. Print and colour is key to Joules’ identity and what sets them apart from other brands, they often recolour traditional vintage print designs.  From the technical perspective Joules manage their colour using Pantone, colour lab dips, and colour matching under specified conditions to produce wearable tones. The mood boards developed at Joules for their seasons’ brands always include their core identities – colourful, British humour and British heritage.

Gillian Proctor – Principle lecturer and Subject Leader of Contour Fashion at De Montfort University. The Contour Fashion course is now in its 70th year at De Montfort University. Gillian explained the purpose of the course and some of the history behind it and its many successes. Contour is the mapping of the body. The students learn to become architects of fashion for the body. The course was first established in 1947 by Fred Burley who had the successful brand Berlei, at the then Leicester College of Art. The course also developed a marriage between education and industry. In 1960 the course was awarded BA Honours status and produced many famous names such as Janet Reger. The course work in conjunction with famous companies and brands – DuPont, Sillouette, Symingtons, Dentex, Warners, Heathcote and Gossard to name a few.

Compared to the past the students attending the course today have a wealth of technology at their fingertips but still need and use hands-on techniques. These students have a passion for intimate apparel. One main stipulation of successfully gaining a place on this course is that students MUST be able to draw. Students are pushed to work with and experiment with different materials, plastics, vinyl and other non-conventional types.

The students’ work is exhibited worldwide and many students have achieved senior positions in famous intimate apparel brands, often being offered several positions after exhibiting their work. De Montfort University is establishing a new course – BA Contour Fashion Communication Course.

Jessica Prebble is a graduate of the Contour Fashion course. Jessica is now a successful business woman with three companies making lingerie for niche markets, offering correctly fitting bras for the larger woman in appealing colours and designs. ‘Starkers’ a private label business, ‘Tutti Rouge’ launched in 2013 is sassy lingerie for the fuller figure. The newest company ‘Rougette’ will be launched in August 2017 and will offer on trend products to people with limited disposable income.

During her presentation Jessica emanated great passion and enthusiasm, she expressed that if you want to be successful you need passion and a fire in the belly. She focused on her work and undertook two summers unpaid work experience at Corah’s to learn the industry. ‘You have to make it happen’ is her advice, you should not expect a job, you have to earn it.

Jessica went on to do a Masters degree and had a work placement in embroidery. This was very hands on and Jessica felt she could produce these hand embroideries but when showing samples to London clients she was told that in reality they needed larger pieces and that is when she realised the necessity to go to India. This experience made Jessica realise you cannot ‘Fear Failure’ you must use it as experience and it is this experience and pushing the boundaries that has made Jessica successful.

Graham Clayton CEO of the SDC – ‘Lifelong Learning Colour Education’. Graham’s message was channelled towards the students in the audience and he explained about the SDC’s Royal Charter, and what the SDC does. He highlighted that this year SDC has 16 members who have attained their 50 year membership anniversary and that equates to 800 years of colour experience. Graham stressed that the SDC is not about textiles but the education and communication of COLOUR. Textiles is a major sector which links into the SDC’s education programme.

Learning is not only for students but for older members and children from the age of five. The SDC engages with schools, universities and industry providing courses in coloration, colour science and colour management

The final speaker was John Dakin Director of Verivide. During his lecture John used colour matching cabinets with the main light sources and coloured samples to illustrate the importance of light, light source and dye selection and the problems that arise from poor specification and understanding.

John’s message was one of LOVE. He explained how three things were essential for good colour assessment and specification.

L: light, the light source that illuminates the object, so many things can affect the viewed colour, natural daylight, seasons, sunshine, clouds etc. Therefore we have for many years standardised light sources that products are illuminated by – artificial daylight, tungsten filament and fluorescents. John highlighted the issues surrounding the introduction into retail stores of LED lights and demonstrated the effects of the different colour distribution and colour temperature on the coloured objects. Retailers along with Verivide are working hard at trying to establish the most suitable LED source for standardisation.

O: object, it is important to have a decent size of the object, to orientate the sample and control in the same manner, for example orientation, surface direction.

V: viewer, it needs to be established if the viewer has good colour vision and this can be assessed by Ishihara and Munsell tests.

E: emotion, having applied all the points in LOV you need emotion and passion to know you have achieved the desired effect.

SDC regions hold regular events. For further details, take a look at the website.





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Comments (2)

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    Clare Moore


    A great event showcasing SDC College Member De Montfort University and Leicester, featuring speakers with a wealth of knowledge from the world of colour, textiles and design!


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    Pam is to be congratulated on her report


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