The growth of Yorkshire’s booming modern textile industry has the potential to lead worldwide, industry leaders say, held back only by the search for new career entrants.
The creative industry has seen huge global growth, the region’s manufacturers have told The Yorkshire Post, developing a reputation for quality while leading advances in technology.
Ahead of a festival across Kirklees to showcase opportunities, they warn that the only aspect hampering global recognition is a persistent image of Yorkshire’s ageing textile past.
“Bringing in the best in technology can set us apart as world leaders for the next generation,” said Bill Macbeth, OBE, managing director of the Textile Centre for Excellence (TCoE), which represents over 100 businesses in the region including Burberry. “We are not a museum piece industry. We are looking to the future.”
Kirklees’ textile industry dates back to the 1400s, with many of Yorkshire’s mill towns built on this heritage. It is as booming today as it ever was, argues Mr Macbeth, with the region now taking great strides in capitalising on huge advances in technology.
“A lot of people think the textile sector has gone,” said Mr Macbeth. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. It is massive – the value of ‘made in England’, of ‘made in Huddersfield’, has never been more hopeful. We’ve seen real growth in the sector.”
The production value of textile manufacturing in the UK was GBP 9.1bn in 2016, with the industry employing 90000 people including 8100 in West Yorkshire alone.
Economic modelling suggests the industry has added a further 10000 new jobs, and contributed GBP 500 million more to the UK’s economy each year since that time.
“Companies are very busy – the fabrics that we market here go to the best markets in the world. And it’s still growing,” said Mr Macbeth. “The advancement of technology is a fabulous opportunity for us. The number one issue is making sure we have the young people, in our creative industry, to make it happen.”
Kirklees Woven Festival, celebrating the area’s industrial heritage as it looks to its future, launches over eight days from Saturday June 8.
There will be 70 events, including mill tours, markets and a textile trail, organised by Kirklees Council and festival curators Hatch.
An event from the TCoE on June 14 will focus on how science and creative innovation has created the textile industry that exists today as well as opportunities.
The festival will also include work from young people at 15 schools across Kirklees, with a catwalk show to be held at the University of Huddersfield featuring their designs on future fashions.
This feature first appeared in the Yorkshire Post.