Yesterday I attended a conference, with the ASBCI, to discuss whether British Manufacturing of Textiles is a sustainable option going forward. As with all of these types of conferences the presentations varied in their quality and the relevance to the conference topic. While there was a desire for UK textile manufacture and there is a continued interest in how to develop this it seems obvious that the main barrier to the re-development of the UK Textile industry, is that it is not an industry that young people want to be involved in.
Often it was said that for the manual jobs, that some prestige brands were looking to recruit, school leavers etc were not interested in this type of work. The job not being interesting or “sexy” enough, jobs in IT are better paid and quite frankly rank higher on the coolness scale. So with an aging workforce, one luxury brand said that their average age on the shop floor was 50, and no one coming into the industry the answer to the question – is UK Textile Manufacturing – Sustainable? is a resounding NO.
Well it will be if we do nothing, the industry has a chance to be more appealing to the next generation of workers. It will do this by investing in new technology, 3D printing, digital printing, whole garment manufacture are being widely looked at in the textile industry and are a lot more interesting to the next generation. Embracing of technology is something the industry has always done, Textiles have always innovated and now we have areas like Smart Textiles that are endlessly fascinating, what school leaver with an interest in chemicals or physics would not want to be involved in the Smart Textile sector. I suspect that the future of UK Textile manufacturing, is not in the mass produced low value products, we cannot compete with the imports here.
Perhaps though there is a a bright future with the luxury brands that are sought around the world and the innovative textiles that are now being produced.
UK textiles has been leading the way for over a century and with the right investments in technology and an increase in Cool Britannia – there is a chance for it to do so well into the next century.