There’s much more to Yorkshire’s wool industry than its heritage

Cloth woven in West Yorkshire

Cloth woven in West Yorkshire - Credit: Archant

There’s much more to Yorkshire’s wool industry today than its heritage as designers and fashion houses around the world discover

Leeds College of Art student Jemima Robinson

Leeds College of Art student Jemima Robinson - Credit: Archant

Two centuries of textile tradition have inspired some of the region’s up and coming designers to get behind a new campaign to raise awareness of Yorkshire’s modern wool industry, which is making its mark in catwalk collections around the world.

Wool Yorkshire is launched during Wool Week this month (October 14th-20th) to showcase the fact that - far from being dark and satanic - the mills of 21st century West Yorkshire are dynamic enterprises, buzzing with creativity and turning out premium quality cashmere, wool and luxury cloths for global design and fashion houses.

A group of 25 fashion, millinery, textile and creative students from Leeds College of Art are supporting the initiative to raise the profile of Yorkshire’s role in the world of fashion, style and interiors and promote the region’s expertise, heritage and innovation in wool textiles.

The students are working with the SIL Group of companies which includes Batley-based Joshua Ellis, fine worsted specialists William Halstead, Charles Clayton and John Foster in Bradford, Keighley-based contract furnishings manufacturer Abbotsford and Bradford-based fibre and yarn merchants Seal International and MBA Yarns. Together they have organised a week-long exhibition in the Victoria Quarter, Leeds to showcase Yorkshire’s textile industry – past, present and future.

Joshua Ellis has been weaving cashmere and fine animal fibres into luxury fabrics for nearly 250 years and manufactures coating and jacketing fabrics as well as throws, scarves and stoles under its own name and for leading designer brands.

Kristie Reeves, design and sales director for Joshua Ellis, says the company’s cashmere cloth is frequently spotted on the catwalks of London, Paris, New York and Milan. ‘Our region’s mill towns are at the heart of a global fashion business which demands traditional craftsmanship, quality, expertise and consistency, all things which derive from our textile manufacturing heritage,’ she says.

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‘Yorkshire’s continued success in this fast-moving industry is down to an ability to innovate without losing sight of the traditional elements that have helped secure this premium position in a global market.’

Four years ago SIL Holdings launched an apprenticeship scheme across the group in all aspects of manufacture, design and sales in an effort to encourage more young people into the textile sector.

Jennifer Nickson, SIL’s project co-ordinator for Wool Yorkshire, believes the latest collaboration with art students for the campaign launch is another example of an industry that’s taking its lead from a new generation. ‘Thanks to a passion for engaging young creative talent, Yorkshire’s woollen mills can look forward to a bright future,’ says Jennifer.

The exhibition at Victoria Quarter opens on October 14th and events are planned throughout the week to mark Campaign for Wool’s annual Wool Week and the launch of Wool Yorkshire.

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