1 Fashioning Our Future Education in Fashion and Textiles by slappypappy123


									Fashioning Our Future: Education in Fashion and Textiles in the UK Introduction This paper will consider the current position of textiles education in the UK. It will examine some of the social and economic drivers that caused a decline in textile technology in the curriculum and will consider some of the initiatives that aim to address this problem. This paper will explore the issues that have caused this situation and identify a range of resources and initiatives that can be used to encourage students to engage with textiles. What are the issues? There have been major shifts in the work and lifestyle patterns in the UK that have had a direct impact upon the status of textile related skills in the home. There has been a big reduction in the passing down of traditional skills like knitting and sewing within the family. This is partly due to the movement of more women into the workforce during the 1970s and 1980s “leaving less time to sew and more household money to purchase ready-made items “ (Hill 2001). It can also be attributed to the decline in demand for custom made garments as mass manufactured products became more readily available. The focus of fashion and textiles education began to shift away craft based skills and toward design (Parsons 2000). As the focus of the curriculum in secondary and primary schools has moved toward literacy and numeracy time dedicated to the arts and other creative subjects has decreased (Le Metais 2003)

Textile related subjects have traditionally been regarded as feminine pursuits and therefore have engendered the same level of academic recognition as other “masculine subjects”. Mc Robbie (1998) highlights the problem that fashion has in being taken seriously as an academic subject. This she attributes not only to the feminine nature of the subject area but also to the lack of formal qualifications held by lecturers in the field and its close links with industry. The fashion and clothing industry is still a predominantly female vocation at the manufacturing level (http://www.dti.gov.uk/sectors_clothing.html). The textile and clothing industry also suffers from a lot of misconceptions about the opportunities that it offers. “There is a widely held perception that the textile and clothing industry is in decline, that it is low-tech, that it does not offer good career prospects and that it is poorly paid. As a result of these negative perceptions the industry does not attract the best talent available.” (Dti 2000, p26) Meeting the needs of the industry Students applying for fashion and textile courses are often only aware of the more glamorous design related aspect of the industry and this is reflected in the popularity of design-based courses. Pearson et al (2000) point out that


whilst UK universities turn out 1500 textile graduates each year only 0.8% of employees in the sector in 2000 were designers approximately 1510 in total. They also point to a set of drivers that are changing the roles of those employed in the industry. These drivers include: • Impact of technology • Globalisation • Competition that has led to the outsourcing of production. They identify future employment opportunities for textile designers as: • Fabric sourcing • Fabric merchandising • Product development • Quality control • CAD However whilst the industry is need of these new more technologically based skills the number of textile technology programmes and the number of enrolments onto these courses is in decline. There is an over emphasis in many fashion and textile programmes on design components at the expense of technical expertise. The reasons for the proliferation of design-based courses and the decline of technology courses are a complex mixture of historical, social and economic factors. Mc Robbie identifies that the fashion curriculum that was offered in technical colleges and non-degree awarding art colleges fell victim to the decline of the manufacturing industry in the UK thus leading to the current situation where there is an over abundance of design degree programmes. Roworth (1997) feels that the situation was compounded by the reorganisation of the UK's educational system she argues that when self-funding was introduced it became necessary for institutions to increase their student numbers in order to survive. This in turn led to an increase in degree programmes, which were deemed to be more attractive to students than the more vocationally oriented HND and City and Guilds programmes. Design based courses are easier to market to potential students who see design as the glamorous and desirable area of the industry. They are also cheaper to run. As the DTI (2000) point out training in textile technology is expensive and “ the high costs associated with textile technology training in terms of capital investment and overheads make it an unattractive area for universities and colleges who can earn better returns in other fields”.(p 29) A keyword search on www.educationuk.org (the British Council website that promotes education in the UK) in September 2003 generated the following results for undergraduate courses in the UK.


Keyword Fashion Textiles Textile technology Fashion technology Fashion design Textile design

Number of Courses 724 331 24 (7.25%) 51 (7%) 294 (40.74%) 295 (89%)

Number of Institutions 86 70 5 8 48 34

Table 1 Undergraduate Courses in Fashion and Textiles in the UK, September 2003: source British Council Website

Table one clearly illustrates that there are a far greater number of undergraduate courses in fashion and textile design than there are in technology added to this the Dti (2000) note that the number of enrolments on textile technology courses has fallen. For an industry that is widely considered to be in decline are there too many fashion and textile courses in general? Of course not all of the students on these courses are from, or intending to work in the UK but the majority of them will. The clothing industry is still one of Britain's largest manufacturing sectors, employing approximately 165,000 people (CapitB) however the majority of these are employed in “making up garments using the skills at the heart of the industry - cutting and stitching.” (CapitB). In the textile sector the main growth area is technical textiles that are used in a wide variety of sectors including “performance fabrics and non wovens in a wide variety of sectors including automotive, transportation, construction, healthcare, aerospace, agriculture and IT.” (http://www.dti.gov.uk/sectors_textiles.html) There is still a demand for well-qualified employees in the industry but there is a mismatch between the needs of the sector and the skills of some of our graduates. Design is of course a valuable element of the fashion and textiles industry and the UK is the provider of some of the world’s most creative talents. However, not every graduate is going to be the next Galliano and as educators in fashion and textiles we owe it to our students to ensure that they have the appropriate portfolio of skills including a sound understanding of information technology, textile technology and technical processes. The funding initiatives in higher education are making this increasingly difficult to achieve. The numbers of students in higher education continues to grow but this growth is not being met with the appropriate increase in resources. The impact of this is the creation of larger class sizes a reduction in the number of taught hours and more emphasis in the curriculum on self directed study. In order to undertake self-directed study students require the appropriate information seeking and retrieval skills and the resources to help them develop these areas. The position and amount of textile technology within the HE curriculum has necessarily been affected by these changes and this has had an impact upon graduating students’ knowledge of textiles. This is at a time when an understanding of the technical properties and characteristics of fabrics is an essential tool in the modern designers canon.


The Impact of Technology The Dti (2000) recognise that the emphasis upon and need for IT and computer skills in the fashion and textile industry will increase and in some areas the penetration of IT has been very high e.g. the use of EDI in High Street chains. For fashion and textile designers it is becoming increasingly important to be able to source fabrics and materials and more and more this is being done online. Colussy (2000) identifies the influence of the computer as one of the reasons why the competition in the retail environment has become so fierce. In order to be competitive in this climate it is clear that graduates will need good online sourcing skills. Fabric sourcing can be a difficult task even for the professionals in the fashion industry as Paul Russo of FabricPro.com says “The difficulty of sourcing fabrics has long been underestimated, except by those who actually have done it.” (IFAI 2002). He goes on to explain why the activity is so complex. “Fabric researchers in a fashion business are typically charged with sourcing a variety of specific fabrics in a short period of time. They must deal with the aesthetic demands of designers and customers, cost restrictions, time constraints, shifts in production from one part of the world to another, plus they must keep up with rapidly changing fashion trends and new products.” (IFAI 2002) Yet our design graduates often do not possess the skills or the vocabulary to be able to engage in this important aspect of the industry. As Denza (1996) criticises fashion students’ lack of understanding of fabrics saying that "designers are not understanding fabrics, how fabrics work, what fabrics to use in what design." (p30). Research by Gaimster, (Gaimster 2002) shows that even when students have had an introduction to textile technology they struggle with the domain specific vocabulary and lack the appropriate information seeking skills to be able to find what they require. Even when they did have these skills they were often met with an industry that was hostile to their student status. It is becoming increasingly difficult for students to gain access to industry fairs and to have exposure to the kind of innovative fabrics and materials that are so influential in current fashion. What can be done? It is highly unlikely that in the near future that there will be a flood of applicants for technology based courses or a radical change in government funding policies. Educators need to find innovative ways of engaging students with the technology of textiles. Government, employers and industrial organisations have developed a set of initiatives to try and correct some of the misconceptions about the industry and to make students more aware of the technological aspects of the fashion and textiles industry. The majority of these initiatives have been focussed upon the 11-18 sector where textiles is


now a mandatory part of the National Curriculum as part of Design and Technology. Initiatives in schools Exposure to textiles as a mandatory part of the curriculum has led to an increase in the number of students studying the subject at both GCSE and A level. The introduction of CAD has also led to an increased interest in the subject by male pupils. However this is still a fairly small proportion of the overall number taking the examination. Statistics for the number of students undertaking GSCE Design & Technology: Textiles Technology for the year ending 2001/2 show that of the 47,700 students sitting the examination only 1,800 were male. An initiative run by BATC, CAPITB, the IBEC trust and Marks & Spencer has produced better information and curriculum packs for schools to provide practical examples for the National Curriculum. Twinning schools with companies through the Textiles in Partnership with Schools (TIPS) project has enabled students to engage in exciting projects and competitions and give them a better understanding of the industry (Dti 2000) The CAD/CAM Initiative (see www.cadinschools.org) is open to 11-18 schools in the UK, Wales and Scotland. A scheme designed to bring up to CAD facilities into schools has also been extremely successful with over 500 teachers, and 100 trainee teachers receiving accredited training in the use of specialised Fashion and Textile CAD software. The software is one of three pieces of software that form part of the CAD CAM Initiative. The scheme sponsored by the Design and Technology Association www.data.org.uk in partnership with Speedstep www.speedstep.de (see Speedstep schools website on www.speedstep-schools.com) and is supported by the DFES was launched in January 2000. There are now 10 support centres around the UK supporting the trained teachers in the development of curriculum work as well as providing technical support. The licence fee of £150 +vat enables the school to run the software on their network and give students access to Propainter and Prosketch software for textile and fashion design. As teachers need to teach aspects of Industrial practice further software is planned for the future to add the suite available to schools, ProPainter Interactive to develop on line design skills and Pro-Pattern to developing pattern drafting skills and a schools version of PDM Software, to establish team working skills, and gain deeper understanding on the supply chain/business awareness in textiles and fashion To support the development of practical skills students also have free copy of the software for use on their own home computer. As well as access to professional software schools are also engaging in developing CAM competencies through the use of digital printing and computerised sewing machines. This was further highlighted in 2003 by Dr John Garside of Warwick University in his document ‘Specifications and Recommendations for CAM Equipment in Schools’ produced a document outlining the key equipment that would be needed by schools to support each


of the focus subject areas design and technology thus further supporting teachers in teaching not only the design skills but also the technical know how that is required with the new technology. It was highlighted in the HMI Ofsted Inspectors reports for 2000/2001(no 373), 2002 (no 815), 2003 (no 1984) that the one area that seemed to be flourishing and that students were showing skills was that of CAD and CAM, and the use of modern technology to support the work in Design and technology of which Textiles is one of the five that can be studied up to A level (www.ofsted.gov.uk/publications/index). Other initiatives and resources available to the schools sector include: ICT Activities for Textiles by Heinneman www.heinnemann.co.uk , mulitmedia publication that supports the integrated use of ICT skills in the teaching of textiles EMTEX (East Midlands Clothing & Textiles Association - EMTEX www.emtex.org.uk. Through various funding sources and support of bodies such as CaptibB and Skillsfast have produced the following Interactive CD ROM resources that support the teaching of Manufacturing of textiles and fashion products (Clotex) and also enable teachers and students to engage in the research about smart materials (Clotex 2) www.economatics.co.uk/ have produced an interactive package designed to support textiles study at GCSE and beyond providing students with an opportunity to use a range of computer based resources and software packages. To further support teachers in new technology and how it can be integrated into teaching and learning teachers have access to ‘E-learning resources’ such as those produced to support Design and Technology – by Indigo Visions info@indigo-visions.co.uk which give teachers access to support materials and video content to help teachers gain confidence to deliver this new material. Initiatives in Higher Education The picture in higher education is less positive but there are some initiatives that are starting to have an impact. The development of foundation degrees has presented the opportunity for colleges and universities to develop modern vocational qualifications in partnership with industry. Bolton Institute is running a Foundation Degree in Textiles by Work-Based learning. The course is designed to enable students currently working in the textile, clothing, footwear and related industries, who have the support of their employer to earn and learn. The programme is delivered through a combination of work-based learning and short periods of block-release. http://www.bolton.ac.uk/courses/course_display.asp?single=fdtext&mode=sin gle


The impact of technology has meant that it is possible to offer students access to a range of resources that enable them to engage in self-directed study in textile technology. The problem is that students and educators are not always aware of them or encouraged to use them. The Internet offers a wealth of resources but students often do not have the appropriate information seeking skills or domain specific knowledge and vocabulary to enable them to utilise these resources effectively. Gaimster (2003)recommends the development of an online environment that brings together these sources in a coherent and accessible format for students. She has called this the “Textile Studio”, the proposal is for an environment that enables access to Internet based resources but also supports these with teaching and learning materials, glossaries and dictionaries, that will help the student to develop their domain specific vocabulary and confidence in dealing with the industry that they are preparing to enter. A prototype has been developed but funding is required to make it operational. There are other resources available that use computer based technology. In 1993 using funding from the Clothworker’s Foundation and the Teaching and Learning Technology Project Leeds University developed a set of interactive CDROMS called Introduction to Textiles. It took 2 years to develop and was introduced into their undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in 1995. The package uses multimedia to offer 70 hours of structured tuition on 82 topics and has also been taken up by the industry clients include Coats Viyella, Unilever Research and the CAPITB Group. The problem with most technological solutions is that students do not get a feel for the handle of fabrics. A new resource that has been developed using traditional materials is “Fabrics Unravelled”. This comes in the form of a kit containing three hardcover manuals (Glossary, Technical Manual and Crossreference) and 418 separate fabric swatches, bundled according to fabric "chapters" and individually numbered for easy cross-referencing. This resource enables the students to handle the fabrics as well as to gain theoretical information about their construction and properties. http://www.fabricsunravelled.co.za/index1.htm. Getting hold of examples of current and relevant fabrics is one of the most difficult tasks for students who report that the attitudes of industry to requests for information are often hostile (Gaimster 2003). The industry needs to accept that if it wants to employ graduates that are knowledgeable about textiles or to work with designers who understand textiles then they need to do more to support educators in achieving this goal. Whilst it is not possible or economically viable to answer the requests of every student it should be possible to work co-operatively with colleges to help them to develop a resource that students can access. The London College of Fashion Materials Collection is an excellent example of this kind of facility. Manned by academic staff specialising in textiles the collection offers an interface between the industry and the students. The collection has a wide range of current and archival swatches, a textile database and publications and technical information that the students can


access. They are introduced to the resource at the beginning of their programme it is then available as an open access facility and caters for footwear and accessories as well as fashion students.

The Role of the Textile Institute The Textile Institute is also working towards addressing some of these issues by developing a schools section and supporting teachers of textiles in the primary and secondary sectors and running Teachers seminars. The London and South East Section organises a variety of events for students and we are actively trying to increase student membership and increase awareness of the Institute through a National Student competition sponsored by the Pentland Group. The section is also working collaboratively with the Society of Dyers and Colourists to offer a joint programme to their members and students in the region. In addition to this the institute can offer accreditation of fashion and textile courses and professional qualifications. Through our publications we aim to extend and share the knowledge and expertise of our members. Further information on all of these initiatives can be found on the Textile Institute Website http://www.textileinstitute.org/ Conclusion Changing the perceptions of students about the fashion and textile industry is not going to happen overnight. Neither will we see a mass increase in textile technology graduates. On the positive side initiatives in schools do seem to be having an impact and we should eventually see the results of this in the form of undergraduates who have a better understanding of the textiles. Design courses will continue to be popular but it is essential that they adapt their curriculum to provide students with a portfolio of skills that will enable them to find employment in a rapidly changing industry. It is unlikely that this will be achieved without some innovation in the way that textiles is delivered within the curriculum and as this paper has shown there are a range of methods by which this can be achieved using resources that are already available. It is through the combined efforts of government, industry and education that we will be able to ensure that our graduates are equipped to find employment.

References Colussy, M. K. (2000). Fashion design on computers. Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice Hall. Denza, V. (1996). The impact of globalisation on design education. Image and Reality: 2nd National Conference of the Association of Degree Courses in Fashion and Textiles Design, Brighton University, Fashion Textiles Dept,School of Design, University of Brighton.


Dti (2000). National Strategy for the UK textile and clothing industry. London, Department of Trade and Industry. Gaimster, J. (2002). Attitudes, confidence, strategies and knowledge: searching for answers on the Internet. Improving Student Learning Using Learning Technology. C. Rust. Oxford, The Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development: 67-78. Gaimster, J. (2003). Fashion students’ textile sourcing skills using the Internet and World Wide Web. Department of Education Studies. Guilford, University of Surrey. Hill, K., Nazor (2001). Sew, sew, sew you go, om/2001/jan/10jan01/10Lwebsewing.html+decline+sewing+skills+home&hl=e n&ie=UTF-8. 2003. IFAI (2002). New Internet Business Solves Fabric Sourcing Problems, Industrial Fabrics Association International, http://www.ifai.com/NewsDetails.php?ID=156. Le Metais, J. (2003). International Trends in Primary Education INCA Thematic Study No. 9. London, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. McRobbie, A. (1998.). British fashion design : rag trade or image industry? London, Routledge. Parsons, J. L. (2000). For homemaking and a trade: Paradox and Problems in the early development of systemized sewing instruction, http://www.itaaonline.org/ITAAnew/Proceedings2000/fri/39.html. 2003. Pearson, J. S., A. J. Shearer, et al. (2000). "UK textile design education." Textiles Magazine 29(3): 24-27. Roworth, Z. (1997). "Design Education." Textiles Magazine(3): 14-18.



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