Nine exciting projects the Future Fashion Factory is supporting

From long-distance ‘fabric handle’ to radical shortening of bespoke production schedules, it’s clear that in this age of digital transformation, manufacturers’ ambitions are limited only by their own imagination

The Future Fashion Factory is a £5.4m R&D partnership exploring and developing new digital and advanced textile technologies to boost the design of high-value creative products.

It is funded by the Creative Industries Cluster Programme, managed by the Arts & Humanities Research Council as part of the Industrial Strategy, and is the result of a partnership between the Royal College of Art,the Universities of Leeds and Huddersfield, and the Textile Centre of Excellence in Yorkshire.

CROP - The textiles group will move its Halifax nonwovens business, Texfelt, to a newly built facility at Cutler Heights, with a focus on creating recycled textile products for a range of industry sectors.

This article first appeared in the October issue of The Manufacturer magazine. Click here to subscribe


Click here to learn more about how the Future Fashion Factory is Weaving a new future for a historic industry

Colour Measurement of Blended Fibres

Abraham Moon & Sons Ltd

Abraham Moon and Sons Ltd mill in Guiseley
Abraham Moon and Sons Ltd mill in Guiseley.

How to ensure cloth production consistently maintains specified colour and quality, given wool varies from year to year, and even from sheep to sheep, while there can be subtle variations in the dyes.

This project will develop and build on existing digital colour measurement and matching technology (spectrophotometry) to improve the accuracy and economic efficiency of the wool dyeing process, reducing waste and improving the quality and consistency of the end product.

Short Run Bespoke Fabrics and ‘New Heritage’ Cloth

AW Hainsworth Ltd. And Yorkshire Textiles Ltd.

The jacquard loom, credited as one of the earliest forms of coding, has inspired a ‘new heritage’ cloth being produced at AW Hainsworth.

By digitising the patterns of early jacquard punch cards held at Leeds Industrial Museum, a new design has been created for modern electronic jacquard looms.

Hainsworth will use the project to trial a new designer-led short production run service for bespoke fabrics.

Using the new short-run capability and the new fabrics, Yorkshire Textiles will develop educational projects engaging designers and students with both the heritage and the full production processes behind bespoke fabric products.

Fabric Evaluation System

Advanced Dyeing Solutions Ltd (Roaches International)

Grey folds fabric with cloth roll background textiles fashion - image courtesy of Depositphotos.A new digital fabric evaluation system will measure the tactile properties of a textile fabric, and then relays them over the internet, building an accurate reproduction and visualisation for a customer in a different location.

This will reduce the need for excessive sampling, and reduce the time and resources involved in building a global customer base. It has the potential to slash costs, reduce waste, and reduce product development lead times.

Online retailers are also intrigued by the possibility of accurately displaying the way that a particular fabric drapes on a customer.

The 48-Hour Suit: Reducing Made-to-Measure Lead Times

Gieves & Hawkes Ltd

New digital technology will be used to help customers visualise the detailed design features of their UK-manufactured suit, and track in real-time the supply of high-quality fabrics produced in Yorkshire.

Real-time production updates will be available for customers to track the design and manufacture of their suit from the Yorkshire mill to the UK garment production site, and eventually to the collection point.

This promises that lead times on a high-quality made-to-measure suit will be reduced from six to eight weeks to just five days, and eventually to 48 hours.

Recycling Cashmere

Joshua Ellis Ltd

New textiles background fashion - image courtesy of Depositphotos.This project will fund market research into customer demand for a new product line using recycled cashmere in high-value woven fabrics manufactured in the UK.

It will lead to a more efficient and sustainable supply chain for cashmere and wool yarns, and could allow the company to offer a broader product offering encompassing part or fully recycled yarn, ensuring they reach a wider customer audience as well as helping solve the issues of sustainability for their existing couture customer base.

Modular Mattress Design

Deluxe Beds Ltd

A project to develop and prototype a new high value modular mattress product, comprising interlocking sections that can be configured to create a personalised product that suits each customer’s unique physical needs.

As the product ages or as customer needs change, individual sections will be replaceable, extending the product lifetime and reducing waste. This will significantly reduce waste in both the manufacturing process and at end-of-life, while keeping valuable textile materials in circulation for longer.

Better customisation will improve the health benefits of having the right mattress for consumers.

Immersive Training

Laxtons Ltd

UK Manufacturers UK Manufacturing Textiles Fabric Thread Stock ImageTechnical roles in the fashion and textile industry require a wide range of specialist skills, but training new employees is time-consuming and labour intensive. It can take six to eight months before a new member of staff can work on manufacturing equipment unsupervised.

This project will harness new augmented reality (AR) techniques to develop immersive training packages for Laxton’s staff, allowing them to gain virtual ‘hands-on’ experience of complex production processes, cutting average learning times, as well as providing unrivalled access to high quality training provision.

Analytics to Enter New Markets

Whiteford Felts & Fabrics

The company’s main business is producing wadding material for bedding, upholstery and quilting, but this project focuses on diversification and the development of a new market opportunity that has been identified in high value outerwear.

The company will use data analytics to assess this opportunity and take a data-driven design approach to the development and launch of a new high value garment in the target market.

Digital Analysis of Fabric Finishing Processes

WT Johnson & Sons

Samples of a fabric textiles - image courtesy of Depositphotos.The goal is to develop a digital tool that provides a quantitative link between the complex conditions used during fabric finishing and the resulting fabric handle (that’s the way fabric feels).

They will build an extensive data library from their existing sample archives from which they can develop a powerful new digital tool capable of predicting the effect of any finishing technique on any type of fabric, or which finish should be selected to achieve a desired effect.

The information on fabric handle will also be digitally relayed to customers around the world. This will save substantial time and resources on testing, cut production waste and significantly reduce production lead times.


*Images courtesy of Depositphotos