Yorkshire has a unique and interwoven combination of location, skills and heritage which is still equated world-wide with the production of fine fabrics. Paul Smith in a keynote speech pointed out that the famed Biella textile industry in Italy themselves boast that they are the Yorkshire of textile production! Soft Yorkshire Pennine water has been one of the secret ingredients for the centuries old excellence in production of beautiful cloth. Expertise has been handed down through generations. The craft skills are still very much in demand in a specialist growing industry.
An Impressive History
In the early fourteenth century King Edward III encouraged the immigration of Flemish master weavers to encourage woollen cloth manufacture. The skills these economic migrants brought with them allowed a major export industry to be created by the end of the fifteenth century.
In the sixteenth century the skills pool was further enriched by Huguenot weavers, asylum seekers fleeing religious persecution in France, allowing the industry to expand ever more quickly.
During the Industrial Revolution of 1750 to 1850 a tidal wave of scientific and technological innovation combined with the high existing levels of materials knowledge. Driven by cheap, abundant energy, first from the rivers of the Pennines and later the Yorkshire coalfields, the industry exploded.
At its height Yorkshire was the world's leading manufacturer of woollen and worsted textiles. This was not only because of the sheer volume it produced, but also because of the rich diversity of its designs and cloths and their quality.
The closure of the coalfields and the invention and popularity of synthetics led to a relative decline in the industry. What remains is an industry that, although reduced in capacity, is still highly skilled, highly innovative, technologically capable and focused on quality.
The region’s mills continue to produce the majority of England’s worsted and woollen fabric, used by many of the world’s great fashion brands, high-end retailers and tailors, such as Gucci, Burberry, Etro, Hugo Boss, Prada, and on London’s Savile Row.
Given its heritage and importance it is puzzling that the Yorkshire Textiles brand is not as instantly recognisable as, say Danish Bacon, Scotch Whisky or Harris Tweed. We aim to change that.
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