The Yorkshire Year of the Textile

Published : July 07, 2016

The University of Leeds, inspired by the region’s rich textile heritage and supported by Arts Council England, have been holding a series of events around the theme of textiles.

Yorkshire has textile roots that are intertwined with architecture, environment, economics and social/cultural life. The mills of today continue to produce some of the world’s finest woollen cloth and supply a diverse range of products.  From fleece to finished product, Yorkshire has a pedigree of expertise that can be traced back for generations.

From the finest cloth used for couture to high grade woollen components and technical fabrics, the region has maintained its reputation as a world leader.

Dyeing expertise at Armley Mills

Amongst the events being held as part of The Yorkshire Year of the Textile one of the exhibitions in which we have been particularly interested is the ‘Colourful Past’ exploring the history of dyeing in Leeds. The exhibition is curated by the Heritage Dyers Group in conjunction with Special Collections at the University of Leeds. It has been inspired by the 200 year old recipes of the ‘Dye-house Book’ by William Gott, son of the owner of Armley Mills (Benjamin Gott who bought the mill in 1804). William Gott, author of 'The Dyehouse Book'

The Colourful Past exhibition continues until 31st July 2016.

Armley Mills at Leeds Industrial Museum was once the world’s largest woollen mill and its textile history has also been behind many of Yorkshire Textiles’ own projects over the years including the ‘demob deluxe‘ recreation of the Burton demob suit from cloth using vintage looms as part of the ‘Armley Weave’ project using a British Wool ‘Eco’ yarn developed by Laxtons, Guiseley.

Synthetics insight

By contrast, we also visited  ‘Synthetics Revolution‘ at St Wilfred’s Chapel (the University campus), where University of Leeds International Textile Archive (ULITA) exhibits alongside garments from the Yorkshire Fashion Archive (some of which are shown in the photo below). This gives a  thought-provoking insight to the way in which synthetics have influenced everyday aspects of fashion and our lives.Early synthetic dresses from the Yorkshire Fashion Archive

The Yorkshire Textile Archive provides a unique historical and cultural record of Yorkshire life and changing social attitudes in the context of the region’s technical excellence in textiles and clothing over a 100 year period. The clothes selected for the display all carried very personal stories of the donors — clothing bringing social history to life.

130 years of M&S

The M&S Company Archive based on the University campus has been celebrating the role that Marks & Spencer has played in people’s lives for 130 years in the ‘Marks in Time’ exhibition.  With a permanent home for the company archive at the Western Campus it provides a unique insight into its history including the way in which Marks and Spencer is woven into the fabric of clothes we wear today.

Sculpting cloth

The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, which displays exceptional European and British paintings from the University’s collection, has been taking part in the events. ‘Sculptor Behind The Mask’ — Mitzi Cunliffe’s work of the 1950s and celebrating the 60th anniversary of ‘Man-Made Fibres’ — with the iconic work on campus has been one of our favourites.

New textile talent

This year the School of Design, BA (Hons) Textile Design exhibition has again provided an impressive collection of work, like the knitwear and digital print examples shown here. With meticulous background research and skills applied to the final examples of stunning textile creativity, some of the work has been showing at the ‘New Designers’, Business Design Centre in London for 2016.

Knitwear from Leeds University School of Design BA (Hons) Textile DesignDigital print work from Leeds University School of Design BA (Hons) Textile Design

Looking forward

With the profile of textiles in the region growing — the imminent opening of the Victoria Gate centre with its Yorkshire textile-inspired design, Burberry’s announcement of a manufacturing facility around former flax mill Temple Works and the exciting Halifax Piece Hall transformation — we see a platform for further events launched by The Yorkshire Year of the Textile in future years.

Yorkshire Textiles Logo

The Yorkshire Textiles umbrella was initiated by Leeds Fashion Works, whose founder members are :-

Suzy Shepherd

  • Fashion, Retail & Marketing Adviser

Carolyn Lord

  • Project Facilitator
  • Solicitor
  • Governor of Leeds Trinity University

 Paul Forbes OBE

  • Educational Consultant

Andew Homer

  • Accountant

It is the imbued excellence, the quality of the products and specialist skills that have led to the utilisation of Yorkshire Textiles by global brands. The sector in the Leeds City Region can build further on the connections between Yorkshire Textiles and internationally renowned fashion houses.

Social Links

Supported by Leeds City Council

Supported by Leeds City Council