Members of the Cornish clothing and textile world stepped into the future of fashion when they attended Unlocking Potential’s latest Future Focus event last week.
Nearly 200 delegates joined the Wear it Well event at Tregenna Castle on Thursday May 3, to explore the future of the clothing industry, which looked at how technology is revolutionising the way garments are made and marketed.
Business leaders from across Cornwall heard from Patrick Grant, creative director of Norton & Sons and judge on BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee. Grant discussed the history of the clothing industry and addressed the reasons why consumers are moving towards more sustainable and locally sourced products.
He said: “The internet has transformed the world of fashion. It’s created a seismic shift in the quality and price of clothes. Everyone in the market then has to follow suit. The fashion industry has gone from being a thing that was expensive and quality that most people couldn’t afford to be something on a global scale that’s appalling quality that is doing nothing but harm.”
Grant discussed Community Clothing, the social enterprise he founded with a mission to sustain and create jobs in the UK textile and garment manufacturing industry. He championed UK manufacturing as a viable option for companies in the future.
He added: “There are many clothing businesses doing tremendous things and we can all choose to support them. We all have the opportunity to be part of an economy that looks very different than the one we have today.”
Delegates were transported to the future with inspiring keynote speaker Ruth Marshall-Johnson, foresight director at Future Laboratory. She said automation, such as smart labels, would become ‘the new normal’ in the fashion world.
“Customisation is creating a new layer of retail and fashion experience. It’s all about balancing technology with the creativity and the beauty of design. Fashion is all about the feeling you get; you need to think about the most bespoke conversation you can have with your customer.”
Fashion is one of the most resource-intensive industries in the world, Marshall-Johnson stated that waste products were predicted to increase by 60% from 2015 to 2030. She said we have the “resources, technique and drive” to change the process.
Paul Strike, MD of Helston-based business Fourth Element, took to the stage to give delegates an insight into how technology has helped them create high performance wear in the scuba diving industry. The company uses a body scanner to obtain exact measurements from customers and recently launched a swimwear range made from recycled fishing nets.
Falmouth University Alumni, Ali Goodman of Francli and Sarah Johnson were also on hand to show off their innovative designs to attendees.
In the afternoon, delegates split into six diverse workshops to learn more about specific aspects of the clothing industry. Each session was led by expert facilitators, including industry specialist academics from Falmouth and Exeter University, alongside local business leaders, who led lively discussions sharing ideas and tips about how local businesses can keep ahead of the changes in the industry.
Programme director, Allyson Glover, said: “It was fantastic to have so many businesses from the clothing industry together in one room. Lots of businesses in Cornwall are doing incredibly innovative things when it comes to fashion design and interacting with customers. I think everyone really engaged in the talks from our keynote speakers, and I hope everyone left feeling inspired and ready to embrace whatever changes the future may bring.”