Why get into clothing, footwear & textiles?
The clothing, footwear and textiles industry is pretty darn important. We all need clothes, shoes and pieces of fabric, whether it’s for parading bizarre creations around on the catwalk, a way of demonstrating your passion for your favourite football team, or simply a way of protecting your modesty and keeping yourself warm.
You might want to buy some natty threads for Saturday night; you might want a new pair of brightly-coloured hi-top kicks to show off to your friends; you might need a suit to wear to a wedding; you might just want a big woolly scarf to keep your neck warm; but before you pick that item off the rack, there’s an immense network of companies, operations and individuals that work to produce the end product, and your graduate job might just be with one of them!
What can I do with a clothing, footwear & textiles career?
Although over 90% of our clothing is now imported, the manufacturing and production of clothing, footwear and textiles is still pretty big business in the UK. With over 80,000 enterprises and over 340,000 people working in the fashion and textiles sector, there are many career options for you to choose from.
The raw material needs to be harvested and collected, the designs need to be assembled and created, the products need to be shipped to wherever they will be sold and the retail process ends the cycle. When it comes to careers that focus on production, however, it’s all about the preparation of the yarn, spinning, weaving, knitting and finishing everything off, so that it’s ready for inspection.
What's the production process like?
Clothes and shoes don’t grow on trees. They have many constituent parts which need to be produced and then brought together to make one final product. For instance, when it comes to footwear, you’ve got the sole, the insole, the outsole, the midsole, the heel and the vamp (a.k.a. bits of shoe, to me and you). These are then assembled on the production line to create the brand new Nike Air or Converse All Star trainers that you’ve got your eye on.
Specific roles are allocated for each part of the production process. Given the intricacies of the things we wear and the many components that make them up, this process can be rather complicated. You could be a clothing presser, a textile operative, a clothing packer, a sewing machinist, an alteration hand, a CNC operator or even a production manager.
Machines are now responsible for most of the hard work in this industry, with absolute behemoths delivering item after item 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As such, the majority of the work at this stage is technical and involves ensuring that these machines function correctly and operate at their optimum rate. Once the products are outside the other end though, they need to be neatly prepared, pressed and packed, ready for shops to do their bit.
All this production, assembling and packing is all well and good, but when it comes down to it, everything is truly dependent on the production of fibres, fabrics and yarns in the first place. Consequently, technologists are required. These guys are responsible for developing new fibres that feel better, look better and are just generally better in every imaginable way.
If you have a passion for fashion plus a keen interest in how your super-fresh garments get from cloth to high-street then a career in clothing, footwear and textiles manufacturing could be the one for you.