SDCE has welcomed a new generation of design students to its premises for a hands-on insight into the processes of fabric production. The visit was the second of its kind – following the inaugural visit from the class of 2020 during the winter of 2019 – and is part of a wider collaboration between the Yorkshire-based weaver and the Fashion, Design & Promotion (BA) Course at the University of Sunderland.
Fourteen students took part in the workshop, which was designed to bring the theory of fashion design into the context of contemporary UK production comprising weaving, dyeing and the essentials of textile testing. SDCE’s sister company – specialist weaver Sam Weller and producer of its Multifibre and adjacent fabrics – started the visit with a tour of its mill where students benefitted from a hands-on demonstration of weaving in action. Sam Weller’s head of weaving Paul Townend also demonstrated the theory behind weaving with a range of simplified pattern diagrams including a plain weave, twill variations and hopsack.
Specialist dye facility DP Dyers also opened its doors to the visitors, taking students on a comprehensive tour of its dye house headed up by head dyer Adam Pursell. Students were given an insight into how their design concepts can be realised through colour matching, and how the consistency of a brand’s signature colour can be achieved from one season to the next through the technical input of dyeing specialists.
“The textile trade is strong in this part of Yorkshire, and we were happy to welcome these young designers to take a look behind the scenes of fashion design and production,” says Adam Pursell. “Most mills and fashion finishers are only too happy to give graduate designers a chance when it comes to employment, but there is often a massive in their technical knowledge. Any would-be designer can benefit from a basic insight into how fabric is produced and finished, so that they can bear these processes in mind when creating the designs of the future.”
The tour concluded with a laboratory demonstration at SDC Enterprises, introducing students to the basics of textile testing and the quality control of fabric which is so integral to the fashion sector. Managing director Mark Yare demonstrated basic tests in colour fastness, abrasion and tensile testing, giving students an insight into the performance credentials that are essential to designs in apparel.
“If these students go on to design for major high street retailers, textile testing will be instrumental to the process,” says Mark Yare. “Textile testing and quality control is an integral part of the apparel sector, and only when design students understand the testing procedures can they design a range of fashion that functions.”
As part of the collaboration, students left the premises with over 200 metres of Sam Weller denim, all of which will be used to create unique designs in fashion as part of the practical design element of the course. The donation is the latest instalment in an ongoing sponsorship of the course, which has seen Sam Weller donate homegrown Yorkshire denim to would-be designers of the future since May 2018.
“Visiting the Mill gave us the fabulous opportunity to see the fabric being woven and to see fabric testing,” says course leader Jayne Smith. “We gained valuable knowledge and understanding of fabric production from the expert staff at Sam Weller and DP Dyers.”
The students’ designs will be unveiled in their entirety at the Sunderland University City Space in June next year, as well as being demonstrated as part of a live fashion show, Covid restrictions permitting.