£2m investment in fashion and textiles secured by Future Fashion Factory
More than £2m investment has now been secured for innovation in the fashion and textile industry over Future Fashion Factory’s first three funding calls.
Thirteen additional collaborative research and development (R&D) projects have been approved in the Programme’s third Innovation Funding Call, supporting independent designers, heritage Yorkshire mills and fashion tech companies.
Each project addresses a challenge identified by industry partners from Future Fashion Factory’s community of over 270 fashion businesses and professionals, from new AR/VR/MR experiences of high value fashion and textiles to more sustainable materials and designs for outerwear and footwear.
Future Fashion Factory is part of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme, an £80 million initiative led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The Programme is led by the University of Leeds in partnership with the University of Huddersfield and Royal College of Art. UKFT’s Adam Mansell is chair of the project.
Successful projects in this call include:
- A new digital system for 3D-woven fashion design (Twelve Oaks Software)
- An AI-driven planning system for producing luxury fabrics (Abraham Moon & Son)
- Customisable, comfortable and effective British wool face coverings with defined filter performance (British Wool)
- Digital technologies for lead-time and waste reduction in the colouration of luxury fabrics (DP Dyers)
- A radical approach to more sustainable cotton production (hydroCotton)
- High quality virtual garment simulation from blockbuster movies to digital fashion (Numerion Software)
- A sustainable coloration system to reduce the environmental impact of adding colour and pattern to fashion products (Rose Danford-Philips)
- A new advanced and circular material for watersports using nylon from waste garments whilst mitigating micro plastic leaching (RubyMoon Gym to Swim)
- A vegan, petroleum and freshwater-free alternative to down or polyester for insulated clothing (SaltyCo)
- Colour-based machine learning to create new pathways for designers seeking inspiration in visual databases (Visualist)
- Closed-loop manufacturing of customisable, sustainable, made-to-measure footwear (Vivobarefoot)
Professor Stephen Russell, Director of Future Fashion Factory, said: “This year has presented a unique set of challenges for the fashion and textile industry, requiring a raft of new solutions while accelerating changes that were already underway, not least digitalisation.
“We had a fantastic response to this funding call, which shows the appetite for innovation among UK businesses. By supporting these exciting projects, we want to pave the way for continued growth and resilience in the UK’s world-renowned luxury fashion industry.”
Successful Projects – Future Fashion Factory Innovation Funding Call 3 (December 2020)
Twelve Oaks Software
3D weaving is enabling a new frontier for the design and manufacture of personalised fashion and accessories. Enabling designers to creatively harness the potential of this technology requires co-creation of new digital systems that are responsive to user needs. This project is exploring the requirements of designers and each stage of the fashion supply chain to support the development of a new digital 3D-woven design system. The work embeds digital thinking as part of the product development process for 3D woven garment production, exploring the systems required to support designer-manufacturer-consumer relationships.
Paul Jervis, Director: “Moving to digital is pointless unless it can improve on the processes that already exist. This project focuses on exactly that, how to make the innovation of the industry straightforward and practical to the people who actually use it.”
Major global fashion brands rely on luxury fabric manufacturers to create their most iconic looks. This project will develop a new AI-driven planning system for Abraham Moon’s vertical woollen mill. The aim of the project is to improve the end-to-end scheduling processes within operations increasing the company’s agility, improving lead-times and reducing inventory.
Trevor Durant, Operations Director: “Being a vertical woollen mill, we have a unique ability to be able to control the whole production process from fibre to finished cloth on one site which offers great benefits to both our customers and our own business. This verticality also gives us a challenge when it comes to planning and scheduling all our different production departments to work in alignment to ensure customers receive their fabric on time and in full. Our aim is to develop a system which can calculate the optimum schedule for all departments to work to which guarantees that we continually improve service and cost.”
This project focusses on the design and manufacture of new personalised, reusable face coverings as fashion accessories, with specified filtration characteristics combined with excellent thermo-physical comfort and aesthetics. The R&D is harnessing British-grown wool as a sustainable resource, fibre functionalisation technology and short, UK manufacturing supply chains, to deliver long-lasting high quality, face-covering products that also reduce the environmental impacts of end-of-life disposal.
Haldi Kranich-Wood, Product Manager: “We are delighted to be working with the Universities of Leeds and Huddersfield on this innovative project looking for brand new uses of British wool.”
In piece dyeing fabrics for fashion and interiors, highly skilled dyers use their own creative judgment to devise a dye recipe to achieve the required shade. Making late-stage adjustments to this recipe to ensure consistency is costly and time-consuming and also leads to waste when fabrics do not meet quality standards. A new ‘digital assistant’ is being developed to support the dyeing and shade-matching process, enabling DP Dyers to rapidly provide fashion businesses with consistent, high-quality dyed fabric with minimal waste.
Alan Dolley, Technical Director at DP Dyers and WT Johnson: “The aim of the project for us is to add to our many years of textile experience by using new digital technologies, of which we currently have limited knowledge. Getting access to this technology is a unique opportunity for us, through which we are aiming to achieve a superior product, delivered on time and done in the most efficient way.”
Cotton is a staple of the global fashion industry, grown and produced in a chemically intensive way that requires large volumes of water and significant land usage. hydroCotton’s innovative approach to sustainable cotton farming radically decreases these environmental stresses, reducing water usage by up to 80%, while increasing yield and fibre quality. This project will design and manufacture new harvesting and fibre processing approaches, evaluate hydroCotton fibre and yarn properties against conventional cotton fibre, and produce prototype garments using this new form of sustainably farmed cotton in 2021.
Edward Hill, Chief Science Officer: “Good cotton doesn’t have to cost the earth!”
Digital communication has become more crucial than ever to the fashion industry, as designers and manufacturers collaborate remotely, and consumers further embrace online retail. Based on a market-leading garment simulation tool used by major movie studios this project is validating a new cloud-hosted, virtual 3D garment visualisation service, where consumers and designers can engage with different looks and styles on a webpage as part of a AR/VR/MR experience. The new platform aims to reduce product lead times, waste from sampling and customer return rates.
Dr Michael King, CEO: “We are excited by the opportunity to work with the Future Fashion Factory researchers to validate our virtual garment simulation with the Future Fashion Factory membership.”
Colour and pattern are essential elements of a fashion designer’s creative toolkit, but the way we apply them to fashion materials is widely criticised for its use of water, chemical and energy resources. Going back to the chemistry of the natural sources of pigments, this project will develop a sustainable coloration system for clothing and accessories.
Rose Danford-Philips: “All of my work is inspired by my love of nature and colour, so it’s extremely exciting to work on a project that brings the two together with the incredible combined expertise of Future Fashion Factory, the Royal College of Art, University of Leeds and our industry partner.”
This initiative will explore the separation of nylon from elasthane in the most environmentally friendly way to create a new sustainable material for swimwear and sportswear using waste nylon. It will seek to develop a superior yarn that mitigates micro plastic shedding that pollutes our air, oceans and soil: whilst also reducing the demand for virgin materials.
Jo Godden, Founder: “As a multidisiplinary team, we are thrilled to be taking this first step towards enhanced circular economy textiles in the UK: to provide superior materials for next generation watersports that stop pollution.”
Modern textiles manufacturing consumes huge amounts of freshwater, emits massive quantities of CO2 and produces enough waste to fill a garbage truck every second. SaltyCo uses saline agriculture techniques to grow fibre-bearing plants that can thrive in seawater, enabling the production of the first ‘freshwater-free’ natural fibre textiles. This project will evaluate and benchmark the physical properties of the new fibres, and prototype new filling materials for insulated clothing such as jackets and coats, providing a vegan and petroleum-free alternative to down or polyester.
Visualist is a modern productivity suite for creatives. The platform helps designers to centralise and make sense of visual inspiration. Most databases rely on keyword searches – and on text metadata – to retrieve appropriate results, which often misses the subjective nature of visual images. This project will develop machine learning (AI) techniques to form new connections between images based on their colour palettes, providing a platform for a linked visual database and for building new pathways for designers to navigate when seeking inspiration.
Cherie Yang, Visualist Founder: “The whole team at Visualist is incredibly excited about working with Prof Stephen Westland from Future Fashion Factory, and applying his machine learning expertise to our product and increasing overall value to our consumers.”
Vivobarefoot make regenerative footwear that makes your feet stronger. Using wide, thin and flexible design principles that allow your feet to do their natural thing. This Vivobarefoot led project will use a new approach for digitally-driven design and manufacture of customisable, made-to-measure, 3D-printed shoes, improving fit while reducing waste and shortening lead times. By exploring recovery, recycling and re-use of materials from shoe products at the end-of-life, Vivobarefoot will help to lay the foundations for a more sustainable shoe industry.