If we consider Scotland’s fashion industry as (broadly) the design and manufacture of textiles and clothing, there were around 560 companies in Scotland in March 2016. Between them, they employ 8,600 people and turn over £768 million a year.
That makes fashion a relatively small player in terms of the overall economy. But it’s a fairly large player in terms of worldwide recognition.
The big picture
Scotland’s textile industry supplies some of the world’s largest fashion houses, including Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Donna Karan and YSL. Designers like Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Holly Fulton, Graeme Armour and Louise Gray have been catwalk favourites over the last decade.
International textile exports were worth around £370 million in 2015. Harris Tweed alone produced 1.5 million metres of cloth in 2016, most of which was exported. That’s an indication of just how strong international markets for Scottish textiles can be.
Working in fashion
Designers have probably the highest-profile careers in the fashion industry. But there are other options to explore. Design skills are relevant across the board. Textile technologists and dyeing technicians design new fabrics and ways to treat or colour them. Anyone involved in turning ideas into reality, like textile designers, garment technologists, machinists and pattern cutters, needs to understand and use design.
The main skills gaps in fashion are in production management and supervision, as well as technical, technological and engineering roles. There’s also an increasing demand for people who understand sourcing and manufacturing practice, as consumer value for sustainable and ethical products continues to rise.
Developing your skills
The majority of people in the UK’s fashion industry have some kind of further or higher education qualification. But there are alternatives to formal education.
The Scottish Fashion Creative Network and Scotland Re:Designed offer workshops and events that teach you about building your business and your brand. They’re also a great opportunity to meet and learn from contemporaries.
Our Fashion Foundry programme provides practical workshops, mentoring and access to sampling and sewing facilities. We work with both start-ups and businesses ready to take the next step. You’ll also find information about working with retailers, buyers, manufacturers and customers, and much more, from our fashion resources.
A lot of fashion-specific funding is aimed at designers. The British Fashion Council (BFC) offers several initiatives, most of them designed for businesses with a few years under their belts — although the Fashion Trust also offers a paid internship for a BA/MA graduate.
NEWGEN, one of the industry’s best-known support schemes, is designed for younger businesses. It provides financial support, showcasing and mentoring through the BFC and an external network of partners and mentors.
Boden leads Future British, a partnership with BFC, supporting up to five new designers every year. It provides 12 months of mentoring, coaching, business advice and seasonal finance. Applications are open to all designers who have been in business for three years or less.
Scottish Enterprise offers specific support to the textile industry. It helps companies explore the export market and funds graduate placements. It also provides businesses with the support they need to visit potential overseas markets. Scottish Enterprise also offers a range of non-specific business finance and support aimed at helping businesses to grow.
Looking for sound advice and/or a sounding board?
Contact us to organise a meeting with one of our experienced and friendly creative industry advisors.