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Q&A: Future Leaders in Workwear Talk Tech and Technique

Invista’s Cordura brand has been committed to inspiring future designs, and its sponsorship of the recent Professional Clothing Awards’ (PCA) Vision 2018 international student design competition, was the latest evidence of that effort.

The PCA Vision 2018 awards are designed to honor best-in-class innovative, stylish and functional workwear, corporate clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE) designs of the future from textile and fashion students. Students were challenged to develop designs that not only help meet the needs of the workers, but enhance their ability to perform a job, too.

The overall winner was Summer Gill from England’s Bedford College, and Thomas Davidson from Manchester Fashion Institute received the Cordura Durable Design Award.

Gill’s PCA award-winning design was created with airport personnel in mind and demonstrated creativity, versatility, professionalism and technical understanding of the job requirements.

The Cordura Durable Design Award acknowledges the student designer who best demonstrates a 360-degree approach to functional workwear. The design had to reflect a thorough understanding of the challenges faced on the jobsite and present innovative durable solutions to meet the needs of the worker. Davidson’s design was deemed creative, commercial and practical for professional tradespeople.

Gill and Davidson gave Sourcing Journal insight into their design process and where they see workwear headed in the future.

Sourcing Journal: Tell us about the inspiration for your design and what went into creating it.

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Gill: I was inspired by streetwear fashion and wanted to create a garment that was both practical for work and fashionable enough to wear off the job. The detailed shapes on both my outer jacket and trousers were inspired by airport runway markings, a direct link to my chosen job of airport ground staff.

Davidson: When I began my research for the brief, I was first looking into more hazardous jobs/technical engineering, however, I decided to strip all this back as I felt this project required a lot of primary research which I could not get from my original ideas. Therefore, I began looking into and taking inspiration from the traditional tradesman, more specifically the plumbing trade, as these roles I could personally gain a lot of insight into via interviews.

Being highly influenced by denim coming from my placement year, I chose to have this as my main inspiration for the brief, being that denim is traditionally a workwear fabric. Looking back at vintage photographs of turn of the century tradesmen, I began to notice the sense of pride these workers had wearing their uniform, and the pristine condition and smartness of it. I sought to bring this back to the modern-day worker as I felt this pride had almost been lost. This brought me to the inspiration of ‘Vintage vs. modern.’

SJ: How does the product you designed contribute to the future of textile technology?

Gill: I used innovative unusual fabrics that were waterproof, durable and met the safety standards needed for a ground staff worker. The knee padding had reflective yarn woven into it that gave both a fashionable and practical effect. None of my materials I would say were very futuristic because I had to ensure I was meeting the required specifications, but as new fabrics are continuously being made, very soon there may be materials out there that could contribute more to textile technology as well as meeting the standards.

Davidson: For me, being so passionate about denim and vintage workwear, I would hope that my garments would show how denim can still be used within the work sector.

SJ: What would you say are the most important elements in textile development today?

Davidson: Sustainability. I feel that companies’ main priorities should be the development of textiles that don’t use as much of our planet’s resources or have harmful bi-products or waste. With textiles being produced in such large qualities nowadays, I think real change has to be made.

SJ: What do you hope to accomplish in the industry?

Gill: I hope to accomplish the full BA in fashion and textiles, where I will expand on my knowledge and skills to prepare me for industry. I have one year left to complete. After this, I hope to find a job in the textiles industry.

Davidson: To change peoples’ perceptions on workwear. Throughout my research for the project, I felt I was finding simplistic, regular designs and I don’t feel that just because it is someone’s work clothes that need to be this way. Garments can be fashionable just as functional.