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University of Leeds’ New Institute of Textiles and Color Takes Aim at Fixing Fashion

The U.K.’s University of Leeds has launched the Leeds Institute of Textiles and Color (LITAC) to tackle global challenges–such as ones created by fast fashion–and the need for advanced materials, manufacturing processes and sustainable products.

LITAC aims to accomplish this by partnering with industry to apply the world-class research expertise found across a wide range of disciplines at the university.

“Textiles and color are fundamental to the function and appearance of countless products used by society, and the industry as a whole is looking to innovate at every stage of the supply chain to increase competitiveness, address environmental impacts and drive sustainable growth,” Stephen Russell, professor of textile materials and technology at Leeds’ School of Design and the founding director of LITAC, said. “Our expertise across the University–in design, science and engineering–make us ideally placed to build on existing relationships.”

Russell said whether it is significantly reducing waste or a lack of transparency in the global fashion industry, creating new materials to rapidly diagnose infection in healthcare or deploying artificial intelligence to decide the color of products and increase their value, “we can help with these sorts of diverse challenges.”

LITCA brings together existing areas of excellence, including the Future Fashion Factory (FFF), which since 2018 has helped businesses to develop sustainable processes and digital tools to guide design and manufacturing processes from start to finish, analyzing demand, increasing agility and reducing waste. FFF is funded by U.K. Research and Innovation.

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Alongside the contributions of the University, LITAC has received significant investment from The Clothworkers’ Company, a London livery company focused on supporting the British textiles industry through education, research, skills development and training.

“We believe that the Leeds Institute of Textiles and Color will be a strong, collaborative force that will shape the future of the textiles industry,” Jocelyn Stuart-Grumbar, clerk to the Clothworkers’ Company, said. “Our co-investment with the University of Leeds represents the largest single funding commitment that The Clothworkers’ Company has ever made. It further affirms our belief in the capability of the University of Leeds to build effective partnerships with the textiles industry across the U.K. and internationally, and to foster intelligent, innovative and environmentally sustainable solutions to society’s needs.”

Adam Mansell, CEO of the U.K. Fashion & Textiles Association, said LITAC has the expertise to inform the future of U.K. textile manufacturing and acts as a hub for collaboration, bringing together critical partners from all over the world to make a difference.

“The current renaissance in U.K. manufacturing means that factors such as sustainability are more important than ever,” Mansell said.

LITAC will harness the collective strength of universities in the Yorkshire and Humber region, which collectively enroll some 2,000 students in fashion, design, textiles and color disciplines each year. It will also address gaps in skills and professional development, including those in technical manufacturing, digital technology and the circular economy.

“Through our Institute of Positive Fashion, we encourage the industry to actively participate in a network to accelerate a successful circular fashion economy,” Judith Rosser-Davies, head of government relations and education at the British Fashion Council, said. “To address global challenges in our industry, including sustainability, we need to fully understand the issues and the latest research, working together with higher education experts such as LITAC to seek real world solutions.”