This research project explored the impacts of global challenges, including Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic on the UK Fashion, Textiles and Technology ecosystem (FTT), building on previous research published by the Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFFT) in July 2021.
In-depth, semi-structured interviews with SME representatives within the UK FTT sector provided comprehensive insight into the impacts, challenges and opportunities resulting from recent industry disruptions, including COVID-19, Brexit and climate change. The results show that the majority of respondents view sustainability as a high-priority concern, in response to consumers becoming increasingly environmentally aware, despite increased market uncertainty and rising costs. Research and development emerged as the most popular area of investment to reduce carbon footprint. Reducing carbon emissions is also cited as a key factor for reshoring, post-Brexit.
The opportunities and challenges posed by external factors, such as COVID-19 and Brexit, point to future trends, including a focus on sustainability and an increase in technology, particularly mobile commerce and digital marketing. These insights have the potential to benefit industry stakeholders and influence policy.
Key recommendations to support the future growth and prosperity of the UK Fashion, Textile and Technology industry in the UK were proposed, including:
- Reducing the cost and complexity of trade
- Growing capacity and competency
- Building resilience
- Driving digital innovation and prioritising sustainable and ethical practices.
This collaborative research project was delivered jointly by academic colleagues from the Future Fashion Factory (FFF) and Leeds University Business School (LUBS) at the University of Leeds, with academics at the Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT) University of the Arts London. FFF and BFTT are both part of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme, an £80 million initiative led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
The Future Fashion Factory (FFF)
The Future Fashion Factory (FFF) is a £5.6M industry-led collaborative R&D programme. It brings together designers, manufacturers and retailers, to co-develop and implement new advanced textile and industrial digital technologies (IDTs) to create new products and enable shorter lead times, increased global competitiveness and sustainability. Led by the University of Leeds in partnership with the University of Huddersfield, the Royal College of Art and Manchester Metropolitan University, industry partners include the UK Fashion and Textile Association, the Textile Centre of Excellence, and over 500 businesses.
The Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT)
The Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT) is a £5.5m project led by the University of the Arts London (UAL) in collaboration with Loughborough University, University College London, the University of Leeds, Queen Mary University of London, the University of Cambridge, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Key industry partners include leading Fashion, Textiles and Technology brands, online retailers, emergent design companies and over 40 FTT business trade associations. Bringing together design, STEM, cultural anthropology and business practices to deliver sustainable innovation across the entire fashion, textiles and technology value chain.
Dr Francesca Bonetti – Assistant Professor of Marketing, Department of Marketing, HEC Montréal
Dr Sophie E L Bulman – Research Fellow in LITAC, School of Design, University of Leeds
Dr Anja Connor-Crabb – Lecturer in Fashion and Digital Fashion Innovation, LITAC, School of Design, University of Leeds
Dr Yue Guo – Research Fellow in LITAC, School of Design, University of Leeds
Professor Jane Harris – BFTT PI and Director of UAL FTTI
Dr Caroline Hemingray – Associate Professor in Fashion Marketing and Colour, LITAC, School of Design, University of Leeds
Professor Stephen Russell – Director, Future Fashion Factory, School of Design, University of Leeds
Dr Emmanuel Sirimal Silva – Head of Department of Economics and Law and Reader in Applied Statistics, Glasgow School for Business and Society, Glasgow Caledonian University
Laura Solomon – R&D Fellow in Textile Science and Technology, FTTI, UAL
Professor Steven Toms – Professor in Accounting and Finance, Leeds University Business School, University of Leeds
Dr Alessandra Vecchi – BFTT Co-Investigator and Reader in International Fashion Business Research, UAL
Hemingray, C.S., Vecchi, A., Bonetti, F., Toms, S., Bulman, S.E.L., Connor-Crabb, A., Guo, Y., Silva, E.S. and Solomon, L. 2023. Impact of Brexit and COVID-19 on the UK Fashion, Textiles and Technology Ecosystem. University of the Arts London and the University of Leeds.
Connor-Crabb, A., Silva, E., Hemingray, C.S., Toms, S., Vecchi, A., Bonetti, F., Bulman, S., Harris, J. 2023. An Investigation into the Impacts of Brexit, COVID-19 and Climate Change on the UK Fashion and Textile Industry. Textile Institute World Conference, Huddersfield, 3-6 July 2023.
Global Challenges Podcast “How resilient is the fashion and textile Industry?”, Leeds Institute of Textiles and Colour (LITAC), released April 2023.
Toms, S. Bonetti, F. Bulman, S., Vecchi, A., Silva, E., Hemingray, C.S., Connor-Crabb, A. 2022. UK Fashion and Textiles in Uncertain Times: Brexit, Covid-19 and the Industry Ecosystem. Future Fashion Factory Showcase 2022.
This research was made possible with the valuable support and funding from the AHRC, BFTT, FFF, ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (ESRC IAA), Leeds University Business School (LUBS), UAL LCF Fashion Business School, UKFT and UKRI. This research would not have been possible without the many Fashion, Textiles and Technology partners who generously contributed their valuable time and insights into this research.