A partnership between Loughborough University and Leicestershire-based Lurex® is helping the company to develop innovative yarns and enter new product markets.

Established in 1946, The LUREX® Company is a leading global brand and manufacturer of metallic yarns. Its fine glittering threads are generally associated with fashion items, accessories and home furnishings.

During its 70-year history, it has added a shimmer of glamour to haute couture houses – including Armani, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Gianni Versace – as well as high street fashion names such as H&M, Cath Kidston and M&S.

But fashion fluctuates, and sparkle isn’t always in style. Kit Blake, Lurex® Managing Director, has been working to identify and develop a range of products which will sell year-round, regardless of trends, to secure the company’s future in uncertain times.

Carbon fibre seemed to be the answer. Once woven, the fibre is impregnated with resin and sets; a strong, light-weight material suitable for use in road vehicles, aircraft, marine vessels and sports equipment. It is also increasingly used to create luggage, laptops and phone cases as well as the plush internal trim for top-end cars.

To explore the potential of carbon fibre as a new Lurex® product, The iNet helped the company to secure Smart Innovation and Networking for Growth (SING) funding and facilitated an introduction to Kerry Walton, an expert in weaving and lecturer-researcher at the University.

Kit Blake explains why this was so crucial to the company’s development: “Lurex® is a purely visual enhancement product, and we were trying to develop something for a technical and performance-oriented market.

“We needed samples to prove that carbon fibre can have real visual appeal. Kerry was able to weave various samples of carbon fibre with Lurex® yarn, showing the range of patterns and effects that could be achieved.”

These samples opened discussions with several companies interested in the innovation. One processed the new carbon fibre fabrics, using resin to create solid structures for potential technical applications, and two experienced weavers are now working with Lurex® on further designs.

John Frodsham, The iNet Director, says: “We work with SMEs based in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire to access the funding and expertise they need to develop and grow – and it’s always really satisfying to help them achieve their strategic goals.

“Programmes like SING, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), reduce the risk of funding a speculative step and provide smaller companies with ready access to the expertise they may not have in-house.

“We’re really excited to have helped Lurex® take its first steps into a new market, and look forward to following developments.”