Future Fashion Factory has welcomed the 500th member of its fashion and textile industry network with the addition of The Stitch Society.

Future Fashion Factory is an industry-led programme in which designers lead a highly creative process of applying, co-developing and implementing new textile and industrial digital technologies (IDTs) in collaboration with supply chain manufacturers, retailers and other technology experts in the high value luxury textile and fashion sector. The R&D cluster will deliver exciting new creative innovation opportunities, new products, shorter product development and design lead times, reduced costs, and increased global industrial competitiveness and productivity.

Led by the University of Leeds in partnership with the University of Huddersfield and the Royal College of Art, the £5.4 million initiative facilitates collaborative R&D projects between Yorkshire businesses and universities.

Based in the iconic Salts Mill in Saltaire, West Yorkshire – once the largest mill in the world – The Stitch Society designs and manufactures comfortable and durable artisan workwear on site using fabrics sourced within the UK.

Charlotte Meek from The Stitch Society said “We are delighted to be the 500th member of Future Fashion Factory as this will allow us to expand our business through networking and collaboration with other members, as well as exploring opportunities to develop new products.”

From ten core industry partners in October 2018, Future Fashion Factory’s network has now expanded to 500 businesses and other industry organisations across the UK, from independent fashion designers to major technology providers and fabric and garment manufacturers.

Among the members to have joined recently are LaundRE, a startup establishing a denim reprocessing centre in the UK; Bristol textile design studio Dash and Miller; and award-winning fashion designer Phoebe English.

Members benefit from opportunities to network and collaborate with each other as well as access to collaborative research and development (R&D) supported by researchers at the Programme’s partner universities.

Some of the many R&D projects supported so far include using AI for more efficient production planning in Yorkshire’s iconic textile mills, developing natural alternatives to synthetic chemicals and materials, and enabling circular economies by designing new fashion products to last as long as possible before being recycled at the end of life.

“The strength of Future Fashion Factory is the dynamic community of industry partners and academics, working collaboratively to deliver innovation,” said Professor Stephen Russell, Director of Future Fashion Factory. “The commitment we have received from industry so far demonstrates the success of a practical and collaborative approach.

“Collaboration is vital to address the challenges facing the fashion and textile industry, from creating commercially viable circular economies to developing exciting new products and services capable of increasing competitiveness. We are proud that over 500 members share our vision of a more collaborative, innovative and sustainable fashion and textile industry in the UK.”