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Apparel Advance: towards a sustainable apparel manufacturing ecosystem

No matter how the data are analysed, UK fashion industry’s value to the UK’s GDP is circa. £30 billion, employing approximately 600,000 people. The UK Textile & Apparel sector is, therefore, a strategically essential sector in its economic and social impact. Whilst most of this revenue and employment resides in retail, the UK Textile & Apparel sector’s creative and manufacturing aspects are influential and important dimensions of this dynamic, but maligned, industry.

Manufacturing is, arguably, the poor relation in the UK Textile & Apparel sector, as with many UK industrial sectors. This is because the UK Textile & Apparel sector is rooted in, and remains perceived as, a mundane and foundational economic paradigm (Froud et al., 2018).

Whilst the above situation has its merits – and is appropriate for the inclusion of people with different skills and talents to offer – it is time for a shift in this paradigm. We need a paradigm shift that accepts, and promotes, an equitable distribution of reward.

This project will imagineer an Advance in Apparel through a symbiotic manufacturing ecosystem for circularity in creation and consumption in the UK Textile and Apparel Sector. It will:

  • Identify opportunities and barriers for the creation of an innovative manufacturing symbiotic ecosystem enabled by digital technologies in apparel manufacture.

  • Identify business, digital technology, and materials science challenges hindering the implementation of industrial collaboration practices between manufacturing firms in the North West and East Midlands Textile and Apparel sector.

  • Identify manufacturing synergies opportunities, gaps, and solutions for the NW and EM Textile and Apparel sector in the light of circular economy practices.

  • Develop a dedicated information platform that enables access to information about available manufacturers, products, components, by-products, and waste that can be used in exchange transactions.

Dr. Steven George Hayes
(Principal Investigator)
Department of Materials 
University of Manchester  

Having initially trained and worked as a sewing machine technician, I have held positions as an industrial engineer and production manager in the garment manufacturing industry, in the UK and Morocco, as well as having been a member of a retail buying team as a textile and garment technologist. As an experienced educator I have been recognized as a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. As a Chartered Member of the Textile Institute, I was made a Fellow in its centenary year. I am Editor of the Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, an academic and professional journal from the Emerald Management Portfolio.


Recently completed research in the area of re-shoring UK Apparel Manufacturing includes a commissioned report ‘Coming Back? Capability & Precarity in UK Textiles & Apparel’ that presented to the House of Lords a view of evolving regional clusters, a need for a supportive business ecology and dire need to redress maker/ retailer asymmetry of power and influence. Current research projects focus on sustainable product development and manufacturing processes in textiles and apparel; equitably distributed manufacturing for an industry 4.0 enabled virtual factory.

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