Derbyshire-based womenswear etailer David Nieper has established a sewing school to help pass on specialist skills to a younger generation.
The company, which was founded in 1961 and prides itself on manufacturing in the UK, said the new programme will support and nurture local talent. It points to research from the British Fashion Council, which found that 60% of workers in fashion and textile manufacturing industries are over the age of 40.
The 12-week course started this month with four trainees aged from 18, including two school leavers and two more experienced women who are changing career.
It is run by two of David Nieper’s most accomplished dressmakers: Carol Shaw, with 14 years’ experience at David Nieper, and Sue Cook with 27 years’ experience, who will be responsible for design room sampling and advanced sewing techniques.
Shaw, senior supervisor in the sewing room, said: “Our trainees will start by getting to know their machines and develop thread control. They will learn dressmaking essentials including cross-stitch, overlock, lockstich and bar tacking. We start with paper patterns to learn the basic principles then progress to a range of different fabrics including; cottons, silks, elastics and wools and learn how to work with each.
“Many seamstresses in clothes manufacturing only make one part of a garment e.g. a leg, arm or collar on a production line, but our trainees will benefit from learning how to make the whole garment. At the end of the course we are hoping to offer jobs to trainees who have demonstrated a good eye, good coordination and a good aptitude for creating fashion in luxury fabrics.”
Bethan Kerry, who recently graduated from Swanwick Hall school in Derbyshire, said: “We are learning such a lot, and although the patterns are repetitive to start it is satisfying when you get the hang of it.
“At the end of the course it will be rewarding to actually make a complete garment, as well as having developed a new skill and the possibility of a job. Most jobs in fashion are in retail and it is very difficult to find something like this that allows you to be creative.”
At the end of the 12 weeks, the trainees will be offered a full-time position in the David Nieper sewing room or can extend their training.
Christopher Nieper, managing director, said: “There is a critical skills shortage in fashion manufacturing, made worse by relentless offshoring in recent years. It’s crucial to nurture local talent and pass these valuable dressmaking skills to the next generation.”