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Why we need to shout about our clever craft

Eric Musgrave

Did you know the coalition Government is interested in the craft of ‘craft’? Neither did I until I met culture minister Ed Vaizey recently to discuss how the industry and Westminster could work together more effectively.

Did you know the coalition Government is interested in the craft of ‘craft’? Neither did I until I met culture minister Ed Vaizey recently to discuss how the industry and Westminster could work together more effectively.

I pointed out that, as a nation, we no longer teach manual skills in schools. Subjects like woodwork, metalwork, dressmaking and knitting are off the curriculum, although children are encouraged to design with computers - lots of designing, but little making…

As the Government wishes to reinvigorate manufacturing, we must have more understanding of, and appreciation for, the principles of making things. That’s a tall order and one that may take generations, but we have to start somewhere. Vaizey advised me that his colleagues want to hear craft-based success stories. Surely the fashion and textile business can provide more than a few?

The importance of education - from primary through to higher education - cannot be overestimated. One of the UKFT’s platforms of activity involves improving jobs, training and skills, and we are determined to improve the links between industry and education.

At the recent Textile Institute conference in Manchester, I was impressed by an experienced pattern cutter who now taught at a university, who warned of the dangers of too much specialisation in courses. The result was that young people knew a lot about, say, designing, but too little about how to cut a pattern.

Vaizey seems genuinely interested in assisting the fashion industry. But we need to let him know how the Government can assist us. In the current climate, getting any more handouts is a non-starter, but ensuring we keep what we have already for training, apprenticeships and export promotion would be very welcome.

Eric Musgrave is chief executive of the UK Fashion & Textile Association

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