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Textile design lab opens doors to industry

Textile design lab opens doors to industry

A textile design laboratory being launched November 6 at AUT University has attracted widespread industry support and a commitment of $1.3 million in funding from the government's Growth and Innovation Pilot Initiatives fund.

AUT's School of Art & Design has received strong backing for the lab which offers access to the latest print and knit technologies and also provides regular opportunities for industry training. Fashion and textiles companies will also be able to make use of the lab to develop samples or small runs of knitwear or printed fabrics.

Vocal support for the project has come from the Designers Institute of New Zealand, Fashion Industry New Zealand (FINZ), Textiles New Zealand and a host of design houses and clothing companies.

"Access to this facility will help foster innovation and in any industry that gives companies a competitive advantage," says FINZ executive officer Mapihi Opai.

"The ability to sample and produce short-runs of their own unique prints and fabrics provides apparel firms with the opportunity to achieve that invaluable point-of-difference in the marketplace."

The textile lab has already held the first of its workshops with industry.

Workshop attendees, including Select Knitwear, Textile Creations, R&D Knitters, Tapestry Knitwear, Snowy Peak, Weft Knitting Company, Otago Knitwear, Knitting Establishment and Tamahine, were given information on design training opportunities offered by the lab and also had hands-on access to some of the world's most advanced knit equipment, including whole garment knit technology from Shima Seiki.

Whole garment technology could provide the local market with increased efficiencies and competitiveness, but is not used widely in New Zealand. None of the industry representatives that attended the workshop had used the technology before but five companies said they intended to use it in the future following the lab training.

Structural changes over the past 20 years have seen the New Zealand fashion and textile sector shrinking or closing down in the face of reduced tariff protection, says Art & Design head of school Desna Jury.

"The rapid development of textile and garment manufacturing industries in Asia and a corresponding flood of cheaper imported garments from these countries has taken its toll on the local industry," she says.

"For New Zealand's textiles industry to survive and compete effectively, a considerable technological catch-up is required," says Desna Jury. "The good news is this lab presents local designers with access to equivalent technologies to those being used around the world."

"With access to these new technologies there is no doubt New Zealand sector networks and cultures will rapidly ensure an ability to innovate."

AUT Associate Professor Frances Joseph says the access to state of the art technologies and collaboration with industry will support the growth of postgraduate students in fashion.

The textile and design lab is based in Auckland on AUT University's Wellesley Campus.


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