Great wool power

As UK Wool Week launches, Stephanie Smith reports on how Yorkshire is at the forefront of world-class design.

Fashion undergraduate Akinbolaji Osunsina will be on of 20 students at Wool Week
Fashion undergraduate Akinbolaji Osunsina will be on of 20 students at Wool Week

Where there’s wool on the catwalks of Milan, Paris and New York, there’s a fair chance that it was made in Yorkshire.

Chanel, Bottega Veneta, Ralph Lauren and Stella McCartney are just some of the international high fashion houses that have used fabric manufactured in the historic mill towns of the West Riding.

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Now a group of Yorkshire textile companies is launching a campaign to coincide with Wool Week, which begins tomorrow, to raise awareness of the success of the region’s textile industry.

Spearheading Wool Yorkshire is Jennifer Nickson of Keighley manufacturer Abbotsford, part of Bradford-based family textile business SIL Holdings. She has been working with students from Leeds College of Art on designs for a week-long exhibition at Victoria Quarter in Leeds, supported by Harvey Nichols. “Yorkshire’s woollen industry is manufacturing for the top end of a milti-billion pound global and fashion interiors market, so design and innovation are key,” she said.

Events planned to mark the fourth annual Wool Week include a pen of live sheep in Briggate in Leeds on Monday. Knitwear is highlighted through the Campaign for Wool’s national competition, Wool School, run with retailer-partners including Marks & Spencer, Barbour and Jigsaw, to find the best student-designed wool jumpers. The Barbour women’s winner is Naomi Robertson, from Richmond, North Yorkshire. She said: “Living in the Yorkshire Dales, I focused my research on the Swaledale barns, fences and gates, merging this with the brightly coloured structures within the traditional patterns of Fair Isle.” The menswear winner is Hazel Hurst from Leeds and the M&S winners, from Leeds University, are Molly Cormican and Katherine Watson.

Kristie Reeves, design director at Batley cashmere and fine fabric specialist Joshua Ellis, said: “Yorkshire is the soul of the woollen fashion industry worldwide.

“The secret is staying one step ahead of the trends without foregoing our expertise, craftsmanship and quality.”

Twitter: @yorkshirefashQ

The exhibition in Leeds opens on Monday. For more on Wool Week, visit