About the fashion and textiles industry

318,640 Employed in this sector

Average income 22,250

Freelancers

How qualified is the fashion and textiles workforce?

Degree courses are not a traditional route in, but many that take them up find success in junior roles, especially after studying a specialist technical skill such as leather technology, pattern cutting or footwear production.

If you're looking to move into a specific area of the industry, such as marketing, you may find that a degree in that field (irrespective of sector) is what you need. Apprenticeships are also growing, with vocational qualifications gaining acceptance as a new standard in the fashion and textiles industry.

Who is the workforce made up of?

The gender split of the fashion workforce is the most even of all the creative industries. BAME representation is just below average for the UK workforce as a whole, but fashion remains one of the more diverse and progressive creative sectors. In higher education, students are predominantly female.

What are the skills and skills gaps in the fashion and textiles industry?

You should look to gain a blend of commercial awareness and design skills. It's a common misconception that only fashion designers work in fashion; there's plenty of supporting areas that every brand requires before the work gets from the table to the catwalk. Supervisors and production management staff are in short supply, as are technicians, technologists and engineers across the UK, especially in areas of new technology such as digital printing and plasma treating.

Consumers are becoming more aware of environmental and ethical practice, where their clothes come from and how they’re made. A knowledge and respect of these areas will resonate with the high-end UK brands.

There is also a growing concern about the ageing workforce, and traditional skills being lost with the large proportion of the workforce retiring in the next decade. Garment-working skills are still relevant and often on-the-job training and apprenticeships are the most effective way to pass on this knowledge, notably in shoe design and screen printing.

What degree courses lead in to the fashion and textiles industry?

Many employers believe that undergraduate and masters qualifications lack commercial awareness and industry-relevant content. While a significant proportion of the fashion and textiles industry are degree-qualified, many more find success with Level 3 qualifications and apprenticeships. The Creative Skillset Tick is a handy indicator for fashion and textiles apprenticeships and fashion degrees vetted by the industry as current and relevant.

Where is the fashion and textiles industry based?

The fashion and textiles industry is much more evenly spread across the UK than other creative industries, with design houses and fashion and textiles production based across the nations.

Away from London you can find 5,000 firms in Scotland, 3,000 in Wales and 2,000 in Northern Ireland. Edinburgh and Glasgow are prominent creative hubs in this sector, alongside North West England and South East England.

London still remains the biggest employer, with almost half the workforce calling the capital their home, as well as many prominent brands thanks to the tourist draw of public stores, and the enormous impact of London Fashion Week twice a year. Some specialist areas find homes around the English regions, for example leather services in South West England.