The luxury cloth manufactured by Holme Valley company Bower Roebuck and Co Ltd is worn by some of the world’s most powerful and famous people. Now students from Huddersfield University have taken the traditional wools and worsteds and used them to create cutting edge fashion. Hilarie Stelfox reports
TRADITIONAL tailoring skills are still an important part of a young fashion designer’s training.
So when students at Huddersfield University were offered the chance to work with the sort of quality fabrics used by Savile Row tailors they jumped at the chance.
Thanks to a collaboration between New Mill weaving company Bower Roebuck and Co Ltd and the university, all 55 second year fashion design students have been able to make a garment from some of the world’s finest woollen cloths.
Bower and Roebuck cloth is worn by the likes of Barack Obama, Tom Cruise, Pierce Brosnan and Arnold Schwarzenegger and used by designers such as Ralph Lauren, Hermes, Paul Smith, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada and Tom Ford. It has been made into suits for Bond films and other Hollywood blockbusters, including Titanic and The Aviator.
The company has been producing top notch woollen cloth for more than a century. Today it uses merino wool from Australia and New Zealand as well as cashmere, vicuna, cotton and silk blends. Some of the finely woven silk blends sell for hundreds of pounds a metre.
Georgia Vuletic, senior lecturer in fashion, said: “We are delighted with the sponsorship from Bower Roebuck.
“They provided us with enough cloth so every student has had the chance to work with top quality fabrics which they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford.”
The sponsorship, now in its second year, was arranged through Clare Wheeler, a former Huddersfield University BSc Textile Design student, who is a designer at Bower Roebuck. She graduated 14 years ago and spent her sandwich year at the company.
“We do like to be able to sponsor students or the local university,” said Clare.
“It’s fair to say that majority of our business is in menswear so it’s interesting to see what the students come up with.”
Students embarking on a project called Cool Britannia were asked to focus on Yorkshire heritage, architecture and industry and were divided into teams of five.
Each team had to put together a collection for a named catwalk designer.
Year Two tutor Kathryn Brennand said: “The project brings together local fabric and local heritage. This was an opportunity for the students to work as a team and use all their skills.”
Clyde Sheriffe, who teaches tailoring, added: “The students feel it teaches them a lot and sets them up for their third year when they go out into placements.’’
Twenty-year-old student Carla Gebhard, a fashion and design with textiles undergraduate, looked for work experience in a tailoring company after completing the project.
“I liked it so much I wanted to spend my year out in tailoring,” she explained.
She will work for six months at Bolton company Liberty Freedom.
Her own Cool Britannia garment was based on the architecture of the region – in particular church windows – and has an arched panel at the front.
Student Stephanie Ryder, 20, took inspiration from the artefacts of the industrial revolution to create a pinstripe jacket with unusual removable pleated ‘skirts’.
“I looked at the cogs and wheels of industry to get the pleated effect,” she said.
Claudia Schofield, 20, whose work is also shown on this page, went for a design with an unusual shawl collar, belted at the back.
“We learned a lot of techniques for this project and it was the first time we had worked as a team,” she said.
The students’ work demonstrates a high level of technical skill and finished garments will be shown to representatives of Bower Roebuck.
Georgia added: “We’d like to have more collaborations of this kind because it gives the students the chance to bring together everything they have learned and practice the skills they will need to get a job in industry.”