Leicester City Council has invested GBP300,000 (US$399,478) in the project and teamed up with training provider Fashion-Enter Ltd to develop the new textiles skills centre called The Fashion Technology Academy (Leicester).

GBP100,000 of the GBP300,000 funding has come from the local business rates pool, administered by the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).

The academy will offer apprenticeships and accredited training for people who work in, or want to work in, the textiles industry.

Current courses are free to people who are unemployed and apprenticeships at various levels are available to employers.

The academy is based in Stonebridge Street, at the heart of Leicester’s garment industry, sharing a building with local clothing company Ethically Sourced Products Ltd, which has made the second floor of its premises available for the project.

Trainees have already started on some of the academy’s first courses, with an event held for partners, industry professionals, fashion retailers and guests this week to mark the official launch of the project.

“The opening of this academy is the result of years of hard work, and ideas that were first formulated at a ground-breaking textiles coalition event hosted by Leicester’s city mayor in 2017. This project has been developed to help tackle the problems that we know exist in the garment industry locally and are determined to address – despite having no enforcement powers ourselves,” Deputy city mayor councillor Adam Clarke said.

“Leicester has the second-largest concentration of textiles and fashion businesses in the UK, so this is a hugely important industry to our local economy, and it is one we are determined to support.

“Creating a highly-skilled and specialist workforce is an important and crucial step in creating workplaces where staff are valued, leading to higher standards of workplace compliance.”

Jenny Holloway, director of Fashion-Enter said: “The opportunity for ethical ‘speed of response’ fashion from Leicester is enormous for retailers and e-tailers today. Fashion-Enter is delighted to be working collaboratively with partners to train a further generation of multi-skilled workers.”

The new academy will work closely with local textiles and fashion manufacturing businesses as well as with retailers and representatives from companies such as Asos attending the launch event.

Simon Platts, responsible sourcing director at Asos said: “We’ve worked with Fashion-Enter in London since 2010 and financed its Stitching Academy in 2015, helping to grow and retain vital textile manufacturing skills. Now the launch of Fashion Technology Academy Leicester will undoubtedly bring similar benefits to Leicester, helping to turn the city into the fashion centre of excellence that we know it has the potential to be.”

Other partners supporting the project include suppliers Triumph Needle and Alvanon, plus fashion e-tailer ISawItFirst, which has invested GBP150,000 in training to be delivered by the new academy.

Greg Pateras, CEO of ISawItFirst added: “ISawItFirst is committed to the British textiles industry, and our latest investment in the academy reinforces our desire to strengthen the sector and improve standards.”

In a further boost to the industry locally, a recent successful bid to the Government’s Community Renewal Fund means the city council will receive GBP500,000 to work together with partners Fashion-Enter and De Montfort University to offer co-ordinated support to textiles manufacturers and local textiles workers.

The city council’s adult skills and learning team is also working closely with the academy to offer English courses at the venue for speakers of other languages.

News of the academy was first reported on Just Style in January. 

Click here to read Just Style’s interview with Holloway in which she outlines her plans for 2021 and explains why it’s so crucial to bridge the fashion skills gap in the UK.