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Cutting our cloth: A review of the all-island clothing and textiles industry

Published: January 2005


Over the past few years, the Clothing and Textiles industry on the island of Ireland has begun the process of transforming itself into an industry characterised by innovation, technical advance and higher value added. The industry is moving towards being one which is knowledge-led and market-driven, with high levels of skills, imagination and creativity. For a variety of reasons, however, the wider community retains the image of an industry in decline – particularly with high-profile job losses and the demise of some well-known companies. This has tended to obscure the developing reality of an industry that is progressively refocusing itself and beginning to leverage its knowledge base in new and creative ways.

There are, of course, serious challenges facing the industry – not least the lifting of quota restrictions on clothing and textiles imports into the EU from January 2005. The industry has also come to terms with the outsourcing of much of its manufacturing activity to lower-cost economies. The industry now has a much more diverse skills base than in the past: essentially,
it now presents itself as a modern and progressive, knowledge-based industry where design and innovation are used to deliver competitive advantage. This increased emphasis on the knowledge base of the industry brings with it new opportunities for growth and development.

This report reviews the Clothing and Textiles industry in Ireland and Northern Ireland in the light of the substantial changes that have occurred in the local and global economies in the recent past. It seeks to:

  • Understand the current state of the industry and its performance;
  • Examine the trading environment within which the industry operates; and
  • Identify opportunities for growth and development, and to offer recommendations on how these can be realised.

The report is based on research conducted by Genesis Strategic Management Consultants. In the course of their research, Genesis interviewed 30 companies in Ireland and Northern Ireland.




  • Identify specific capabilities for new market entry. (Industry)
  • Engage dedicated marketing specialists and allocate greater resources to marketing activity. (Industry)
  • Further develop existing ‘market intelligence’ assistance – for example, trend spotting/analysis in a range of different market environments. (Support Agencies)
  • Invest in networking and in fostering appropriate links between companies and research centres/design colleges to ensure that the industry stays aware of technological and other changes that could create opportunities. (Industry)



  • Facilitate and promote the development of management and commercial skills among designers – in particular, develop a management development initiative customised to ‘new’ industry needs. (Industry, training agencies and relevant colleges)
  • Develop initiatives to upskill owner/managers with a view to exploiting new business models.(Industry with the help of the support agencies)


  • Develop supply chain management as a competitive tool as well as a logistical solution.(Industry, training agencies and relevant colleges)
  • Identify and highlight the particular supply chain needs of the sector, including the many stages of design and manufacturing and the diverse geographical bases. (Industry with the help of support agencies)


  • Bridge the gap between universities/colleges and industry to ensure that students are being trained in the technical, creative and commercial aspects of design. Ensure that industry is geared up to take on and develop this new talent. (Industry, training agencies and individual colleges)
  • Develop initiatives to bring design into the boardroom and make it an intrinsic part of company operations. (Industry with the help of support agencies and specialist private sector assistance)


  • Develop ‘design consultancy’ capabilities across the island of Ireland. (Industry with the help of support agencies and specialist private sector assistance)
  • Invest in development of new products and processes, with increased emphasis on design. (Industry)
  • Investigate the feasibility of setting up a ‘design hub’ to offer technical, creative and commercial support to colleges/students and industry. (Support agencies)


  • Identify and address technical and technician skill deficiencies specific to the sector. These need to be filled through a range of mechanisms, including graduate and more experienced placements. (Industry and training agencies)
  • Facilitate the formalisation of all-island cooperation in technical textiles in an advanced materials’ context. Collaborate with other sectors to achieve this. (Industry with help from the support agencies) 



A-Review-of-the-All-Island-Clothing-and-Textiles-IndustryClick here to download the full report: A review of the all-island clothing and textiles industry