Renowned as the economic powerhouse which shaped the city of today, Derry’s proud tradition of producing world class textiles is now being revived in the heart of the city centre.
The recently unveiled new Fashion and Textile Centre has involved the remarkable transformation of a formerly derelict historic building on lower Shipquay Street.
It has now been transformed into a cutting edge hub combining business and mentorship programmes, a stitchery, self-contained work studios for designers, meeting and event spaces, design rooms and a creative lounge.
The Inner City Trust, backed by Derry City & Strabane District Council, have spearheaded the project as a key legacy initiative spooling out from the City of Culture year.
This focus was in itself aimed at honouring Derry’s heritage as one of the world’s leading clothing producers from the Victorian era through to modern times- an industry which employed tens of thousands of local women, bridging generation gaps and helping knit the urban and rural communities together through the cottage industries throughout Donegal and Counties Derry and Tyrone with the shirt factories in the city.
And that sense of history and carrying on a tradition is something that is not lost on project manager at the new Fashion and Textile Centre, Bernie Murphy.
She said: “There is a strong history of textile making here- I was in London the other day and they associate us with the shirt making industry.
“The centre brings new life to a space in the city centre to grow employment and business opportunities within the textile industries.
“We took up residence here in October 2014 and we have got a lot of people really interested, not just in the hub but also in the programme of activities that we are going to have here.
“We will have a programme of events like workshops and masterclasses in sewing and millinery and we are going to do that now for the Autumn and over the summer months we plan to do children’s workshops to encourage kids to learn how to sew, which doesn’t happen now in school.
“It is all about progression and letting people know what is here and what is happening.
“At school it’s not taught anymore and you find now that mammies don’t know how to sew, so it’s grannies that are teaching them to knit, crochet; so it’s great that we have somewhere that children can come with their mammies or their grannies and maybe share skills and pass on the tradition again of needle craft and stitchery and everything else that goes with fashion and design.”
The centre caters for emerging young designers, helping them gain valuable experience working among established designers, training up in business and making crucial contacts through networking and events, through placements.
There are also opportunities to learn through the mentorship of other leading local designers, several of whom have established studio workshops upstairs in the building.
And then there is the first class equipment in the design studio and stitchery.
Kerrie Murphy from Limavady was doing Illustration at the North West Regional College and came to the centre for work experience after finishing her course.
“I have always wanted to get into costume design.
“This is a great facility and you are around other people starting off in different areas and they will have a different perspective on what you are doing so you get to have that creative environment. It is good to have this type of thing, for making connections. I am starting to build up a portfolio.”
Hayley Gurney from Drumahoe said she had been inspired to go and apply for an Art and Design course after being on placement.
She added that despite having no background in fashion she has now picked up new skills as a result of being at the centre.
“It is great even just being around people in this creative environment.
“It’s nice as well that they were able to use the old building again.”
The next intake of students will be in September. To find out more visit the website www.fashionanddesignhub.com or e-mail: info@