The United Kingdom’s textile industry plays a vital role in the country’s economy for centuries. The textile industry of the UK drove the industrial revolution, advanced technology, raw materials imports, and better logistic. And as a result of this, the UK became the global textile industry leader. 

Today, the UK textile industry holds 6 percent market share only in the fashion sector. The domestic market value of the UK fashion industry in Approximate 66 Million Pounds. Total household clothing consumption in the UK is above 6 Million Dollars per year. The country has advance spinning and weaving technologies to produce the high-quality and largest collection of fabric. Later on, the fabrics are exported and supplied around the European, Middle East, China, Pakistan, and the other parts of the globe. 


At the beginning of the 18th century, the key UK textile industry was producing textiles from the large sheep-farming areas from the midland and the other regions across the country. The UK textile industry employed Britain by opening major centres in the west country, Norwich and environs, and west riding of Yorkshire. The woolen goods export trade accounted for more than a quarter of British exports during the 18th century. Interestingly, the cotton exports grew tenfold during the period, but that’s still accounted for only a tenth of the woolen trade. 

Moreover, fabrics such as silk, fustian, and linen were eclipsed by cotton, which turned out to be the most important fabric of all time. 


Read more on: Impact of BREXIT on the global textile industry

UK Textile Industrial Revolution

Later in the 18th century, the major shift was towards machine-based manufacturing from labor and draft animal-based economy. The UK textile industry was getting mechanized with the development of iron-making techniques and the increased use of refined coal. Textile manufacturers were now able to pull thousands from low-productivity work in agriculture to high-productivity urban jobs. 

By the turn of the 19th century, imported American cotton has replaced wool in the North West of England. Although wool always remained the chief textile in Yorkshire.

The textile industry can be identified as a catalyst for technological development. The UK textile trade progress soon outstripped the original suppliers of raw materials as the economic growth was not sustained by domestic demand alone. The advanced technology and the factory system of the UK created the levels of mass production and cost efficiency, which enabled British manufacturers to export cost-effective clothes and other goods across the world.

The Global Leader

In the period between 1815 to 1870, Britain reaped the benefits of being the world’s first modern industrialized nation. The country defined itself as “the workshop of the world,” which means that its finished goods were produced so efficiently and cheap to undersell any comparable products. 

30 percent of Britain’s export went to its Empire by 1820, and gradually rising to 35 percent by 1910.

By 1900, Britain’s global share soared to 22.8 percent of total imports. By 1922, its worldwide share rose to 28.8 percent and 14.9 percent of manufactured exports and total exports. 

Know more about: UK Textile Manufacturing SMEs adapt New Technologies

The Current Scenario

With the growing demand for cheap clothing, retailers are continuously looking for cost-effective ways to keep their stock up. Today labor costs are 37 times cheaper when outsourced to Asia than when buying from domestic suppliers. However, most of the high street chains are continuing to turn their backs on UK-manufactured clothing, which results in many campaigns to Buy British.

Today two major concerns of the UK textile industry are infrastructure and skills. For cotton producers to again reach the highs in the early 20th century is quite challenging. However, the UK has dedicated considerable skills and infrastructure to restores the cotton manufacturer.

Yet, the United Kingdom holds the top 15th position in the list of textile goods producers worldwide. The UK textile industry is moving towards a brighter future by starting smaller, producing high-quality goods, luxury garments, and continuously innovating new clothing to buy as best gifts for men and women.

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