Cashmere weaves new educational links

Professor Alison Harley, Head of the School of Textiles and Design, and Michael Russell, Education Secretary, view the exhibition in the British Ambassador's Residence in Beijing

Heriot-Watt University has partnered with one of Scotland's pioneering cashmere firms, Johnstons of Elgin, to take the talents of Scottish textiles students to one of the world's fastest growing markets for cashmere.

This project has showcased Scotland's talent, experience and expertise to one of the world's fastest growing economies.

Michael Russell, Education Secretary

Students from Heriot-Watt University's School of Textiles and Design have worked with counterparts from Beijing's Tsinghua University in a collaborative design project, sharing their extensive experience of working with the fabric with their Chinese peers.

Scotland's growing cashmere industry is worth an estimated £200 million a year to the Scottish economy while China is fast emerging as a key market and producer of cashmere.

Education Secretary Michael Russell today toured an exhibition of the students' work in Beijing as part of his week-long trip to China.

Mr Russell said: "This is a clear exhibition of the talent and vision held by the students. It is clear that students from both countries have enjoyed exploring traditions of old as well as the new. The quality of the fabrics and the innovative design are excellent.

"The purpose of my visit is to promote educational and economical links between Scotland and China. This project captures this sentiment perfectly. Johnstons of Elgin, a 200 year old Scottish manufacturer of cashmere, and Heriot Watt, one of our many world-renowned universities, have worked together to invest in the students' future and the future of Scotland's textiles industry.

"This project has showcased Scotland's talent, experience and expertise to one of the world's fastest growing economies."

An excellent opportunity for knowledge exchange

The exhibition with Tsinghua University features a range of designs including new interpretations of archive patterns and Heriot-Watt's unique collection of Paisley pattern shawls.

The exhibition also aims to help develop an understanding of Scotland's national identity through raising awareness of Scottish contemporary and traditional culture.

The standard of design is such that final year Heriot-Watt students have been selected to work with fabrics made by world leading producers Johnston's of Elgin.

Heriot Watt University said: "We are delighted and honoured to be working in collaboration with Tsinghua University. This is an extremely prestigious university that excels in art and design.

"The student design project, sponsored by Johnston's of Elgin provides an excellent opportunity for knowledge exchange and for students from both countries to work together. We look forward to building future links through collaborations in teaching and research."

James Dracup, Group Managing Director of Johnstons, said: "We firmly believe that working in partnership with academic institutions brings real benefits to both sides. At Johnstons we have ongoing projects with several universities in a range of areas including design and creativity, supply chain and logistics as well as energy usage and carbon footprint.

"We realise the importance of ensuring that our business does not standstill and collaborative work presents an opportunity to improve our performance. This project offers the chance to support and work with the talented graduates who represent the future of our industry."

More information

The Scottish Government's innovative Engage for Education site allows users to read blogs from Ministers, post comments and get involved in workshops on issues relating to education.