Exhibition: The Synthetics Revolution – Man-made Fibres and Everyday Fashion

ULITA - Synthetics Revolution

Exhibition dates: 22 June – 21 July and 4 October – 1 December 2016 (open August/September by appointment)

The rise of man-made and synthetic fibres has placed ‘miracle’ materials at the heart of the modern fashion system. Today, these high-performance test-tube materials are found in clothing, furnishings and household goods. From the mid-twentieth century, firms such the DuPont Company, ICI and Courtaulds revolutionised people’s relationships with fibres by making and promoting a family of man-made and synthetic fibres, including rayon, nylon, polyester and acrylic.  As the world’s largest fibre manufacturer, DuPont publicised one new material, acrylic, as a ‘better fibre by design than a sheep produces inadvertently’.

The Enterprise of Culture project (School of History, Leeds) has teamed up with ULITA (University of Leeds International Textiles Archive) and the Yorkshire Fashion Archive (School of Design) to look behind the scenes of the synthetics revolution with the aim of bringing the story of man-made fibres and how we interact with them to life.

Drawing on these two university archive collections, the exhibition delves into how the introduction of synthetic fibres into a predominantly woollen manufacturing area, Yorkshire, had an impact on the lives of its inhabitants and changed the face of the textile industry in the region. Synthetic fibres were a global phenomenon, but many technical innovations originated in Yorkshire. A programme of events will investigate the experiences of people in Yorkshire as they came to know the new wonder fibres and their love/hate relationship with them.

This exhibition particularly promotes ULITA items from the Fibre Collection and Department of Textiles Industries Collection, including items only recently discovered.

For more information, visit the website of ULITA (University of Leeds International Textiles Archive).

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