Whenever I attend events outside of my professional area, the question is inevitable: What is a Textile Engineer? What are the skill sets required? Do you buy fabrics, print, dye or design?
Textiles has been on of the most profitable businesses in our global market. Without the investment in R&D apparel retail companies wouldn’t be able to continue production and deliver a finished garment.
It seems much more interesting than what it sounds, so I decided to dedicate this post for those students who are contemplating on the idea of becoming a Textile Designer or Engineer. Both lead to the same path, which is understanding the Design's team concept, sourcing, negotiating and modification of yarns and fibers to guarantee differentiation, quality, and exclusivity between your product and the main competitors in the field ( Active wear, Haute couture, lingerie, etc…)
If some are still wondering what the heck does a Textile Engineer and is it worth a shot at studying to become a professional in this area, I will try my best to explain in a nutshell.
Every collection has a concept developed. The design team travels abroad and researches what are the main trends for the next season. What color, shape, cuts, and looks will be seen on the runways and streets in one year from the beginning of their initial research. In the meantime the Textile Engineer is also traveling to research new mills and vendors that have new fabric, trims collections and specially the ability to produce top of the state quality to the product being delivered to it’s customers.
With that being said, the Textile Engineer or Raw Materials Manager will set the first meeting with the design team, merchants, buyers, sourcing, operational team and line product managers to present what are the next fabric directions and how that aligns with the collection. Pricing is a huge concern when developing each fabric, and how it is possible to can manipulate the surface, creating a novelty without breaking the bank.
If all of this seamed boring, here is finally the rewarding and fun part of the process:
Manipulating a surface of a woven or knit requires knowledge in the construction of both, and how many chemical processes can affect the finished garment. Softness, shine, stretch and recover are discussed many times during the collection to prevent unsatisfactory results..
You will be responsible to negotiate pricing, depending on the market commodities or simply an average of what is a fair expense based on your experience and previous collection with that same supplier. That is why it is crucial to maintain a supplier scorecard that will facilitate your planning along the way.
The next step will be followed by testing’s.... such as flammability, pilling, stretch and recovery, transparency, lab dips (color approvals), fabric library management and imputing all information’s through a software called PLM or PDM. This will also ensure an accurate communication with all the mills and vertical vendors that will be involved on developing each fabric and trim for it's correspondent garment.
That explanation really is a very brief description on the daily duties of my profession and so many others. It takes persistency, expertise, patience, and personal skills since you will be dealing with a small industry even though it might appear to be a large sector.
I would suggest also instructing yourself in the chemical area, since it will come in handy during partnerships with companies that develop Lycra, dyes, polymers and washes.
The FUN FACTOR? - Looking at a finished product and knowing that you and your teammates developed a product that will be unique,everlasting and never ordinary.
I hope that this article helped many of those interested in developing a career as a Textile Engineer. For further information, I am more than happy to assist any questions.
Wishing all the best luck and success! After all, this world needs a little creativity and aesthetic in everyone’s clothing.