William Clark & Sons Awarded British Fashion and Technology Research & Development Grant

October 13th, 2021

One of the oldest industrial linen processes in the world awarded brand new funding to pioneer sustainable future developments

Northern Ireland textile manufacturer, William Clark and Sons is delighted to announce that they have been awarded the British Fashion and Textile Technology (BFTT) R&D Grant to pioneer sustainable and innovative developments with their signature Beetling process – one of the oldest linen processes still in operation in Ireland today.

William Clark & Sons are reporting that the grant will allow them to breathe contemporary life and relevance into the historic process of Beetling – a now globally unique finish created through mechanical pounding using beech hammers which produces a highly desirable sheen on linen, unrivalled by modern finishing equipment. Traditionally this product is used in tailoring for seam reinforcement due to the fine linen that the process creates making it almost invisible when used in garment construction. Beetled linen found new fame and popularity when it was featured heavily in the Alexander McQueen SS20 collection, stepping out from being hidden in garments to being a decorative fabric. The traditional finish is created entirely naturally with starch which is fragile and can easily mark which limits its usage outside special items.

The project is set to last 15 months and will research eco and sustainable products that can embed inherent stain resistant qualities in the finished product while staying true to the historic nature of the process, creating more durable fabrics and opening up end uses from fashion and accessories to interiors. This will involve establishing a controlled production environment for the Beetling engines to gain more scientific control over manufacturing and installation of video technology to give consumers an insight into the production of this unique linen, which takes in the region of 140 hours to gain its character sheen. William Clark & Sons will be working with local weavers based in Northern Ireland to produce a sustainable collection of fabrics.

Creative Director, Duncan Neil commented: “Working with BFTT, the University of the Arts and Leeds University will give us access to up-to-date knowledge and research on eco chemistry which will be hugely beneficial in progressing the beetled finish.” A Project Lead post will be created to manage the project and partners with the new range of beetled linens set to secure the future of this historic process within Northern Ireland.

Duncan concluded: “We’re absolutely thrilled to be the first Northern Irish business to be awarded the BFTT grant and we look forward to championing innovation within the region and Irish Linen industry.”