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    Forty Years in Textiles: Q&A with Andrew Kitts

    Andrew Kitts, Sales Manager for Dyes and Chemicals at MagnaColours, celebrates forty years of working in the textile industry this week. We thought it was a great opportunity to catch up with Andrew and learn more about his career and the changes he’s seen happen across the industry in that time.

Tell us about your career, Andrew.

Forty years ago this week, I set off on my bicycle on a journey that has had a few twists and turns, but has also been amazing. That journey was my career in the textile industry. ‘Career’ may be a misnomer, because during that time period I’ve actually had what I’d describe as two careers.

Roughly half was spent working directly in dyeing and finishing production facilities – for the most part at the sadly long-gone Stevenson’s Dyers at Ambergate in Derbyshire. The other half of my career has been selling dyes and chemicals into the textiles industry, both at home in the UK and overseas.

For several years before I learned to drive, I fondly remember commuting regularly via bicycle to Ambergate, not knowing in future I’d be travelling the world visiting countries as diverse and varied as Bangladesh, Colombia, and Vietnam.

What changes have you seen in the industry?

The increase in automation and use of technology has been a key change. Dyeing and finishing machinery now have advanced controllers and match prediction. Technological innovation has made dyeing and finishing faster, more efficient, and offers more consistent end results on textiles.

‘Right first-time’ processing is now integral to the industry. When I first started out blind dyeing wasn’t really employed by textile processors. We had a large team of dyers who regularly looked at ‘shows’ before making additions of colour to dyebaths using techniques that hadn’t really changed in decades. A combination of improved machinery (now often using much lower volumes of water than in the past), better quality dyes, and general attention to detail mean that for batch-wise processing, right first-time is now expected, not a dream!

One of the most important changes I’ve witnessed is the growing focus on the environment and sustainability. In the 1980’s, chlorinated solvents were still used for scouring and preparing textiles. Aromatic compounds used as polyester dyeing carriers and alkyl phenol ethoxylates were still used widely. Effluent was a major issue in the industry but environment policy changes and increased demand for eco-sensitive products from consumers have ensured practices are far more sustainable.

Linked to this, the rise of voluntary certifications has been a major driver in ensuring best environmental practices across the industry. I’m proud to now represent the MagnaColours brand and its ITO Range of products. We have a wide range of dyes, chemicals, and printing pastes certified to GOTS, Oeko-Tex Eco Passport, and ZDHC, as well as products fully compliant with major brands’ RSLs.

What about the future of the textiles industry?

My role is now focused on managing sales in the UK market, and I’m really pleased to work with a wide range of customers here that are manufacturing wonderful products and are truly at the forefront of textile innovation. I’m always saddened to hear people say ‘there’s nothing left’ in the UK with regard to textile manufacturing – they’re so wrong!

The MagnaColours and ITO Range brands are going from strength to strength, especially after joining Avient Corporation as part of an acquisition in July 2021. Our dyes and chemicals division has several exciting new products hitting the market including Itoguard AquaShield +. I’m truly excited to continue my career and see the industry evolve even further.

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