Camira: celebrating sustainability

Camira fabrics has celebrated its rich history. Drawing on centuries of heritage and sustainability commitments, it looks to the future with its latest innovation: Hybrid

Anyone who has sat upon a British coach, bus or train seat in the last 200 years can probably say they have been part of Camira history.

History was certainly the focus of ‘woven memories’ last week – a look at the Yorkshire-based textile manufacturer’s past, and the part it has played in the history of transport textiles in Britain.

The firm draws on this rich heritage to maintain appeal to buyers and establish its international image. “The heritage has allowed us to establish the name globally,” says Camira CEO Grant Russell.

But as important a selling-point as its heritage may be, equally important for Camira is the future.

Originally Camborne Fabrics, Camira began its modern history in Huddersfield in 1974, though through a series of acquisitions it blended together centuries of heritage. This can be seen with its acquisition of the likes of Bradbury Fabrics of Huddersfield, founded in 1783, and John Holdsworth & Co of Halifax, founded 1822, which gave Camira much of its presence in the transport textiles market.

The company now operates five textile plants in Yorkshire, a technical knitting facility in Nottingham and a textile mill in Lithuania. Much of the company’s heritage is in London, especially with its ties to Transport for London (TfL). When the New Routemaster debuted, it was Camira’s fabrics which were used for the interior panels. Evidence, Camira says, that Yorkshire is still the centre of textiles in the UK.

The future: Hybrid by Camira

As important a selling-point as its heritage may be, the company is firmly looking towards the future with its latest innovation: Hybrid. The material has spent 18 months in development and is previewing later this year for full introduction in 2020. It combines the practicality of a moquette, traditionally used on transport, with the comfort and style of a flat woven fabric.

As well as its safety properties, being flame retardant to various flammability standards, Camira sells Hybrid on its wool-rich properties. As well as the comfort elements, Camira says that wool is preferable for being a natural, sustainable and renewable source.

Camira capitalises on the bespoke service it offers its clients – approximately 80% of the company’s turnover is by custom-made business, while around 20% is from its own in-house designs, stocked and sold by roll or cut length, it says.

Penny Lovatt, Designer at Camira, has spent years turning customers’ ideas into reality, and says Hybrid is keeping the company at the forefront of textile innovation.

“Camira is one of the most innovative, forward-thinking textile manufacturers in the UK,” Penny says. “Innovation is important. Everyone has started to view moquette as old fashioned, even though it is still the best fabric to deal with dirt, while vinyl and leather can be prone to slipperiness. Flat woven is a nicer material, but not as durable as a moquette. Hybrid strikes a balance.”

Setting the standard

Camira’s fabrics were used on the New Routemaster

Camira’s innovations have always been driven by environmental wellbeing as well as user experience. Ian Burn, Director of Marketing, says that Camborne was the first textile company to adopt the ISO 14001 environmental standard, something now taken for granted.

The emphasis on environmentalism has grown as the years have gone by, with a focus on saving waste, waste streaming, and a “reduce before recycle” mentality. As well as recycled wool and polyester, Camira has innovated environmental textiles from nettles, hemp and flax, and has experimented in bringing these fabrics into the transport industry.

For those wondering what else the future holds besides Hybrid, Camira can offer plenty of hints at future possibilities. One of its most innovative journeys has been with technical knitting, currently only used within the commercial office environment, though it could have exciting potential for coach and bus.

Ian says the material can be manufactured to fit “like a glove” to the desired item. “People are thinking much more about material use,” he adds. “Knit to fit means there’s no need for upholstery foam, reducing components and waste. It’s not outside the realms of possibility that this could be applied to the transport sector.”

Ian explains that it would save on weight and upholstery time. But as transport seats get slimmer, sleeker and more stylish, so the complexities increase with a knitted fabric.

Wool for Water

Camira is committed to other good causes. As water is a key component in the wool industry, it has worked alongside its New Zealand wool supplier for its contact fabrics and water charity Just a Drop to build water tanks and filtration systems where they are needed most, and in just three years has raised £30,000.

And for itself, Camira has considered its own sustainability as a company. This comes in the form of an apprenticeship scheme, which it hopes will keep the heritage and trade alive for years to come.

Ian says it’s the best way to keep Camira and its values going strong in a rapidly changing future. “You have to teach people a craft in order to stay sustainable,” he says.