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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 5

I 1788 - State Of The Art In Textile Technology

II Australian Textiles - The Early Days

III Australian Textiles - The 20th Century
i Technology and Development
ii Australian Wool Textile Research

IV Australian Textiles - To Date

V Acknowledgements



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Technology and Development

As intimated, the between-wars period was the time of establishment and consolidation of many companies in the textile industry in Australia. With the growth and increased competition that occurred there came a demand for improved technology and innovative products aimed at gaining the edge over imports and/or other companies. Many of these technological improvements were geared to products for particular market segments. For example, within 12 months of establishing Prestige Ltd. in 1922 (now incorporated into the Holeproof Division of Pacific Dunlop), the company had interpreted market requirements well and produced 'samples for two seasons', as Mr. George Foletta, one of the founders, explained in Woven Threads (1975):[5]

. . . while these samples were in line with overseas fashion trends, they carried some discernible innovations and/or improvements. One such innovation called 'Silkywarmth' was inspired by the fact that since the advent of short skirts (from ankle up to just below the knee!), many middle aged men and older women suffered so severely from the cold in winter that, in order to maintain appearance, many of them wore silk stockings over cashmere. Our 'Silkywarmth' was a patentable creation as it was the first stocking in the world to be produced by plating artificial silk over cashmere. Although it was not often we were able to make improvements sufficiently outstanding to be patentable, I was entirely confident that the little distinctive features we would continue to incorporate and the high standard of quality would enable us to maintain our leadership, and with it the very considerable demand of that vast array of fashion conscious women who willingly paid our higher prices because the Prestige trademark had already become a guarantee not only of quality, but also of exclusiveness.

The plating of two yarns (involving the controlled knitting of two loops within the same stitch so that only one of these is visible on the face of the stitch), was not a major new technology by international standards, but it was through technical application of this sort, together with clear strategies and sound marketing practices, that Prestige and other companies like it were able to establish niches in the Australian market. Prestige went on to establish its own small research and development department, and was probably the first Australian textile company to do this. Several patents under the company's name appear through the 1920s and 1930s concerned with different types of hose construction and early efforts to shrink-resist wool.

Prestige, however, like other companies, continued to import most if not all of its substantial technology and machinery requirements of this period. There were no Australian manufacturers of spinning frames or weaving machines -the staple equipment for textile manufacture. There was some Australian knitting machine manufacture, but most machines were imported. Some engineering companies, such as Noel P. Hunt Ltd., did offer custom-made machines, such as fabric-inspection and -rolling equipment, and there was quite a business in the manufacture of scouring and dyeing vats by companies such as J. Dyson & Co. and Hall Bros. The advantages of constructing these voluminous machines locally were obvious; relative to other textile equipment their technology was simple. These companies were able to patent improvements to these machines, for example in the transport of wool between scouring bowls (by the use of rollers instead of tynes) and in the design of cages and pumps used in machines for the dyeing of loose fibre or tops.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Hall Bros.; J. Dyson & Co.; Noel P. Hunt Ltd; Prestige Ltd

People in Bright Sparcs - Foletta, George

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 273 - 274, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher