Well-known for its application-oriented fashion and textile academic programmes and close ties with the local industry, ITC’s educational attainment and success have come a long way. The remarkable developments of the Institute have witnessed the efforts of different headships at various development stages.
ITC was the first institute at the Hong Kong Polytechnic and established in December 1977 from the former Department of Textile Industries. The department came into existence in December 1957, coinciding at the same time with the opening of the new premises of the former Hong Kong Technical College in Hunghom. A 3-year textile technology course was first offered in January 1958 and then in September, evening classes in spinning and weaving were conducted as a 5-year evening course leading to a Higher Certificate. Mr M.N. Holmes was the first department head with four other teaching staff. In 1960, 14 students from the textile technology course graduated and all of them were readily recruited by the local textile industry. September 1961 saw the inception of a 3-year technology course in Dyeing, Printing and Finishing.
In 1966, Mr J. Woolfenden was appointed as the department head and in April 1967, a new wool section building was completed. Two new courses were initiated, namely the 3-year Higher Diploma course in Wool Technology and the 2-year Ordinary Diploma for Wool Technicians. Students that were enrolled in the courses had their practical classes conducted in the Wool Building, which housed wool spinning and knitting machines.
In August 1972, the Hong Kong Polytechnic was officially established, taking over the campus of the Hong Kong Technical College. This marked a new era of technical education in Hong Kong. Funded by the University and Polytechnic Grants Committee, both the Polytechnic and the textile department underwent rapid development and expansion. In ITC, the department accepted graduates from the UK as lecturers to strengthen and broaden the diversity of its teaching force. In 1977, the Department was renamed as the Institute of Textiles and Clothing (ITC) under the leadership of Professor K.K. Chan, who assumed headship in August 1994. During the orientation and the industry changes that came with the open door policy in China, the Polytechnic strategized itself in line with the changing demands of the industry. ITC has since been continuously reviewing its academic programmes in alignment with the needs of the industry. New programmes and modes of study were introduced, including Sandwich-type programmes, Clothing Studies programmes and part-time day release and evening study modes were also offered. In 1980/81, ITC was the first recognized centre in the Far East to offer a 4-year course for the Associateship of the Textile Institute, UK. The associate award is a first degree equivalent professional qualification and later the Institute, as a recognized centre, also organized Associate Examinations on behalf of the Textile Institute in Asian and Australasia regions. This marked the international collaboration of the Institute and later in 1985, a 2-week intensive training programme was jointly organized by the Department of Business and Management Studies and ITC for 13 factory managers from Courtaulds Clothing, the largest clothing manufacturer in the UK.
During this period, with the upgrading of curriculum and teaching methodology, ITC also upgraded its Higher Diploma clothing course to a Professional Diploma in Clothing Technology. In 1985, we saw the first degree course implemented by ITC; the BA (Hons) in Textile and Clothing Marketing Studies, a programme jointly offered with the Department of Business and Management Studies at the Polytechnic.
With its achievement in technological training, ITC further focused its training in the areas of fashion design. In 1987, a unique exhibition that featured 14 pieces of special designed costumes and was jointly organized by ITC and the Commercial Press Ltd. On display were a number of traditional Chinese costumes made from modern fabrics as well as a collection of fashionable outfits using ancient Chinese motifs and prints that were produced by the staff and students at the Institute.
Prof. Philip Yeung assumed the headship of the Institute in 1992. He was vested with the responsibility for upgrading the research capabilities of the department as the Hong Kong Polytechnic aimed to attain University status. Research activities had expanded to various academic departments in the Polytechnic and subsequently, the Polytechnic attained full university status in November 1994 with funding by the University Grants Committee. During this period, ITC recruited a number of outstanding researchers from overseas to enhance the research activities in different subject areas for the textile and clothing discipline.
In 1997, Dr Patrick Chong was appointed as the Department Head. With a vision to nurture high quality graduates for the textiles and clothing industry, he was the first academic staff at ITC to supervise post-graduate research students when he first joined the Institute as a lecturer. ITC was also appointed to host the University’s Areas of Strategic Development in “Fashion: Design and Technology Innovation and Marketing” during the same year. With support from the Industry Support Fund (ISF), ITC and the Clothing Industry Training Authority (CITA), collaboration ensued in setting up the territory’s first Textile Manufacturing Technology Centre which was commercialized to a private company after a few years of operation.
One year later, Prof. Edward Newton joined the Institute as the new head of the department. With his international contacts and vision, collaborations with overseas universities in the form of student exchanges and global courses were initiated. Thanks to the international vision of Prof. Newton, ITC has participated actively in fashion and textile education with a much wider global perspective. He also connected with the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York and the Insitut Français de la Mode (IFM) in Paris to develop a new programme for the Master of Arts in Fashion and Textiles (Global Fashion Management) which was later launched in 2004/05. The special features of this programme had a curriculum that included intensive seminars and site visits to New York and Paris, in addition to similar activities in Hong Kong, where students were able to broaden their vision and learn about the latest developments in the global business of fashion. Internally, the BSc (Hons) programmes in ITC also underwent a drastic revamping to cater for the needs of the community. All BSc programmes were revamped to the BA (Hons) Scheme in Fashion and Textiles and embraced four specializations to meet the demands of the industry and the different interests of the students. These specializations included: Fashion and Textile Design, Fashion Technology, Fashion and Textile Marketing and Merchandising and Fashion Retailing. In 2001/02, the programme had its first intake of 124 students that embarked on a first common semester of study.
ITC is also active in the hosting of conferences. In 2001, ITC hosted the 6th Asian Textile Conference and over 400 delegates from different parts of the world participated in the event. One year later, the department organized the Annual Conference of the International Federation of Fashion Technology Institutes (IFFTI) in November 2002 and a number of keynote speakers were invited to deliver talks at the conference.
In 2003, Prof. Tao Xiaoming was promoted to the Head of Department. During the past four years, with the concentrated research efforts of its staff, ITC has earned a fast-growing reputation as a world-class research and educational centre. With the financial subvention of the Innovation and Technology Commission and also the financial support from the local industry, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the ITC established the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) in 2005. The Institute’s funding support secured from the industry and the Innovation and Technology Fund was over HKD $330 million, and intended for an operational period of five years until self-sustainability. The vision of the Institute aims to become a leading centre of excellence in research, development and technology transfer in fashion and textile technologies. The Institute will work closely with the industry for the continual development of technologies for the textile and apparel industry and to enhance competitiveness in the global marketplace.
With a passion for the industry and a substantial donation from Ace Style Intimate Apparel Limited and other apparel companies, the ACE Style Institute of Intimate Apparel was also established in 2005 with a strong commitment to strengthen university education in Intimate Apparel. As of September 2005, ITC offers the BA (Hons) programme in Intimate Apparel, a first in Hong Kong and the Asia Pacific region.
Apart from research achievements, ITC also launched other new study programmes in 2004 which included the self-financed part-time BA (Hon) programme in Fashion and Textile Studies and the MA in Fashion and Textiles (Fashion Merchandising) with the Xi’an Polytechnic University. The MA programme in Global Fashion Supply Chain Management, in collaboration with Ensait of France and North Carolina State University (NCSU), had its first intake of students in 2006/07. This is a full-time programme and students are required to spend one semester in Paris, Raleigh (North Carolina) and Hong Kong.
Prof. Tao also emphasised the image of ITC by introducing new and reinforcing marketing and promotional activities of the department. A series of promotional and liaison activities has been conducted with overwhelming participation and received favourable comments. These help to develop and strengthen existing close links with different sectors of the fashion and textile industry as well as the community. It benefits ITC and the valued partners who gain from each other. The partnership activities include: exhibitions, seminars, symposium, fashion shows and publication of the departmental newsletter.
Under the leadership of Prof. Tao, the Institute has experienced strong growth and continues to excel in teaching, research and partnerships with the fashion and textile industry as well as professional and continuing education.