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Cotton spinning to climbing gear: practical aspects of design evolution in Lancashire and the North West of England

Research output: Working paper



This article looks at the role of path dependency in the design of outdoor clothing and equipment, from the perspective of changing and overlapping industrial clusters in Lancashire and Sheffield, from the 1960s. It demonstrates that, unlike the fashion market, design in mountaineering clothing and equipment was originally based heavily upon functionality and hence on user innovation. It shows that skills and knowledge which evolved during the industrial revolution, in both industrial areas, were vitally important to the development of internationally competitive mountaineering equipment firms. It was, however, the way in which these sources of knowledge were combined with sporting expertise that contributed to the design of innovative functional products. In addition, fundamental changes occurred in the relationship between manufacturers and their customers and these were vital to the success of this process, marking a departure from past practice.