Skip to main content

Top tips for using the LCF Materials Collection with Billie Coxhead

Mannequin in white lace, rack with white sheets hung up.
  • Written bySorcha Cheevers
  • Published date 10 June 2024
Mannequin in white lace, rack with white sheets hung up.
LCF Materials Collection Draping Station. Photography by Ana Blumenkron.

Our library at East Bank is home to the new and improved Materials Collection, where all our students can interact with and learn about a range of material samples to inform their studies. We recently caught up with Billie Coxhead, Materials and Products Coordinator at London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins, who shares her top tips on using the Materials Collection.

Hi Billie, what can students engage with in the Materials Collection?

When visiting the collection students will find a range of materials, objects, processes and resources about materials. Students can use the collection for a range of things, including, but not limited to:


  • If you are feeling stressed or anxious, exploring the collection could help to relieve some stress. There are some super soft materials, materials that make interesting sounds, those with colourful aesthetics and some smells that can connect you with nature.
  • Browse the samples in the collections with all the senses to discover more about the materials and their properties.
  • Open the drawers to find more samples including some examples of how fabrics can be finished, such as laser cutting, pleating or printing, plant-based materials like cork and tagua seeds.
  • Use the draping station fabrics as a comparison to those you have purchased and are unsure of the composition. Look out for the super soft fabric made from milk protein fibres. Use the mannequin (who is yet to be named) to pin the fabric and explore the properties of the materials, alongside their potential for projects.
Materials hanging on a rail.
Draping Station


  • Explore materials across a range of industries with the view of cross-disciplinary research and collaboration. The Collection hosts technical textiles with performance properties such as hydrophobic treated water repellent fabric Induo, artisanal handwoven textiles, Selyn textiles made from banana fibres, and used newspapers.
  • Seeing material in the collection may spark a memory or connection that you could use in your work.
  • Find something unexpected from knitted metal fabrics to hand knotted Sinamay Millinery fabric to inspire your projects. You may want to use the structure, pattern or recreate the properties of an object in your work.

Information and collaboration:

  • Read the labels alongside the materials to learn about the stories behind a material and note the website of the maker or manufacturer to find out more and potentially collaborate with them.
  • Connect with the material culture and provenance of the raw material, methods of construction, production and consumption. Explore who created the material and where this took place.
  • Reach out to connect with the manufacturer or maker to collaborate and use their material in your work to design with. The materials collection could also be seen as a library of potential industry contacts.
  • Use the accompanying resources like the signage in the collection: Materials of the World categories, and Sustainability criteria.
  • You will also find books, magazines, company catalogues and links to subject guide resources that can guide your materials research.


  • Come to the collection to see and interact with new materials, products and processes from across the industries to learn about innovations and research such as Bio-engineered pigments for fabrics from Colorifix or products made from ‘natures waste’ Hasiroo Leaf Leather and BioPuff Cattail plant seed padding/wadding for insulation.


Signs titled Sustainability Criteria.
New signage and categorisation for sustainability and materials.

What resources can students use to obtain their own samples? What advice and tips do you have?

Students can use the Materials Collection as a starting point for finding their own samples. The best thing to do is to look through the samples and look out for the label attached to the material of interest in order to find the website of the manufacturer/maker/distributor. Once you have this information, you can go onto the website to find out about obtaining samples. The manufacturer may have an online shop or will need to be contacted directly for prices and potential samples.

My top tips for sourcing fabrics:

Fabric samples.
Materials Collection. Photography by Ana Blumenkron.

Contacting manufacturers:

  • If you would like to contact a mill or find a material in the collection that does not have an online shop on their website, make sure you have done some research and found out about the manufacturer and what they do. Take a photo or note down the reference or article number of the material you would like to use.
  • Think about the supply chain before reaching out to the manufacturer - what does the company do, do they sell or distribute the raw materials or end-product, or do they manufacture e.g. weave or knit the fabrics? This will be useful to get a good overview and inform your sample request.
  • It might be that they manufacture the yarn, so if you are looking for fabrics that use the yarn, you will need to find out who the collaborating fabric mills are.
  • Once you have done your research, if you can, I would recommend telephoning or asking for an online meeting with the company and speaking to someone in the marketing department, let them know that you are a student at UAL and you would love to use and showcase their fabrics/materials in your work and that you will credit them.
  • Ask the mill or manufacturer if they have any end of roll, deadstock, offcuts or samples that they do not need. Perhaps you could offer to cover postage.
  • If this is not possible ask for a price list and explain the materials and article number you are looking for.
  • If it is not possible to telephone, you can email them, you could use these template emails as an idea of what you can add to your email.
  • Do not get disheartened if a manufacturer does not reply to your email, find another way to contact them e.g. via trade show directories, or search and find another manufacturer of the same or similar material – to do this you could Google  ‘material name manufacturer’ e.g. ‘Knitted metal UK manufacturer’ or search the materials databases.
Materials hung up
Materials Library at East Bank. Photography by Ana Blumenkron

The LCF Materials Collection is open for browsing when the library is open. Students are welcome to handle the materials, take pictures, and scan the materials. For support with your research or guidance on materials, please email: