Senior executives from companies including Debenhams, Gieves & Hawkes, Loakes, Mulberry and Dewhirst have joined the board of Skillset, the new Sector Skills Council for the UK fashion industry.

The chair is John Wilson OBE, who has just retired as director general of the UK Fashion and Textile Association.

He will serve in a transitional capacity for the first year alongside John Shonfeld, managing director of Tibard Laundries, as deputy chair.

The changes come after the industry's lobbying voice on skills issues was transferred from Skillfast-UK to industry body Skillset at the beginning of April.

The UK's 79,000 fashion and textiles businesses joined Skillset's creative industries footprint in a move that should give employers a stronger voice on skills issues for the future.

The Council, which met for the first time this week, provides overall direction and leadership for Skillset's fashion and textiles strategy,

It is made up of representatives from the different industries which make up the sector, spanning all UK nations including large employers, SMEs and trade bodies.

Other Fashion and Textiles Council Skills members include Caroline Greenslade, head of design (Lingerie), Debenhams; Mark Henderson, vice chair, Gieves & Hawkes; David Breckenridge, managing director, Moorbrook Textiles Ltd; Peter Davis, production director, Loakes; Ian Scott, supply director, Mulberry; Mike Williams, managing director for Sportswear, Dewhirst; and Simon Ward, CEO of the British Fashion Council.

"The level of enthusiasm and support from the sector has already been tremendous and I am sure the Council will prove extremely successful," said Skillset's chief executive Dinah Caine.

"There's been much debate about whether we have the right skill set to react to the changing international marketplace," added Caroline Greenslade, head of design for Lingerie at Debenhams.

"I would argue that there's no reason why we can't compete, but we need to keep enhancing our offering and continue to foster strong coalitions with education providers - something which Skillset can facilitate."

Mark Henderson, vice chair, Gieves & Hawkes and chairman, Savile Row Bespoke notes the UK fashion and textiles sector is a major employer and contributes more than GBP10.7bn to the economy.

"To maintain this standing we need to develop and invest in leadership today and skills now in the form of training. 

"There's no reason why the fashion and textiles sector can't continue to grow and flourish and I am looking forward to the opportunity to be part of this."