My mum made a lot of clothes for my older sister and I as children. I won’t pretend we were the most fashionable kids in the school but it was an endless source of fascination and intrigue.
I would ponder quietly: how do these flat, funny shaped pieces of fabric become a pair of dungarees? Or equally baffling, for a young mind, how are these balls of wool going to become a bat-winged jumper?!
Without doubt, there is a degree of magic in creating something by hand. Or indeed even watching someone create something by hand (if you don’t believe me, make a robot from old bits of cardboard with any five year old!). When it all comes together, you can’t help but smile.
My choice to manufacture my new brand within the UK was an easy one.
From my point of view, the advantages of doing so far outweighed the disadvantages. Primarily, I wanted to be close to the action. Of course, the UKs manufacturing heyday is long gone, as are the belching chimneys of factories that sprawled across the country. Everyone knows that clothes are no longer manufactured in the UK. Right? Wrong! I was pleasantly amazed.
As I visited factories across London I found that each was different in scale and specialism. It soon became clear that the quality of the workmanship was second to none. The British manufacturing industry had not disappeared, but it certainly didn’t look like it did in my school textbooks!
Finding a factory with which I could form a good working relationship wasn’t easy. I would be working with (relatively) small production runs for a start, something that not all factories are set up for. I also wanted to find someone who would be supportive of me and someone who believed in the project.
One day, one factory manager recommended another: a small factory in East London. The woman who ran it was knowledgeable, to the point and clearly busy. All good signs, I thought. We agreed, over the clatter of sewing machines, that they would make a series of samples for inspection. If I were happy, they would make my first, small-scale production run, to launch the brand. It was terrifying and exciting in equal measure.
Manufacturing locally means many things.
I can hand deliver my fabrics and patterns and talk through the plans in person. I can meet all the people involved in the process and watch them working. I can work with a much shorter turn around time, meaning that I can be more responsive to new ideas. I am contributing to the local economy, and playing a small part in ensuring that skilled workers enjoy continued employment. Importantly, given that nothing ever runs completely smoothly, I am close by if any problems arise.
Manufacturing within the UK also means that I can easily pay the factory a visit; just to watch the pieces come together. It’s all come together now, and I can look on and smile.
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