Kate Hills

Kate Hills is the founder and editor of Make it British. After 20 years working as a designer and buyer for brands such as Burberry, Levis and M&S, she became disillusioned with the short term vision that many of them had about where their products were sourced. Determined to do something to promote British manufacturing and brands who's products are made in Britain, she set up the Make it British website, a leading source of information on products made in the UK> She lives in a mid-century bungalow in Surrey and in her spare time she is studying for a masters degree in internet retailing.

My Google+

Despite sewing traditionally being seen as a ‘woman’s job’ there are still few women running sewing factories in the UK. On International Women’s Day we take a look at some of the inspiring women that are changing the face of garment manufacturing in Britain

sewing factories in the UKI received a call a while ago from a TV researcher asking if I could recommend any female sewing factory owners for a programme they were planning.

I know A LOT of sewing factories in the UK. I mean hundreds, if not thousands. And how many could I think of that were owned and run by women? It was less than a dozen. Which is disappointing when you consider that the vast majority of workers in sewing factories are women.

This low rate of women in top jobs in manufacturing reflects a survey carried out by EEF. They looked at the amount of women on the board of FTSE 100 manufacturing companies and found that the figure was 23%.

Yet I do think that the tide is turning.

This is in part due to the fact that as more small businesses look to manufacture in the UK, so they consider setting up their own small workshop to produce their products. It not only cuts out the cost of a manufacturers overheads, but also makes them the master of their own destiny.

Kate Holbrook Turtle Doves

Kate Holbrook, owner of Turtle Doves

Take for example Kate Holbrook, the founder of Turtle Doves. She set up her sewing studio three years ago and now has 30 people working for her, of which only two are men. Kate says of running her sewing factory,

“It may appear, from the outside, to be about the art of making things but I think that women make successful factory managers because it’s actually about communication and relationships above all and those are skills many women have.”

Kelly Dawson, co-founder of Dawson Denim

Kelly Dawson, co-founder of Dawson Denim

Another brand making it for themselves is Dawson Denim. Kelly Dawson runs a sewing workshop in Brighton with her husband Scott. Having worked in fashion for two decades Kelly could easily have chosen to outsource the manufacturing of her denim brand to a third party. But instead chose to make it all inhouse.

This personalised service means that her customers know the provenance of every garment that they buy from Dawson Denim, most of which has been made by her own fair hand.

Kate Dawson, founder of The All-in-One-Company

Kate Dawson, founder of The All-in-One-Company

Yet not all female factory owners go into the business because they have the sewing skills.

Kate Dawson, the founder of The All-in-One Company, set up her factory knowing nothing about garment production. She did so because she wanted to make a product that was bespoke to each customer, and realised that manufacturers were not keen on making orders of one! She now has a dedicated team of ladies working for her and is an inspiration to anyone who’s looking to make a unique product in Britain.

From my own experience of all the places that I have visited over the years, I do notice that women in sewing factories often run a tight ship. Manufacturing is, after all, all about managing people and timetables, something that women are very used to doing when they have to juggle the myriad of activities that modern children get up to after school.

Jenny Holloway, owner of Fashion Enter

Jenny Holloway, owner of Fashion Enter

“Manufacturing is so complicated but so rewarding,” says Jenny Holloway, the owner of Fashion Enter, a social enterprise factory which manufacturers for everyone from ASOS to M&S.

“I never set out to be a factory owner when I was a senior buyer for the Arcadia Group!  However now I am in this esteemed position I would never have it any other way – every day is different, every day is challenging and actually I now wonder how I was ever an effective Senior Buyer without knowing how to construct and cost a garment.”

But Jenny says that the path to running a successful sewing factory has not been easy. “Its taken 9 years to achieve the position of where I actually feel confident in all aspects of manufacturing but I am not arrogant enough to think that I could do this job without the wonderful team of the factory manager, production manager, QCs,  machinists and pressers.”

“I do think this is where woman have an advantage of being able to multi task, are not afraid to ask for advice and guidance when its required and actually just become so darn determined to make a job work.”

That hard work and determination have certainly paid off for Jenny. Today her factory has a leading status in the new Fast Forward audit, only two companies out of 360 have this accolade with ASOS.   

I hope that going forward we will see more and more woman taking the lead like those I’ve mentioned above, and start to set up or take over the running of sewing factories in the UK. It certainly seems like the modern woman has all the right skills for the job!

If you know of an inspiring woman running a manufacturing business in the UK in any sector then we’d love to feature them in a future article. Please leave just pop a mention of them  in the comments below

The Irish linen industry once employed over 40 percent of Northern Ireland’s working population, but sadly most of the mills have since closed down. I took a tour of Northern Ireland to visit some of the manufacturers still remaining in this often forgotten part of the UK textile industry. Read on to find out what I discovered.

Irish linenWhilst I have been writing about and visiting UK manufacturers for nearly a decade now, I am ashamed to say that I have never ventured over the water to Northern Ireland, once synonymous with the words Irish linen.

So when I got a call from Invest Northern Ireland inviting me to speak at a textile event they were holding, I couldn’t say no. And I’m so glad I didn’t!

Richard Pelan, Innovation Advisor for Invest NI, kindly took me to visit some of the manufacturing contacts that he’s been working with. Over two days I visited 6 of the best textile manufacturers that the UK has to offer.

What amazed me was how diverse the products that they made were, but what they all had in common was they were innovative and growing companies.

Read on to find out who I visited and the products that they make, but first, a little bit about the history of textile in Northern Ireland…

Back in the day the Irish textile industry was huge, employing 70,000 people at its peak over 37,000 looms. Everything centred around linen and practically every town and village had a mill or a factory. In 1955 there were 55 linen spinners in Northern Ireland, but sadly there are no more. The last closed in 2009. And the last weaver of any substantial size is Fergusons, which you’ll read about later.

Whilst many people think of linen when they think of Irish textiles, they also made a substantial amount of garments, including shirts, jeans and uniforms.

Sadly the Northern Irish textile industry has been even more greatly effected than the rest of the UK, with barely a hundred or so manufacturers left. Those that remain have done so because they have adapted, and because they have become specialists in high-end manufacturing. None of the factories that I visited served the price-pressured high street anymore. Instead they work with luxury clients all over the world.

Frances Dinsmore at Templemoyle Mills

Frances Dinsmore at Templemoyle Mills

First up was a stop at Francis Dinsmore at Templemoyle Mills. Originally established over two centuries ago by Augustian monks who were experts in dyeing, Dinsmore are specialists in cotton dyeing and finishing. I met with the company’s owner Barry Corrigan, who gave me a tour of the mill.

Run by the Dinsmore family from 1791 to 2007, the business was bought Barry, then managing director,  in 2007, because he didn’t want to see the factory knocked down and turned into flats. “You can only benefit by building property on the site once, whereas with textiles you can go on and on,” he tells me.

Barry talked with great passion about the many new business opportunities that he has made happen since he took over and it is clear why he has managed to more than double turnover in the last decade. Adding synthetic dyeing and cotton waxing, to the cotton dyeing and finishing that the Dinsmore were already doing, has greatly increased the variety of customers and industries that the business serves.

Supplying a broad variety of different customer bases is what has helped Dinsmore to survive where other textile companies in Northern Ireland have fallen by the wayside. Their customer base is as diverse as furnishing wholesalers, apparel companies, accessories manufacturers, the automotive trade and the book-binding industry. If you have a copy of the Koran it may be covered with fabric finished at the Francis Dinsmore mill.

Most recently the firm has set up an area to apply a waxed finish to cotton cloth under the brand name Templemoyle Mills. Named after the building in which Dinsmore are based, the fabric is used for outerwear, luggage, and accessories. If you are looking for waxed cotton fabric do check out Templemoyle Mills. They have loads of different weights, colours and finishes of the fabric in stock and they can supply it in quantities as small as 50 metres.

The fabric dyeing trade can be one of the most polluting parts of the textile industry. You only have to look at the pictures of Chinese rivers in rainbow shades – a bi-product of dye houses flushing out into rivers. Barry tells me that Dinsmore have stopped using many chemicals now that would have been used in the past, and many chemicals that are still approved for use, they don’t even touch.

RA Irwin textile manufacturers Northern Ireland

RA Irwin

My next stop was RA Irwin. Originally founded in 1951 as a handkerchief manufacturers, they are now a fully vertical weaver, finisher and printer of fabrics for blinds and bedding.

Still a family company, I was shown around by Richard Irwin, the grandson of the founder.  It is a wonder that Irwin is still in business, having survived both a fire in 1985 and a flood in 2008. But the Irwin’s are obviously a resilient bunch. And also very adaptable too.

When hankies went out of fashion, instead of packing it in, the business quickly switched to being a warp knitter. Then in the late ’90s they spotted an opportunity in weaving for the furnishing industry. With 34 looms and weaving 100,000 metres of cloth a month, they are probably one of the biggest weavers in the UK.

The fabric that they weave is made into all different types of blinds – including 1,000 metres a week of blackout blinds produced to meet a growing demand from parents for totally dark rooms for sleeping babies!

Irwin were also one of the first UK textile manufacturers to invest in digital printing technology – buying their first fabric printer in 2008 so that they could produce printed blinds to add to their collection.

Supplying through household names such as Hillary’s Blinds, Silent Night, Bensons and Dreams, chances are, you have had fabric woven and finished by RA Irwin in your property or workplace at some point in time.

Irish Linen

Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen

After RA Irwin we headed down to Banbridge to the last remaining linen weaver in Northern Ireland – Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen, where I was greeted by one of their directors – Judith Neilly.

There used to be 38 weavers in Banbridge alone. Now Fergusons are the last of their kind, and have remained in business due to their diverse range of customers. They supply everyone from London Fashion Week designers, film and TV and the furnishing industry under their John England brand of linen fabrics.  As well as the Scouts and Girl Guides with badges which they embroider onsite under their Franklins brand. Visit any gift shop in Northern Ireland you will find Irish linen products made by Thomas Ferguson.

If you have ever watched Game of Thrones you would have seen plenty of fabrics woven at the Ferguson mill. Judith works very closely with the TV show’s costume department to create fabrics for the costumes for the show. She explains that linen has the perfect properties for TV – having the ability to look very aged and worn when it is creased, and the ability to look brand new again once it is washed and ironed.

Their weaving shed is vast, housing dozens of jacquard looms noisily hammering away producing the finest Irish linen cloth. They also have a sewing room where the cut and finish all of the linen tableware that they sell all over the world.

The range of cloth produced at the Ferguson mill is extremely diverse – from open, net-style weaves used in the latest Star Wars movies, to a lustrous indigo-dyed denim factory made by combining linen in the warp and cotton in the weft of the fabric.

To get an idea of the vast array of fabrics in John England range take a look at their website, or find them exhibiting at our Meet the Manufacturer trade show in May.

Ulster Carpets made in UK

Ulster Carpets

My final visit of the day finished on a high, as I had the opportunity to step inside Ulster Carpets in Portadown. I’ve never been in a carpet weaving mill before, so this was a real treat. Especially given that Ulster Carpets are not only the largest carpet manufacturers in the UK, but one of the top producers in the world.

I was taken inside the mill by David Acheson, the mill’s Head of Strategic Operations. Unfortunately, due to the unique patented technology that Ulster Carpets have introduced to their looms to make them more efficient, I was unable to take any photos. So you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was amazing!

The Ulster Carpets mill produces 40,000 metres of carpet per week, 70% of which goes outside of the UK. One of their biggest markets is casinos, so you can image the crazily patterned flooring that some of the looms were churning out.

The mill gets through 1.8 million kilos of wool every year, with 80% of the fibre being British wool. They have recently built a new dyehouse too, which uses some of the most up-to-date technology to dye the yarn, including robotised machinery. No one could ever say that the textile manufacturers of Northern Ireland were lacking in innovation!

Bridgedale socks made in Ireland

Bridgedale Socks

On day two of my tour I had the pleasure of visiting Bridgedale socks, an extremely modern sock factory in Newtownands, not far from Bangor. They’ve been knitting socks here since 1950, and are specialists in socks for the outdoor market.

I am astounded by the complexity that can go into producing a sock. For a start, several different yarns, such as Merino, polypropylene, nylon and Lycra, are twisted together so that each can be used to create a part of the sock with distinct properties. For instance, some areas may require cushioning, whilst others have a more open construction for ventilation. Plus there’s all the different colours that go into the sock’s design too.

Once the yarn is prepared it moves over to the circular knitting machines, of which there are 52 at Bridgedale. Each one spits out a fully finished sock in around 3 minutes and the factory produces 1.2 million socks a year.

After the knitting process each sock is applied to a strange looking upside-down flat leg, which takes it through a steaming chamber in order that it is ready to go into its packaging. After careful inspection to ensure that it meets the high quality expected of a Bridgedale sock it is then packaged and ready to be shipped.

Over 45 percent of Bridgedale’s socks end up on feet outside the UK, in 42 countries across the world. Each pair is guaranteed for three years, “but often last much, much longer” says the firm’s Director of Operations Jim Campbell.

The Irish linen industry and my textiles tour of Northern IrelandLast stop on my whirlwind tour of the textile manufacturers of Northern Ireland was Ulster Weavers. Despite the name, the 127 year old company has not woven cloth for many years. They moved into the home textile market in the 1960’s,  specialising at first in Irish linen tea towels. Over the years that have extended their product ranges to include all types of kitchen items.

Whilst Ulster Weavers no longer produce cloth in the UK, they do have a screen-printing facility in Northern Ireland and produce finished home textile products for both their own range as well as bespoke work for other clients.

So, that’s a brief summary of my textiles tour of Northern Ireland. I would love to go back, as there is so much more than could be seen in two days. There are still several shirt manufacturers there, as well as some wool weavers in Mourne that I would have liked to have got to.

I was also due to visit Wm Clark on this trip, the oldest textile business still in operation in Northern Ireland. But sadly the mill had a serious fire the day before I was due to arrive, and understandably they weren’t up for a visit. I do hope that they get back into operation soon, it would be devastating to see the business close down. But if all of the manufacturers that I met on my visit were anything to go by, it would take more than a fire to keep an Irish textile business to get them down!

Why is manufacturing her shoes in the UK important to Shaherazad, founder of Shoes by Shaherazad? And how do her heels empower women across the world? Find out in our interview with the inventor of the ’18 Hour Heels’

Shaherazad (centre) with some of the friends and family that have modelled her collection

This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Shaherazad Umbreen, founder of Shoes by Shaherazad. In just a year since launching her business, Shaherazad has seen her comfortably yet stylish shoes grace the feet of everyone from Frances O’Connor to Alexa Chung and Jane Danson.

She tells us about why empowering women is at the heart of her brand, and why working with a UK factory was the only option for her

Shoes by Shaherazad

Shoes by Shaherazad

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and why you launched your brand?

I work in a very male dominated world heading up the marketing and PR for a big retailer. I had always had a great passion for shoes, and what fascinated me was how I saw women hobbling round the boardroom at work in uncomfortable heels. I thought “there must be a way of creating a comfortable shoe that is also stylish and looked nice” and so I set about creating the business in the evenings and at weekends, whilst still doing my day job.

What were some of the biggest challenges when setting up the brand?

I have a background in business but know nothing about design, so I went to the London College of Fashion at weekends and they helped me to develop the design element of the shoes.

shoes by Shaherazad

The shoes lined up and ready to have the heel applied

Why did you choose a factory in the UK to manufacture your shoes?

I looked at factories all over the world, but decided that the shoes needed to be made in the UK in order for the process to be manageable for me.  The quality had to be excellent and I knew that if they were made locally even if something went wrong I could easily put it right. It was also important that I worked with an ethical factory and the UK filled this criteria too.

You call your shoes ’18 Hour Heels’. How have you engineered them in the manufacturing stage in order that they can live up to this claim?

I worked very closely with the factory to get the fit of the shoes right. In the end the comfort is down to a combination of things – in terms of the heel we have engineered them so that there is more support and it distributes the body evenly. The shoe also has a rounded toe, and there is comfort padding inside too.

It took us over a year to get the strap right due to the variation in instep heights. Trials with the thickness of the leather, and where the stitching and magnet were placed were critical. But it was worth it, as over two thirds of our customers go on to make a repeat purchase. Proving the comfort claims are true!

shoes by shaherazad

The brand’s mission is stamped on the sole of the shoes

Can you tell us a little bit more about your 18 Hour Heels ‘boardroom to bar’ concept?

There’s two reasons.  Firstly, it’s because they’re so comfortable; so when you need to get through a long day you have some heels which will help you through.

Secondly, it’s because they’re designed so that they can be worn smart in the day and sparkling at night through the shoellery concept.

The jewelled straps were developed by my footwear factory and I have now taken the development a stage further with the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham using 3D printing and traditional metal bashing to create an 18 carat gold range.

shoes by shaherazad

The brands shoellery concept allows them to go from boardroom to bar

What percentage of your business is export?

About 40%. We have customers in the UAE, Australia, Germany and the USA. Plus, I recently did a launch event for our 18 carat gold range in Kuwait, and got to meet the Kuwaiti Royal Family.

shoes by shaherazad

Shaherazad in the UK factory

Your aim is to empower women through your shoes, could you explain how you do this?

We do this in several ways.

Firstly, through our partnership with GlobalGiving UK we give 10% of our profits to help educate disadvantaged women all over the world. In the last 12 months, 500 women and girls have gained an education due to donations that we have given and we know the stories of all of them.

My aim was for a woman who can afford to buy the shoes to help empower another female less fortunate than themselves. For instance, we’ve built this room with 6 sewing machines in Kenya so that women can learn how to sew and earn a living from making clothes.

Our philanthropic work is wholly inclusive and benefits women of all faiths and of non-faith. We are currently educating women and girls in Peru, Pakistan, Palestine and Kenya.  The brand’s aim is to be supporting women wherever there is poverty, including in developed nations such as the UK.   

We also empower women by being honest in the way that we represent body imagery. All of our brand materials use ‘real’ women, and by this we mean females who do not have their body shapes, textures or appearances altered in any way.  The brand photography promotes women who have no professional modelling experience. Instead their experience is in professional roles such as medicine, education, law and business so that we inspire women to be proud of who they are, how they think, and how they look. Brand models are chosen for their confidence and not their looks.

 We also encourage women to buy less and buy better through our shoe jewellery concept which ensures the heels can be worn for any desk to dance floor occasion.  

What’s next for Shoes by Sheherazad?

I’m now working with the factory on how we can build the comfort into an even higher heel, plus a flat shoe is on the cards too.

You can find out more about Shoes by Sheherazad here.

This weeks Facebook Live covered everything from whether there was any support from the Government for UK manufacturers, to beauty brands and eco-packaging. Below is the transcription of the show.

Hello everyone, welcome to the Ask Kate Live Facebook Q&A. I’m Kate Hills, I am the founder of Make It British, we do this weekly Live Facebook Q&A at one o’clock every Thursday where I answer your questions on buying British and working with UK manufacturers. 

British-made Beauty Brands

Today we are talking about British made beauty brands; we’re answering a question about eco-packaging from last week; we’ve got some interesting information about buttons made in the UK; and also helping someone who wants to find leather manufacturers in London.  So welcome to everyone that’s joined.

I’ll kick off by talking about British made beauty brands. 

Every week we put a call out on our Instagram asking people to recommend products on a certain topic and this week we covered beauty brands.  We’ve had lots of response, and we’ve started adding them to the site. So do pop over to the Make it British website and you’ll see our list of top 20 beauty brands. 

It was great to be able to find so many skincare brands that are made here. We could do with a few more make-up brands, so if anyone does know of where any make-up is made in the UK please let us know.  And if you do have a beauty brand and you’re watching this please add something in the comments below about your brand and we’ll add you to the article.

British-made Eco Packaging

Another item that I want to cover today is a question we had from Elizabeth Rees last week, who was asking where you could get eco-packaging from.  I said I’d go away and do some research on this and I realised it’s a much more complex area than I initially thought because there’s all different types of packaging. You can have board, paper, textiles, wood, so I need a little bit more information in order to answer this question thoroughly.  But I’ve already spoken to a couple of great packaging people who say they do have eco options.

One of those is Elite Labels who offer a big packaging service. They’re based in Leicester and they work with a lot of different garment brands.  They are able to offer eco-packaging, depending on the type of packaging you want. 

And also another company called Progress Packaging who make beautiful packaging, very high end for a lot of designers and they also are able to offer eco options.  But Elizabeth, if you are watching and you have got some more details of exactly what it is you’re looking for please type it in the comments or get back to me and I will give further details on this next week.

But what I am going to do this week straight after I publish this live video to our Facebook page, I’m going to put all the contacts in the comments straightaway so you’ll have the contacts there for Elite Labels and Progress Packaging.


British-made packaging

There are several UK packaging suppliers, many of which can make boxes in recycled materials


Embossing / Printing on Knitwear

The next thing I want to talk to you about today is an enquiry from a company called Ushiwear – they were looking for a manufacturer that can emboss onto knitwear.  Now so far I’ve hit a little bit of a wall with actually embossing on knitwear but I have found a very good company who can print onto knitwear with loads of very innovative techniques.  They’re called Faering, they’re based in Leicester and I certainly think that Ushiwear, if you are watching, it would be worth contacting Faering to find out if they can also work on an embossing technique for you.  And again I will put the contact details for Faering in the comments afterwards.  So Ushiwear, I hope that helps, if you’ve got some more details of the sort of embossing that you want then I will further look into this for you and try and come back to you again next week.

Lauren, have we got any questions?

We’ve got a question from Sarah, is the government offering help to produce garments in England?

Ooh, that’s a good question, is the government offering help to companies that want to produce in the UK?  Currently no, there’s no direct help. I know there’s a lot of people that are now discussing this in light of Brexit and what the government’s industrial policy may be, and hopefully this is one of the things that will be covered.

Will there be certain tax breaks for people that manufacture in the UK? Will big companies that claim that they’re very British be required to manufacture a certain percentage of their products here?  This is all being discussed at the moment at government level. I try not to get too involved in politics, but if find anything more about this I will let you know Sarah. 

So the answer is – unfortunately no, there’s no tax breaks or any special help for people that manufacture in the UK – I wish there was.

Lauren, any other questions?

That’s the only question but Maggie Quinney has given us a thumbs up.

Hello Maggie, actually I’ll give a little shout to Maggie because I’ve just been speaking to Maggie via messaging on Facebook and I understand she’s just set up a garment manufacturers in Hinckley in Leicestershire. She makes all sorts of jersey products, activewear, sportswear – so if you are looking for a jersey or sportswear manufacturer do get in touch with Maggie.  I know she’s a member of our Buy British Community so you can reach out to her on there. 

Leather Manufacturers in London

The final question was from a leather company that manufacturers leather products in the UK. They want to find another manufacturer for leather bags based in London. 

I’ve got a couple of suggestions for this. The first one is Seipel, they are part of the Alma Home business,. They’re based in East London and they have a small manufacturing unit and can make small order quantities of leather goods. 

There’s another company in East London owned by a chap called Jas Sehmbi. He makes a great bag, particularly a more casual style bag. He actually has his own collection as well and then he manufacturers for other people.  Again I’ll put Jas’ details in the notes at the bottom, he is based in East London too. You can contact Jas here.

So I hope those two manufacturers can be of help.  Leathergoods is one of the things that I get more enquiries about than anything els. If you are looking for a particular type of manufacturer and I can’t answer your question in depth here, I do offer a service to help people find manufacturers, there is a small fee for that but for that I can dedicate proper time to you and to find exactly the sort of manufacturer you’re looking for for your product.  Here’s a link for looking for a UK manufacturer which gives you some more details about how that service works.

seipel leather

Seipel are one of a handful of leather manufacturers in London

Are there any more questions Lauren?

Yes – Sarah’s asked another question as well, she’s looking to make a range of t-shirts and is looking for high quality fabrics and print factories.

If you are looking to make some t-shirts in the UK – I am working on a project at the moment about how much it costs to make a T-shirt in the UK, and how that’s broken down according to the cost of the fabric and the style of the garment.  It’s not one of the cheapest items to make in the UK, but you can certainly can get good quality T-shirts made here. 

The company that we’re working with to compile the details about making T-shirts in the UK is called Discovery Knitting. I know Simon Cook from Discovery Knitting is part of our Buy British Group and there has been some discussions already in that group about where to find fabric printing companies and people to make jerseywear.  So Sarah, it might be worth joining, if you’re not already, and if you do a search within the group for printers you’ll find there’s been a fantastic thread about fabric printers in the UK.

You should also come to our Meet the Manufacturer show if you are looking for UK manufacturers or British-made products to stock in your stores. The yearly trade show is on the 24th and the 25th of May and it’s at the Truman Brewery in London.

We’ve just opened registration over on the meetthemanufacturer.co.uk website. It’s a fantastic event for networking and finding UK manufacturers, and we’ve got lots of free talks this year on all different subjects to do with making in the UK.

Kayleigh’s also asked for the Meet the Manufacturer event, does your business have to be officially registered to get a ticket?

It is a good question Kayleigh. It’s a business-to-business show so ideally you would have a registered business, but at the very very least in order to attend you need business cards if nothing else. You need those business cards to be able to give to all the fantastic manufacturers that you’re going to find at the show.  It’s a really busy show, and we only have 180, 200 exhibitors and with 5,000 visitors those exhibitors are mobbed.  If you want them to take you seriously and think about making your orders you need something to be able to give to them so that they actually have some way of getting back to you after the show.  So if nothing else please make sure you’ve got business cards printed and then we won’t charge you to get in.  I hope that’s clear.

One last thing, lovely Edith Weekes-Hamilton has said keep up the fabulous work.

Oh hello Edith, hello, hopefully we’ll see you at the show again this year, Edith.  Fantastic, right, well thank you very much everyone for joining.  Is there anyone else that wants a shout out before we go or if not I can drink the rest of my cup of tea and get on with all the important work that we do at Make It British?

I hope you enjoyed our Facebook Live, we do this every Thursday at 1pm. Please do send us your comments, we’d love to know what you think.  In particular, it’d be great if you’ve got an idea for a top 20 you’d like us to do. So far we’ve covered – beauty, dog brands, children’s and babywear and wool. If you’ve got an idea for something you’d like to see in our top 20 please let us know  because they’re proving incredibly popular and we want to make sure that we cover every single aspect of UK-made products.

The eagled-eyed amongst you might have noticed that I promised to cover British-made buttons at the beginning and then forgot all about them! Don’t worry, I am going to cover them in depth next week!

Here’s the transcription for last week’s Facebook Live. In it we cover exhibiting at a trade show, where to go for start-up fashion advice and an update on the registration for our Meet the Manufacturer event

Sorry it has taken me a while to get this online this week due to half term.

Our Facebook live takes place every Thursday on the Make it British Facebook page at 1pm.

It’s you chance to ask questions about UK manufacturing, buying British and making in the UK. If you’ve got a question to submit please do so via the live chat on our website, send us a tweet, send a message via our Facebook page or even DM us on Instagram.

Today we’ve got quite a few questions to answer, particularly we seem to be getting a lot of questions from people that  have their own businesses, so we are here to help you answer questions about that. We’ve also had a manufacturer get in touch saying that they’re looking for staff for their factory so I’ll be covering that, and I’ll be telling you about all of the fantastic British made gifts and we can recommend for Valentine’s Day.

I’m also talking about where you can go as a start-up if you want to get information about setting up a fashion brand and also tips on exhibiting for the first time at a trade fair.

So firstly, if you haven’t got your loved one a gift yet we are compiling a top 10 of the best British made Valentine’s gifts. We put a call out on our Instagram page asking for suggestions for gifts made in the UK that would make a fantastic Valentine’s present. Please pop over to the Instagram post, find the post with the big pink heart on it and we will consider your British made gift for inclusion in the Valentine’s post that we’ll be running tomorrow. So, you’ve got about another 24 hours to add something to that and we will then be selecting our 12 favourite gifts, so that’s the Make It British Valentine’s post.

While we’re on the subject of what’s going on over at the website, we have several fantastic competitions that are running at the moment. We do these regularly to help tell everyone about the sort of products that are made here and give you an opportunity to win something fabulous at the same time. Currently we’ve got a fantastic leather washbag from Abreption, we have got some underwear from Unibu and also a piece of jewellery from Magnus & Bella. On Instagram we’re running a competition just this week and it closes tomorrow night, to win a silk British made pocket square from Geoff Stocker which he has done in collaboration with Grey Fox, so it’s the perfect thing for any dapper gent, so do pop over and enter that too.

So welcome if you’ve just joined us, if you are watching and you want us to give a shout out about your brand and what you do type something in the comments and that’s why I’ve got my glasses on, I can hopefully read it, and I will give you a little shout out. 

So it’s early days of this Make It British video thing and we are finding there’s a few technical hitches, we do need a more professional setup here but unfortunately space doesn’t allow us to have a full-time Facebook Live studio! So, for the moment we’re temporarily mocking it up every Thursday with our lovely Moon blanket in the background.

Anyway, the next thing I wanted to cover was that Ronin Jewellery got in touch just to say can you give us a shout out, they are exhibiting at Spring Fair at the moment and it’s the last day at the show today. I know there’s quite a few companies that manufacture in the UK who are exhibiting there, so we wanted to say if you are at the show today pop over and see Ronin Jewellery.

If you are the sort of person who has a business who exhibits at trade fairs or who is interested in exhibiting at a trade fair, we have had someone ask what sort of things do you need to know if it’s your first time exhibiting at a fair.  So having been to many trade fairs myself over the last 20 years firstly as a buyer, also as an exhibitor for brands that I worked with, and now running our Meet the Manufacturer trade show, I’ve pulled together some top tips of things you need to know about exhibiting at a show. The tips apply to someone that’s showing for the first time, as well as if you’re an experienced exhibitor.

The main thing I would say is how important it is to always smile if you are standing on a stand at a trade show, even if your feet are killing you, you’re really uncomfortable, you’ve been there for four days and it’s getting a bit monotonous, just smile and you’re much more likely to attract people to your stand.  I always know which exhibitors are going to say “we didn’t have a very good show” because it’ll be the ones that have been sitting behind a desk, and not interacting with people, because it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet new customers, get out there and get exposure for your brand.

Next I’m going to cover a manufacturer that we know in Manchester called Porters of Manchester, they’ve got a small manufacturing unit, I visited it, it’s fantastic, there’s about six ladies there machining and they are looking for a pattern cutter. They’re based in Central Manchester, so if you are a pattern cutter looking for some extra work and you’re watching this or you know someone who might be interested or who lives locally then please do get in touch.  

And while I’m on that subject I thought actually this could be a great forum, if you do have a factory, a manufacturing unit, a brand, a studio and you are looking for someone to join you then we reach quite a wide audience with this Facebook page so please let us know, feel free to join our Buy British community group and post something in there.  We’re more than happy to spread the word, if you make in the UK we will help you find someone if you’re looking for someone to work with you.

Welcome to all those that have joined us, please do say hello in the comments and I will give you a shout out, I can see we’ve got quite a few people who’ve joined us now, don’t be shy, say hello.

I should say here that if you have just joined us for the first time and you think what is that woman harping on about, this is my weekly slot every Thursday at 1pm to answer your questions about making in the UK, and buying British.  We generally answer questions that people have given us via our Twitter, Facebook page, Buy British community, live on our website or email us, so send us in a question if you want it answered or if there’s a topic you want us to cover and I will endeavour to cover it the following week. 

Hello, I’ve just seen there’s a note from Victoria @wearerushworth, hello Victoria and hello to Jo Storie Hand Knits,  we’ve got a bit of a knitting theme going on today.  Talking of which, while we’re talking about knitting and all things woolly I did a fantastic interview just this week with Laura from Laura’s Loom. She had a great story – she told us all about how she starts from the fleece and how that process goes from fleece to yarn to finished product, be that knitwear or weaving. So if you do want to find out a little bit more about the whole knitting and yarn process I highly recommend reading the interview that we did with Laura.

Someone else asked us this week, we did a Make It British forum last October and they asked when we were doing the next one.  Now the forum, the last we did was held in Leicester, and it was entitled How to Develop a Made in Britain Brand. It was completely packed out, it was a fantastic day and I think everyone really enjoyed the networking that took part at the show. So we are going to do another one.  We’re already planning where we might do that, it will be somewhere other than London in the UK, if you’ve got a particular suggestion of an area where you’d like that to take place then put it in the comments or send us a message, we’ve got some ideas but it will be October of this year and it’ll be along a similar theme, so yes there is another Make It British forum coming up. 

But if in the meantime, you are looking to develop a fashion brand and want advice on then there are several places that I can recommend to go.

Firstly there is the UK Fashion and Textile Association, they run masterclasses on fashion and product development. There’s also Fashion Angel who are a fantastic company who support start-ups and people going into fashion businesses. 

There’s also Fashion Capital. They have a factory in London, they offer lots of advice to small businesses related to fashion and starting a fashion brand and they’re also doing an event  in Manchester on the 30th March and you can find out more here.

And then finally just if you are a general brand starting out, I think Enterprise Nation is a fantastic resource. It’s not that much to become a member and they lots of things that you can get involved with to find out more about starting a small business.  Brilliant!

Okay, has anyone got any particular questions for me today, I think I’ve covered most of the questions that we’ve had coming through this week, have I missed any out Lauren?

I don’t think so, we have had a lot of people asking about registration for our event.

We run our Meet the Manufacturer trade show once a year in May at the Truman Brewery in London, the registration will be opening tomorrow (it’s now open and you can register here). The good news about this year’s show is it is entirely free, so in the past we have had free entry to the trade show and then a conference running at the same time that you could buy a ticket for, but this year all of the talks will be completely and utterly free and you can drop in at any time. 

I’ve just seen we’ve got a question coming through from Elizabeth Rees, ‘I’m looking for an eco-packaging business,’ oh that’s a good question Elizabeth. I know quite a few packaging businesses, how many of them are eco I’m not so sure, so I will check that out Elizabeth and I will come back to you on that next week. 

I’ve got one more question from Victoria, ‘Re trade shows, I’ve noticed lots of people don’t display their prices openly for buyers, what’s best practice?

That is a good question, I don’t think that our exhibitors for the most part will display their prices when they come to the show. The manufacturers we have at our show are generally contract manufacturers so the price that they quote will be based on the specific product that you order. If you’re a brand coming to the show then generally I think buyers do expect you to have a price list available, or have a good indication of what the prices are. Although I wouldn’t suggest that you would price up individual products at the show.  So it is always wise to know what your prices are in advance I would say, yes.  Does that help Victoria, I hope it does?

Well thank you everyone for joining today, I think that’s pretty much everything I wanted to cover, please do join us every week and don’t feel shy, do ask a question, thank you to Victoria and Elizabeth who asked questions today, Elizabeth I’ll come back to you on the question that you asked. 

We’re here every Thursday, one o’clock give or take a minute or twos technical hitch while we set up, so please bear with us and if you are finding this useful please do let me know, write something in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Right thank you very much everyone for joining us and I will see you again next week.  This has been Kate Hills from Make It British doing Ask Kate Live Q&A on Facebook every Thursday at 1pm, thank you.

Our Meet the Manufacturer trade show is even bigger and better this year, with more manufacturers than ever before and an exciting new hall dedicated to British brands

Meet the Manufacturer brand hall

Meet the Manufacturer is the only trade show to find British fashion, textile & homeware manufacturers all in one place

British made goods are enjoying a revival and demand for home-produced goods is on the rise, as shown by a survey that we carried out recently. UK manufacturers are reporting increases in production of 25-30% compared to 2015, and this growing appetite for all that’s made in Britain will be reflected in our Meet the Manufacturer trade show this year.

We’ve been inundated with enquiries since our last event from people not only looking for manufacturers to help them make their product in the UK, but also from buyers who would like to source from brands that are making in Britain.  That’s why we’re introducing a new Make it British Brand Hall at our next event.

For the first time, Meet the Manufacturer is giving a selection of these creative businesses the opportunity to showcase their distinct and inspirational labels in a dedicated ‘brands hall’.  Companies include: Geoff Stocker, producing high-end accessories for men; Isabella Queen, a British-based brand offering luxury leather accessories crafted in London; Wild Things, creating imaginative play clothes for children hand-made in the UK and Unibu, producing unique underwear that’s 100% made in Britain.

Meet the Manufacturer is the only sourcing event exclusively for British fashion, textiles and homeware.  The two-day event includes a trade show, with over 180 exhibitors, and a series of workshops, connecting manufacturers of textiles, apparel and leather goods with buyers, designers and retailers looking to produce quality British-made products.

The show will take place at The Old Truman Brewery in London again, and the dates this year are 25th and 26th May 2017.

For more information visit www.meetthemanufacturer.co.uk


MTM2017 will be bigger and better than ever this year!

Trade shows are one of the best ways to get exposure for your business, and a great opportunity to network too. Yet many companies feel daunted at the prospect of exhibiting at a trade show for the first time.

Having attended dozens of shows myself – as a visitor and exhibitor, and now as an event organiser with our Meet the Manufacturer show, I’ve picked up quite a few insights along the way. So if you are exhibiting at a trade show for the first time, don’t be worried, they’re a piece of cake once you have these tips at hand…

tips for exhibiting at a trade show

Trade Shows are a great way to get exposure for your business

The look of your stand should be your top priority You don’t have to spend a fortune, but a little pre-planning is essential. Making sure you know the exact dimensions of the stand, including the height of the walls, will mean no nasty surprises when you arrive. Try mocking something up in your office or studio beforehand too, using tape on the floor to mark out the space. And plan where everything is going to go.

When it comes to display, less is more. Visitors will want to see the quality of your products and get a feel for what you do. It’s not a shop, and you don’t need every item in every colour.

Make sure to leave enough floorspace for visitors to fit in, and use the walls for displaying your best product at eye level. Think about using colour on the walls too – when everyone is in a sea of white shell scheme a vivid pink wall will get you noticed.

top tips for exhibiting at a trade show

Use the walls of your stand to display products at eye level

Promote your attendance at the show in advance Send emails or personal invitations to your customers a few weeks in advance to let them know that you are going to be at the fair. Take this opportunity to tell them which stand you are in, and ideally try and get them to fix an appointment with you.

Also use this opportunity to reach out to buyers and press you’d like to meet by inviting them see you there and sending them something that gives a small taster of what you will be showing.

And don’t forget to send a reminder a few days before the show to make sure your guests have it in their diary – schedule this in advance in case you don’t have time to do it in the days running up to the show

Be Social Find out what hashtag the event is using and tag in the show in your social media posts in order to make it easy for them to shout about you as an exhibitor. This is also a good way of making the most of a wider audience that you can reach, above and beyond those already in your network.

Keep up with a few social media posts during the show too if you can – photos and videos of your booth looking enticing may be spotted by someone at the show following the hashtag and help you connect with someone that may not otherwise have come your way.

visiting at a trade show

Planning in advance to get the most out of your attendance

Produce a press release to maximise your exposure Make sure you have an up to date press release to coincide with your attendance at the show. Give a copy to the event’s press office and let them have high res images of your products to hand in case they get any requests from journalists in the run up to the show. You’d be amazed at how many exhibitors don’t take advantage of this – it could be a great way to get an edge over any competitors at the show.

Smile and look happy The most successful exhibitors at our shows are always the ones that keep smiling non-stop for two days, even when their feet are killing them. Think about your body language and what signals you are giving off if you’re standing there cross-armed and looking bored. Be welcoming and friendly at all times, and chat to as many people as you possibly can.

If you’re a shy, creative type then consider roping in a friend or family member who is more outgoing than you to do the talking at the front – but make sure you’ve de-briefed them beforehand so they know their stuff and what they should be saying.

exhibiting at a trade fair

Look happy on your stand and new customers will come your way!

Giveaways or demonstrations on the stand are a great ice-breaker Running a special promotion just for the event can be a great conversation opener, as well as a good way of gathering the contact details of passers-by. But please, no tacky printed pens/USB sticks/and other Chinese-made giveaways!

And some sort of interactive display is always a great option for attracting people to your stand. Exhibitors at our Meet the Manufacturer show have had great success by bringing along a staff member from their factory that can make something on the stand on the day – this makes for great social media coverage too (see point about above being social).

Have a plan for capturing the details of leads Many shows now supply a mobile app which you can use to scan visitors that come to your stand. You can make notes within the app and then download a spreadsheet with everyone’s details when you’ve left the show – beats lots of loose business cards that might get mislaid in the panic to pack up. It also saves you typing everyone’s details in too. And while you’re at it – make sure you take enough business cards yourself so you don’t run out mid-show.

exhibiting at a trade show

Networking with other exhibitors should be an important part of your trade show strategy

It’s about networking, not just selling Use your time at the show to make new business connections as well as to find new customers. Chat to other exhibitors – you never know when a future collaboration could be in the pipeline. And don’t dismiss those that aren’t just buyers. Trade shows are attended by the press, bloggers and other influential people that could benefit your business by increased exposure or connections. So seize every opportunity and don’t just think of it in terms of revenue. And if there’s an after-show party for exhibitors make sure that you attend with lots of business cards – the social time when everyone is relaxing is often when the best business is done.

Follow up with everyone you met after the show It’s important to send an email within a couple of days of the event thanking those that came to your stand while you’re fresh in their minds. Keep in touch but don’t be too pushy. It can often take months or years for some trade show leads to develop into a business relationship, so don’t be disheartened if orders don’t materialise straightway.

I hope you found this article useful. If you’d like to print off a handy PDF of these tips then please fill in your email below and we’ll send one to you.

I was invited on BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show today to talk about the announcement of the Government’s green paper on its industrial strategy

Firstly, anything that brings UK manufacturing to the forefront can only be a good thing. So we’re definitely moving in the right direction. But what are the big things that the Government needs to address in this industrial strategy in order to make British manufacturing great again?

Skills & training One of the biggest things that needs serious funding behind it is the lack of skilled staff in many manufacturing sectors. One of the biggest problems facing the UK manufacturing industry is the fact many sectors currently look to Europe for the staff that have the skills – and that may not be so easy after Brexit. We’ll need to invest in training and make sure that the funding goes directly to those that need it – not just on creating courses that aren’t relevant.

Attracting young people into manufacturing We need to make manufacturing sexy again to attract young people into the industry. The next generation will be the factory managers of the future. But unless we can convince them that it is better to work in manufacturing than in an office or a shop we’ll have no chance. And that education needs to start at school and with the parents. I also think that a reality TV show involving manufacturing wouldn’t be a bad thing…but that’s not one for the Government! Manufacturing is not just in the North Yes the Industrial Revolution started in the North, and there are some fantastic manufacturing plants in the top half of the country. But there are also some great factories and makers in the South too. The high-end fashion manufacturing sector, which supplies the majority of London Fashion Week, is predominantly based in London. These companies have different challenges to those in the North, such as rising rent and rates, and they shouldn’t be forgotten about because they don’t make up part of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

Fair trade deals with overseas suppliers Let’s not forget that a vast proportion of the raw materials that our manufacturers use are imported. There are very few products that can count themselves as 100% British. Good negotiations with our overseas suppliers needs to be top of the Government’s Brexit strategy in order that industry here can thrive. It’s not just about the shiny boys toys All too often when there is talk of industry with the Government they talk about cars and planes. But manufacturing has a softer side too. The UK textile industry exported over £8bn worth of product last year. Yet because it is made up of 1000s of micro businesses employing 10 people or less, it doesn’t get on the Government’s radar. Let’s hope there is a place for it in their industrial strategy.

You can see the full green paper on the Government’s industrial strategy here.

20 of the best British baby brands

Written by: on :: 3 Comments

When it comes to British baby brands there are so many great companies out there producing in the UK. Why would you ever want to buy something that wasn’t made here?

Thanks to our friends on Instagram we’ve put together a list of the best British baby brands out there.

Although we originally called this ’10 of the best British baby brands’ we have had to double it as there were just too many amazing brands to choose from!

Pigeon Organics for Kids

Gentle organic babywear in a range of unique prints. Pigeon’s capsule Made in England collections are produced in rural Nottinghamshire by a small family-run factory.



Buttery soft cotton babygrows in cute signature prints are the handwriting of Peacheyboo.

The Bowtique

The Bowtique Bows

The Bowtique’s stunning hair accessories are all lovingly made by hand. Any little princess wearing this will be the talk of the nursery.

The Princess and The Frock

The Princess and the Frock

Any little girl would be the belle of the ball in a handmade party dress by Princess and The Frock. They now have a jersey collection too.

eva & indie

Eva and Indie

Kitsch unisex prints are the signature of Eva and Indie and every piece is handmade to order.

Didi and Bud

Didi and Bud

‘Mini Gents’ and ‘Modern Ladies’ are how Didi and Bud describe the toddlers wearing their adorable sleepsuits.



Morrck make car seat blankets with a hood – what a great idea!



Handmade baby bibs for every occasion! Beautifully soft and comfortable on baby’s delicate skin.

B & Button

B & Button

Lovingly created, bespoke designs for baby and toddler. Handmade and personalised in the U.K.

The Little Style House

The Little Style House

On trend unisex clothing designed by Anna, mum of two. Stay cool. Be bold. Dress modern.

Beb and Ooo

Beb and Ooo

Fun, colourful, practical and individual clothing that can be worn by girls or boys.

William and the Wolf

William and the Wolf

Contemporary clothing and diverse and unisex children’s accessories, handmade in Bristol. The Wolf pack welcome customise requests!

Baby Acorn


Baby Acorn

Unisex baby wear that isn’t always neutral or beige! With 5 woodland themes that can be mixed and matched for  bespoke newborn look.

Tommy and Lottie

Tommy and Lottie

Anyone else got outfit envy? UK based baby boutique and lifestyle brand Tommy and Lottie are big on ethics and sustainability too. Trendy with a conscious!

Brora Cashmere

Brora Cashmere

Don’t all babies deserve the softness of cashmere? Brora baby cashmere comes in a selection of classic and contemporary designs.

Hello Mum 

Hello Mum Gifts

Beautifully packaged stylish and comfortable baby clothes from Hello Mum make the perfect gift for a new mummy.

The Great British Baby Company

The Great British Baby Company

Luxury apparel and accessories for young children, using the finest British materials and craftsmanship.

Starchild Shoes

Starchild Shoes

Soft enough for the tinniest of feet the only problem you will find is trying to choose from all the gorgeous designs!

Bush Boo Baby & Kids

Bush Boo Baby and Kids

Quality children’s clothing and accessories made in Yorkshire!



Long term favourites of ours these are such individual and well made children’s clothes!

Did we leave anyone out of our list of the best British baby brands? If so, please tell us about them in the comments below.

The founder of cult knitwear brand FANCLUB tells us why she thinks provenance is important to her customers and how she overcame the challenge of finding knitwear suppliers that could work with her low minimums as she started out

Aysen Bayram, founder of FANCLUB

Aysen Bayram, founder of FANCLUB in her studio

It’s been a fantastic year for FANCLUB – Glamour magazine called them ‘one of the coolest knitwear labels to know’ and their Kimye sweater containing a mash up of celebrity couple Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s faces took Christmas jumpers by storm.

We caught up with Aysen Bayram, the maker behind the label, to find out a bit more about what drives her brand.

Can you tell us a little about your background and what experience you had in knitwear before launching FANCLUB?

I call myself a 3rd generation maker. My grandmother and aunts were seamstresses on (aptly named) Fashion Street off Brick Lane and my parents used to own a factory in East London in the early 80’s. They manufactured for Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and other high street brands but were forced to close when retailers began taking their manufacturing off-shore. My mother was a professional dressmaker and I grew up watching her pattern cut and sew, it clearly rubbed off on me as I started making my own clothes at age 12.

I studied BA Fashion with Textiles Design at Ravensbourne, graduating in 2003. Post-graduation I worked for Ally Capellino as Design Assistant. I quickly became Production Manager working with mainly British suppliers and manufacturers and it was there I learnt about the production process. I relocated to Amsterdam to work for Tommy Hilfiger and rekindled my love of knitwear as Menswear Knitwear Designer. In 2010 I moved back to London, resurrected my knitting machines and set up Knitster LDN, a knit design and consultancy studio before setting up FANCLUB.

Why did you decide to set up Fan Club and where did you get the idea for the name from?

FANCLUB was the natural evolution of a personal project I was working on; I was creating knitted animal portraits and a jumper seemed to be the next step. It was definitely something that was on the cards for me, especially seeing the effect the decline of British manufacturing had on the family business. The name comes from a scene in a ‘gentleman’s nightclub’ from the film Buffalo 66.

Rabbit Pixel Crew Sweater Fanclub

Where do you get the inspiration from for your designs?

It comes from so many places, mostly mundane things – like the distorted reflection of colour in a silver balloon. My iPhone is full of random images which piece themselves together as the collection evolves. Trial and error is also one, there are so many trials when developing knit swatches that the mistakes tend to spark new ideas. The problem is trying to re-create those mistakes.

Your sweaters are not only knitted in the UK but they are made using British yarns too. What extra value do you think this gives your customers?

I like to call it ‘double provenance’. Consumer awareness within the fashion industry is growing (especially with the collapse of Rana Plaza) – whether that concerns working conditions or sustainability, customers want to know the history of that product.

In my opinion, the origin of the material/yarn is of equal importance as to where the end product is made. British mills are an important part of our industry and the manufacturer has just as equal a responsibility to support these businesses as the consumer does to the retailer.

All our yarn suppliers have been running since the 1800’s, with one J.C Rennie, dating as far back as the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. And Z. Hinchliffe & Sons are a 6th generation family-run business. It’s such a big part of our British heritage, it would be far too sad to lose these.

Loop Pixel Crop Sweater Fanclub

Loop Pixel Crop Sweater Fanclub

Many of your sweaters use a technique called hand-laid intarsia, can you explain what this to those that might not be know?

Intarsia is a technique used when knitting multiple colours. It differs to other knit techniques such as Fair Isle as there are no floats (or strands) carried at the back of the knitting so the result is a finer fabric. In hand-laid intarsia the knitter works from a grid which maps out the artwork stitch for stitch. For each block of colour the yarn is laid over the desired number of needles, this can be up to any number per row, we have 10 colours per row on our Banana Pixel Sweater. Once the row is complete the carriage is pulled across the needle bed and the stitches are knitted in. This is then repeated on every row – it’s a lengthy process, especially as some jumpers can have anything up to 400 rows.

What has been the most challenging thing so far with launching the brand?

Definitely sourcing factories who can meet low minimums. We’ve been lucky enough to work with Xpose in Manchester who were willing to lower their minimums in order help support our growth.

Kimye Sweater by Fanclub

Kimye Sweater by Fanclub

Can you tell me what ‘made in Britain’ means to you?

‘Made in Britain’ is about the heritage of skill and craftsmanship along with sustaining manufacturing within the British Isle.

COLOUR ME BADD!! Loving these nylon sock yarns madeinbritain knitwear socks yarn colour yarnstash

A photo posted by FANCLUB (@wearefanclub) on

Quickfire Questions

British personality (alive or dead) that you would most like to meet? David Bowie

Your Favourite British-made brand? Tunnock’s. Pure nostalgia.

Most-loved place in the UK? The Peak District. Simply breathtaking.

British drink that you most enjoy? You can’t beat a good old cup of tea!

Most inspiring British maker or manufacturer? The Albion Knitting Company are doing some very exciting things with bringing back knitwear manufacturing to London at the moment.

J.C. Rennie, The Albion Knitting Company and Xpose are amongst the manufacturers exhibiting at this year’s Meet the Manufacturer event. If you’re looking set up your own knitwear brand why not come along and meet them?

You can find FANCLUB and buy their knitwear here.

A photo posted by FANCLUB (@wearefanclub) on

Looking for a product made in Britain? Have a UK manufacturing question? I’ll solve your UK sourcing problems every Thursday lunchtime live on Facebook!

I hope you’re enjoying the Buy British Community that we’ve set up on Facebook? Please join if you aren’t already a member – it’s a pretty active group and a great place to meet other people interested in buying and making products made in Britain.

Talking of Facebook*, I wanted to tell you about another exciting new feature that we’re adding.

After listening to all your fantastic questions about finding manufacturers or sourcing certain products that are made in Britain, I thought it would be great to provide a forum where I could answer them live for you.

So every Thursday at 1pm I’ll be going LIVE on Facebook with a Q&A. Answering all your questions about UK manufacturing and making in Britain.

You can tune in to the Q&A every Thursday lunchtime at 1pm by visiting our Make it British Facebook page. If you already ‘like’ our page you’ll get a notification as we go on air. But don’t worry if you miss it as you’ll be able to catch up with the broadcast later via our page or on this blog.

Got a question you want to ask?

Want to find out if it’s possible to get a certain product made in the UK?

Want to know where you can buy a particular type of product made here?

Want some advice on British manufacturing?

You can submit a question via the live chat or contact form on this website, via the Buy British Community group on Facebook or even send us a tweet.

Don’t forget to tune in – Every Thursday 1pm LIVE on facebook.com/makeitbritish/

Business is booming for UK textile manufacturers, but the skills shortage is still holding it back, according to Make it British research carried out exclusively for the BBC

Make it British on BBC Breakfast

Make it British on BBC Breakfast announcing the results of the survey

Our research into the UK textile industry, carried out exclusively for the BBC Breakfast Business News, was announced today. We surveyed nearly 100 UK garment and textile manufacturers to find out how their businesses are faring as we prepare to enter 2017.

While the fashion manufacturing industry in the UK faces many challenges in the current economic climate, the Make it British survey found that business is booming for many textile businesses.

45% of manufacturers surveyed said that business was up on last year, with many manufacturers reporting increases in production of 25-50%  compared to 2015.

Of the 95 UK textile manufacturers taking part in the survey, 30% said they were receiving more enquiries now than prior to the EU Referendum, but that they were being hit by rising costs for raw materials, many of which are imported from the EU.

Around half (47%) said that finding skilled staff was the biggest barrier to further growth while 39% blamed lack of support from Government.

When asked: ‘How positive do you feel about the future of UK textile manufacturing?’ the answer was on average 3.75 on a scale of 1 to 5. A very positive result, and a great outlook for 2017.

The survey results were broadcast live from John Smedley, the oldest manufacturing factory in the world. Kate Hills from Make it British appeared alongside Ian Maclean, Managing Director of John Smedley, Shailina Parti, buying and merchandising director from Jigsaw, and Mick Cheema of Leicester garment manufacturer Basic Premier.


Why authenticity is important to us

Written by: on :: 1 Comment

…and why Make it British is not affiliated with any other ‘made in Britain’ campaigns…

Make it British campaign authenticI was recently contacted by a web developer, prospecting for some business. His pitch was that he’d been through the code on the Make it British site and found the name of a developer who was not based in the UK. How could I shout about UK skills and making in Britain when I was using someone offshore to build my website? he said. The truth is that the Make it British website IS built in the UK, by a lovely chap based in Horsham, and the web hosting company is also British. Their web servers are in the UK too.

I believe 100% that you have to practice what you preach. The web hosting company that I use is definitely more expensive than a lot of the offshore ones, but they provide a quality service, and I would be stupid to host a site called Make it British in the US!

[ctt template=”1″ link=”r2e92″ via=”no” ]”I believe 100% that you have to practice what you preach” Kate Hills, @makeitbritish[/ctt]

The same goes for what I wear.

Now I’m not saying that everything I own is made in Britain. For a start, some things you just can’t buy here. Women’s heeled boots for instance. But I would certainly never dream of appearing at an event or on a video where I am representing Make it British without wearing clothes that are from some of the wonderful British-made brands that I want to support.

How could I call myself a fan of all things British-made if I didn’t then put my money where my mouth is. That would be very hypocritical!

Yes it is sometimes more expensive to buy something made in the UK, but I opt for timeless pieces that I know will last. I’ve got John Smedley knitwear in my wardrobe that I bought with my first pay cheque when I worked at Marks and Spencer in 1997 and it is still going strong.

I started Make it British in 2011 because I had a passion to save UK manufacturing, born out of a love for people making things and a desire to continue that tradition in the UK.

When I set Make it British up most people thought I was mad as they thought UK manufacturing was on its last legs. How are you ever going to make any money out of doing that? They said. Well the truth is I don’t make much, but I believe in good karma, and that one day I will reap what I sow. Plus I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I hear about factories expanding or new ones opening up!

Over the last few years I have watched as more ‘made in Britain’ sites have launched. The more the merrier I say, the more people championing the cause the better, but what does concern me is the integrity of them all. Some I know are great and I fully support them, but sometimes I wonder what the motivations of some of these people are? And how authentically they support the made in Britain cause, or whether they are just jumping on the bandwagon to try and make a quick buck? Do they host their sites in the UK? Or in the States where it is cheaper?

If they sell their members ‘made in Britain’ labels, are they printing them in the UK? Or in China?

It concerns me because this is something I am passionate about, and also because my company Make it British sometimes gets confused with other sites and campaigns whose integrity I cannot be responsible for.

You may have heard of the Buy British campaign of the 1960’s? It was going really well and backed by some high profile figures such as Rupert Murdoch. But then it was discovered that the T-shirts they had made with ‘I’m Backing British’ on to support the cause we’re actually made in Portugal, and the whole thing crumbled. Their lack of authenticity made the whole campaign worthless. Is that about to happen again?

Made in Britain Campaign holographic labels are printed overseas

Since writing this article the Made in Britain Campaign have confirmed to us that the holographic labels shown in the above photograph, which they have been distributing and selling to their members, were not printed in the UK

So who was the mystery foreign developer whose name appeared in the code of our site? Well, it was actually a generic plug in that we had installed which was developed overseas, because we use WordPress to build part of the site on. As soon as I find a British alternative for these I will swap them over, because that is how I roll….

Make it British would like to take this opportunity to point out that it’s organisation and director are in no way affiliated or connected to the Made in Britain Campaign or any other website promoting ‘made in Britain’.

Buy just one small gift made in Britain and together we could add one billion pounds to the UK economy!

This week we launched our ‘Buy British Christmas’ campaign, encouraging everyone to buy at least one small gift made in Britain this year.

You can see above the live video that we posted on Facebook to announce it.

We want you to just stop and think for a moment about supporting some of our great British makers this Christmas.

There are 52 million gift-buying adults living in the United Kingdom.

If every one of those individuals bought just one £20 gift made in Britain this Christmas it would add over £1 BILLION to the UK economy. That’s something worth thinking about!

[ctt template=”1″ link=”Jjrf3″ via=”yes” ]If everyone in GB bought just one £20 gift made in Britain this Xmas it’d add £1bn to UK economy #buybritishchristmas @makeitbritish[/ctt]

And if you buy those British-made gifts directly from the makers then that is more pounds going directly into the pockets of UK manufacturers.

To make it easy for you to find British-made Christmas gifts we have added a Make it British Gift Guide to this website.

There really is something for everyone in this year’s gift selection, and we have made it easy for you by breaking the guide down into helpful categories like Luxury Gifts, Stocking Fillers, Pampered Pets and Practical Presents.

Not only will the guide help you get all your shopping done quickly and without the stress, it will also help you to Buy British and support our fabulous brands!

buy british christmas

Follow and use #buybritishchristmas on social media to find gifts made in Britain

We’re also running a campaign across social media using the hashtag #buybritishchristmas

Just do a search for that tag on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and lots of fantastic British-made gift ideas should pop up – and if you make in Britain then please use the tag when sharing tweets of photos of any gift items that you make here.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get #buybritishchristmas trending on Black Friday?

Black Friday is on 25th November this year and it’s the day when people traditionally start to really think about their present buying…and we want buying British to be at the forefront of their minds!

Start shopping the gift guide now

British Christmas Giveaway!!

Written by: on :: 15 Comments

Closing date midday 13th December 2016

We’ve got a box full of British-made goodies worth £100s to giveaway in our surprise Christmas gift box.


Just answer the question and complete the form below to be in with a chance to win, and follow buybritishchristmas on social media to see sneak previews from us showing what’s in the box.

If you want to know what is going into the box, keep an eye on our updates on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see us reveal a different prize every weekday ay 12:30pm.

What is our Christmas hashtag?

Good luck!!

Sorry. This form is no longer available.

First gift revealed – Bee Good Toiletries

Day 1 – British Christmas Giveaway Reveal

We reveal the first of the British-made goodies going into our British Christmas Giveaway box. Watch every weekday at 12:30pm to find out what's going in next….Enter to win here http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ One person wins the lot! #buybritishchristmas Today it is some fantastic gifts from Bee Good who make all of their products with the honey from British Bees

Posted by Make it British on Friday, 18 November 2016

Second gift revealed – Bianca Elgar Silk Scarf

Day Two of our 'What's in the British Christmas Giveaway box?' reveals. Today it's a beautiful silk handkerchief from Bianca Elgar Enter to win the whole box ? here http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ #buybritishchristmas Watch every week day at 12:30 to see another prize revealed.

Posted by Make it British on Monday, 21 November 2016

Third gift revealed – Cravat Club Silk Cravat

Day 3 – Cravat Club silk cravat

Day 3 of our Buy British Christmas gift giveaway, and what's in the box today? I'll give you a big clue, it is from Cravat Club #buybritishchristmasTo enter and win all of the prizes go to http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/

Posted by Make it British on Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Fourth gift revealed – Bee & Tea Apron

Day 4 of our Buy British Christmas gift giveaway, and what have we today? It's a lovely apron made by Bee & Tea perfect for budding bakers! #buybritishchristmas To enter and win all of the prizes go to http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/

Posted by Make it British on Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Fifth gift revealed – Corrymoor Socks

Day 5 of our Great British Giveaway. Today we're popping a pair of snugly Corrymoor Socks in the box. One person wins the lot! Enter here >http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ #buybritishchristmas

Posted by Make it British on Thursday, 24 November 2016

Sixth gift revealed – Laura’s Loom Hot Water Bottle Cover

Day 6 of our Great British Giveaway. Today we're popping a super stylish wool hot water bottle cover from Laura's Loom in the box. One person wins the lot! Enter here >http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ #buybritishchristmas

Posted by Make it British on Friday, 25 November 2016

Seventh gift revealed – Mille Saison’s Cushion

Day 7 – Mille Saisons cushion

Day 7 of our Great british Christmas Giveaway – We've popped this beautiful cushion by Mille Saisons into the box. Lookout for more items this week. To enter to win everything go here http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ #buybritishchristmas

Posted by Make it British on Monday, 28 November 2016

Eighth gift revealed – Hettie Company Dog Bandana

Day 8 – The Hettie Company dog bandana.

Day 8 – The Hettie Company Dog Bandana. British Christmas Giveaway – Poppy ? gets in on the act!

Posted by Make it British on Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Ninth gift revealed – Growlees Dog Tags & Muggi Cup Holder

Day British Christmas Giveaway

Day 10 – Growlees & Muggi. Going in the Christmas giveaway box today are some Growlees and a handy Muggi for carrying your drinks #buybritishchristmas Enjoy ?

Posted by Make it British on Thursday, 1 December 2016

Tenth gift revealed – Starchild Leather Baby Shoes

Day 10- Starchild Shoes. Baby Eva proudly models today's Christmas Giveaway prize – A pair of stylish leather baby shoes by Starchild. To enter to win all of the prizes go here – http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ #buybritishchristmas

Posted by Make it British on Friday, 2 December 2016

Eleventh gift revealed – Charlie Noble Bat & Ball

Day 11 – Charlie Noble bat & ball. We've got s superb piece of craftsmanship to pop in our Christmas Giveaway box today. It's two beautifully carved wooden bats and a ball by Charlie Noble One person wins everything we're putting in the box. Enter here – http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ #buybritishchristmas

Posted by Make it British on Saturday, 3 December 2016

Twelfth gift revealed – Carddies Kids Colouring Set

Day 12 – Carddies. Something for the kiddies today as we've got a very festive themed nativity set of Carddies to pop into our Christmas giveaway box. Enter to win here – http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ #buybritishchristmas

Posted by Make it British on Monday, 5 December 2016

Thirteenth gift revealed – Rose Tree Organic Toiletries 

Day 13 – The Rose Tree. Just one week to go until our prize draw to decide the winner of our Great British Christmas Giveaway. Today a gorgeous candle set from The Rose Tree is going in the box Enter here – http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ #buybritishchristmas

Posted by Make it British on Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Fourteenth gift revealed – Pigeon Organics Baby Blanket

Day 14 – Pigeon Organics Baby Eva is showing off this beautiful baby wear by Pigeon organics We've got one of their stylish and soft printed organic blankets to pop into the Christmas giveaway box today Enter here to be in with a chance to win http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ #buybritishchristmas

Posted by Make it British on Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Fifteenth gift revealed – Romor Designs Silk Scarf

Day 15 – Romor Designs. We've got a beautiful Indigo-dyed silk scarf from Romor Designs going into our Christmas giveaway box today. Enter here to win everything. http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ Winner will be announced nced at 4pm on Tuesday 13th December. #buybritishchristmas

Posted by Make it British on Thursday, 8 December 2016

Sixteenth gift revealed – Blue Badge Company Wheat Warmer

Day 16 – Blue Badge Company. Something for those chilly nights here – a fabulous lavender scented wheat warmer from Blue Badge Company is going into our Christmas giveaway box today. Enter to win here http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ #buybritishchristmas

Posted by Make it British on Friday, 9 December 2016

Seventeenth gift revealed – Good Joe T-shirt

Day 17 – Good Joe One for the boys today as we pop a Good Joe T-Shirt into our ?Christmas giveaway box ? Enter her – http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ #buybritishchristmasLook out for some extra videos over the weekend ?

Posted by Make it British on Saturday, 10 December 2016

Eighteenth gift revealed – VVA Leather Handbag

We've got an extra special addition to our Christmas giveaway box tonight. It's this gorgeous evening bag by VVA handbags ? Remember – one person will win everything that we've featured in our videos over the last couple of weeks. That's over £1,000 worth of gifts. All made in Britain. Either give to family and friends, or keep for yourself ? Enter here http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ #buybritishchristmas

Posted by Make it British on Saturday, 10 December 2016

Nineteenth gift revealed – Carrything

Day 18 – Carrything No it's not a cat harness, but a very handy gadget to carry things. Today's prize is a Carrything. Just a couple of days left to enter our Christmas giveaway. The winner will be announced live at 4pm on Tuesday 13th December. Enter here – http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ #buybritishchristmas

Posted by Make it British on Sunday, 11 December 2016

Twentieth gift revealed – Woof and Meow Dog Collar

A little extra something for the Christmas giveaway box- a dog collar by Woof and Meow Enter to win here – http://makeitbritish.co.uk/discounts-competitions/british-christmas-giveaway/ #buybritishchristmas

Posted by Make it British on Sunday, 11 December 2016

Our winner Elizabeth told us:

Was very exciting opening the box and finding all the amazing British made products in there. I love the Rose Tree bath oil, my husband was very pleased with his Marco Johns socks and children are desperate for some nice weather to get the Dr Zigs Extraordinary Bubbles out! I was one of those sceptics (wondering who actually wins these competitions) So glad I entered now though!

New Facebook group for everybody that wants to buy more British-made products


The Buy British Community on Facebook is for anyone that buys British or makes products in the UK – wherever they are based

I know that so many of you are keen to buy british products wherever possible, but one thing that you tell me time after time is that it is difficult to find British products to buy.

So we’ve come up with a solution that might help!

We’ve created an open Facebook group where everyone can share products that they find that are made in Britain! The group is called the Buy British Community. Anyone can join the group, wherever they are based, and can post and share pictures of products that they have bought or manufactured that are made in Britain. And if you are holding an event or a pop-up shop selling British-made goods then you can post that in there too!

We want this to be a community of like-minded people that come together to help each other buy all of the great things that are made here – whether that’s clothes, food, electronics or furniture. Please join the Buy British Community group and like and share all of the wonderful things that are made here – and don’t forget to read the pinned post which has some of the rules for posting in the group. I know we all hate rules, but we want to make this an enjoyable experience for everyone, and spammers will not be tolerated!

Below is a video that I did announcing the launch of the group live on Facebook.

You’ll find a link to the group on the Make it British Facebook page. Or you can search for the group by looking for Buy British Community in the Facebook search bar. Once on the group page look for the button that says JOIN and you’ll become a member straight away.

So what are you waiting for? Join up now, introduce yourself and start sharing wonderful things that are made in Britain 🙂

Will you buy more British-made products when the UK leaves the EU? Enter our poll and let’s find out!

Made in Britain post-Brexit?

Will you be flying the flag for Made in Britain post-Brexit? (image: Red Dragon Flagmakers)

I took part in an interesting debate on London radio station LBC last week. The topic of the evening show, hosted by DJ Clive Bull, was around whether the UK would buy more products made in Britain post-Brexit.

The debate was sparked following a threat by the boss of Wetherspoons, Tim Martin, who said that he would cut EU beers from his chain of pubs if European Union leaders continued to threaten British businesses following the Brexit vote.

Would it be a hardship if pubs started stocking only British beers? I commented that there are hundreds of fantastic drinks producers in the UK, not only beer, but also wine and spirits. English Sparkling wine is picking up more awards than champagne these days!

With fluctuating exchange rates driving up the cost of overseas goods, and tariffs on imports likely to change after the UK leaves the European Union, will this make us financially better off if we buy more products made in Britain post-Brexit? and will the UK’s new-found independence lead to a more patriotic consumer? As well as an increased interest from countries outside of Europe wanting to purchase our goods?

Whilst many people phoned in to the show to say that they would like to buy more products made in Britain, others raised concerns about the limitations of the variety of products that we still produce here. It was an interesting debate and one that I am sure will continue over the coming months.

I’d love to get your thoughts on this subject and so we are carrying out a quick poll to see what our readers think.

Will you buy more British-made goods when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union?

Please take part in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

If you would like to listen to my part of the interview on LBC you can do so here:

Delegates and speakers at the Make it British Forum defined a clear agenda for the future of UK manufacturing – and you can all play your part

the future of UK manufacturing

John Smedley is one of the oldest manufacturing companies in the UK

Last week we held our first Make it British Forum to address the growing demand for UK businesses to manufacture in this country. The event took place at De Montfort University in Leicester, which is the largest textile manufacturing region in the UK, producing up to 1 million garments a week.

The passion and desire to invest our energies into using the fantastic talents and resources that we have in the UK was in much evidence at the event.

Issues with the traceability of garment production in overseas factories is an ongoing concern.  News stories such as the recent Panorama programme about Syrian refugee children working in Turkish factories only serves to highlight the human outcry to re-address our values.

The Make it British Forum of 250 people, including fashion students, designers, business start-ups , experienced CEOs and factory owners, came together to work out how we can push this agenda forward. Now more than ever we need a post-Brexit plan to rediscover our heritage, re-open our factories and invest in the future of UK manufacturing. We need to make it British and make it Great again!

According to Adam Mansell, CEO of UKFT, which supported the conference, the UK fashion and textile industry currently generates £8.2 billion worth of export,  and £9 billion worth of textiles are currently made every year in the UK.  “UK manufacturing is enjoying a great renaissance, helped by the growth in the cost benefits of re-shoring, the sustainability agenda and the latest government statistics show that last year manufacturing employment in the UK rose for the first time in decades.”

The forum highlighted the four P’s that go into producing a great British brand – Passion, Partnerships, Practical skills and Provenance.

Passion for product, for keeping it British and for being committed to making it work.

Partnerships are the key to success when it comes to brands, buyers, factories, and universities working together.

Practical skills need to be high on the agenda when training young people coming into the fashion industry

Provenance is what sets a British-made brand apart from those making overseas – tell your story and great things will happen!

There are so many British businesses that are already doing the four P’s amazingly well and we need to celebrate them.

We chose the speakers at the forum because they helped to demonstrate how essential the above 4 P’s are to the future of UK textile manufacturing.

Justine Tabak, who recently left a corporate career as creative director of Boden, shared the emotional journey of starting up her own British-made womenswear brand. She said that ‘your product needs to tell a story’ and to think of creating a brand rather than a collection that changes seasonally, in order to ensure longevity. This rise in ‘slow fashion’ would help benefit UK manufacturers, she said.

Jess Mcguire-Dudley, marketing and design director at John Smedley spoke of how you ‘don’t have to produce the most outlandish product to succeed’ and how passion and integrity were far more important at the centuries-old knitwear brand. She said that the ‘test of good branding is making a complete stranger feel as passionate about your product as you do’.

It was Rachael Hobbs, from production consultancy Bridge & Stitch, that said that we ‘need to change the perception that manufacturing isn’t the sexy side of the industry’, and Leicester fabric producer Simon Cook, of Discovery Knitting, called for a manufacturing co-operative, where businesses can work together.  Declaring that ‘Manufacturing skills need to be taught by manufacturers’, he said that he would gladly open his doors to students that want to learn about the manufacturing environment, and that other production units should do the same.

Ex-George at Asda director Fiona Lambert agreed, saying that the industry has a duty to encourage graduates to go into manufacturing, and that more UK factories should offer work experience. She also called on shoppers to buy more British product, saying that ‘the customer holds the key to the future of U.K manufacturing’ and bringing clothing production back home.

The audience was given some very practical advice on design and working with a UK factory by Karen Tickle, who not only owns her own childrenswear brand, Ticklish Kids, but works as an in-house designer for Leicestershire based knitwear manufacturer Skinwear. And Paul Alger from the UKFT talked about the importance of British brands being active online in order to reach out to overseas buyers and increase exports.

It was a very lively debate, and as well as the speakers above we also had Sue Tilley from the Leicestershire & Leicester Enterprise Partnership, Simon Double from Elite Labels, leathergoods expert Lorna Turner from Lorna Paramor and Stuart Cass, a production consultant who has worked with brands such as All Saints and Urban Outfitters.

What was very evident from the event was that fashion brands need to start thinking about longevity in their design and not just a quick seasonal fix. We may all want a high-end look on a budget, but we have to ask ourselves at what cost? If we are outraged by news items highlighting the horrific conditions in factories abroad then we need to look at ourselves, and our throw away culture, and address that.

Speakers Make it British Forum

L-R Justine Tabak, Stuart Cass, Kate Hills, Simon Cook, Fiona Lambert, Adam Mansell, Sue Tilley, Paul Alger, Rachael Hobbs

What did we learn from the Make it British Forum?

We need to train our young people in the art of manufacturing, and to encourage internship; for it not to be perceived as the ‘unsexy’ option within our fashion industry, but to be seen as the driving force in the machine that produces the amazing products we covet.

We need  our young people to learn how to sew and to understand fabric, cutting and creating. There are very few top jobs available to designers in the UK, but there could be 50,000 in manufacturing.

We need our factories to be proud, to sell themselves better, to be more easily found. The forum highlighted a requirement for greater accessibility, better networking, and a place where the industry can find each other more easily, making the UK supply chain a simpler process.

We celebrate our fantastic British dramas on the TV, we celebrate the creators not just the actors, we love our food and we readily celebrate our chefs! We need to adopt this attitude and apply it to the products that we buy, be it in clothing, craft or homewares.

One of the first issues that we need to address is how to make ‘making’ attractive to a younger generation. One of the manufacturers in the audience joked that he was the youngest expert in his field at 56, and that this is no joke! We mustn’t let this expertise die out.

The forum also highlighted our love of story telling, seeing behind the scenes, knowing how and who made your clothes.

We have a great heritage in designing wonderfully original, quirky and unique items. How much better would we feel if we knew these things were not only designed in the UK but actually made here too?

What do you own that is made in Britain?

A straw poll was done at the forum to ask how many of the attendees were wearing something that was made in Britain. Only half the audience put their hands up – and yet this is at an event where people are aware and seeking change. Look around your house, look at your wardrobe and ask yourself the same question.

It’s hard to accept the answer and we know why, its all about the money. Times are a-changing though. Asia and Europe can no longer be the default position on production, not only does it go against our humanitarian values but soon it won’t be cost-effective to source from overseas. Surely its perfectly plausible we can once again regain our integrity and find cause to celebrate the name “Great Britain” with a proud “Made in Britain” label hanging in our products and lining the shelves of the stores we buy from?

The forum had an amazing energy and positivity about wanting to increase awareness and move forward with British production, but this can’t be done without further willingness to be open and clarity in how we can make British manufacturing more accessible to start ups, more affordable and more flexible, and by fostering better partnerships.

We used to care and we used to be proud of what we made – just ask your grandparents! We have become complacent that we live in Great Britain, but we have forgotten a little about what made it great to start with…

You can play your part – support those that make in the UK and look for a Made in Britain label next time you go shopping. Please share this article and leave your thoughts below.


The Manufacturer. Friday 27th October 2016

Interview with Kate Hills in The Manufacturer

Interview with Kate Hills in The Manufacturer

Read the article here

An interview with Kate Hills, founder of Make it British, by Victoria Fitzgerald in The Manufacturer magazine. Kate gives her thoughts on the rise of UK textile manufacturing and what the challenges are to further growth. Plus she gives her tops tips for what factories need to do to attract young people into the industry.

“Young people want decent coffee machines and ping pong at lunch time. That would attract more people into the industry!


BBC Radio Leicester. Tuesday 25th October 2016

Make it british on BBC Radio Leicester October 2016

Kate Hills, founder of Make it British was interviewed by Lukwesa Burak – listen to the interview to find out why she was in Leicester, what buying British means, and why she launched Make it British six years ago.

How much do you know about the wool industry and British wool? I visited the Wool BnB during Wool Week 2016 to find out more

The Wool BnB - part of Wool Week 2016

The Wool BnB – part of Wool Week 2016

This week I paid a visit to the Wool BnB – a house where everything is made entirely of wool, set up to mark UK Wool Week 2016. Wool Week is the brainchild of the Campaign for Wool, which was launched by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2010 to educate consumers about the benefits of wool and to promote wool-rich products. Whilst there I chatted to Bridgette Kelly of the British Wool Marketing Board.

The house hosting the Wool BnB is located in North London and is packed with every conceivable item made from wool, right down to a knitted breakfast! I spotted many products in the house made in the UK, including blankets by Melin Tregwynt and Scarlet & Argent, throws by Wallace Sewell, accessories by Johnstons of Elgin and Hilary Grant, knitwear by John Smedley, cushions from Bronte by Moons, mattresses by Vispring, lampshades by Melanie Porter and carpets by Brintons.

Whilst in the house I had the pleasure of chatting to Bridgette Kelly from the British Wool Marketing Board. I was keen to find out more from Bridgette about the uses of British Wool, hoping to dispel the myth that the fleece from our homegrown breeds was unsuitable for anything other than carpets. Here’s what she told me:

“British wool is usually what we call ‘strong’ as it has quite a high micron. The best use of it is often for interior textiles, such as carpets, rugs and upholstery fabrics, but it’s also well-known for being used in tweed. It depends on which breed the wool comes from and where that breed is located. The Northern & Scottish breeds which produce the coarser yarn are used for tweed and interior textiles, whereas the download breeds in Devon and Dorset produce a much softer wool and this is often used my hand spinners to produce yarn for clothing. The finest wool produced in the UK is from the Blue Faced Leicester.

Weather and the geographical location of the flock also influence wool in terms of its quality and micron. For instance, if you are a Welsh mountain sheep your fleece is going to be strong and robust as it has responded to the harsh weather, whereas sheep on the Lowlands don’t need quite such strong fleece, so it is softer and finer and used for blankets and fabrics.”

British wool

Knitting yarns from West Yorkshire Spinners, Laxtons & Herdy

I also wanted to know how much British wool stays in the UK, and what percentage was exported. It appears that this is not an easy formula to calculate, as Bridgette explains:

“There is not a simple answer to this question because of how wool is sold in the UK.

The wools from a region will be collected from farmers and will go for grading. It is graded first by hand and eye and then put into a ‘type’. It is the types that are sold at auction – there are about 130 types of wool. The merchants that buy the wool fortnightly at auctions in Bradford will buy a ‘type’. Although the bidding is now done by a computerised system, they still have to physically go to the auction and bid.

In terms of how much goes where, when merchants buy it they buy it in large volumes, which is why the wool marketing board exists. You can’t buy a commercial quantity at the farm gates.

The merchants trade the wool all over the world.  Between fifty and sixty percent goes to China, a market that has grown considerably over the last four or five years. The rest is bought by other countries, including the UK. But because of many processes involved in getting wool from fleece to finished product, such as scouring (cleaning), spinning and weaving, very little British wool stays in the UK for the entire supply chain. It may be scoured and spun in China but then return back to the UK for weaving. At that point it is difficult to know what percentage of the wool included within the product has come from a British flock.

Some companies, such as Cherchbi who use the Herdwick wool, are now choosing to buy from a certain flock and keep the whole supply chain in the UK. We’re also seeing more British wool being used for bed fillings and bedding now too.”

#woolweek #yarn #britishwool #campaignforwool #wool #textiles #woolbnb #madeinbritain

A photo posted by Kate Hills??Make it British?? (@makeitbritish) on


10 facts about British wool

  1. Britain is one of the largest wool producers in the world, yielding nearly 22,000 tonnes per year
  2. Farmers receive up to £1.50 per kilo for their wool, a 300% increase on the price paid back in 2009
  3. There is only one farmer in the UK that produces Merino wool (a type of very fine fibre used for clothing). She is Lesley Prior of Bowmont UK
  4. There are 45,000 sheep farmers in the UK
  5. 34 million sheep reside in the British Isles
  6. Britain has more than 60 different breeds of sheep, 25 of which are rare breeds. That’s more than any other country in the world
  7. There are only two wool scourers left in the UK
  8. The British Wool Show is held yearly in Yorkshire and displays the products made by the many cottage industries and craft workers that produce wool products here
  9. It takes at least ten processes to get wool from sheep to cloth. They are shearing, grading, auction, scouring, carding, combing, spinning, weaving, dyeing and finishing
  10. Companies such as Cherchbi, Romney Marsh Wool and Izzy Lane commit to using British wool from flock to finished product ensuring a truly 100% British wool product.

“British Wool is not a fast fibre, it is a slow production” concluded Bridgette. All the more reason to invest in it I say.


Your chance to WIN the fabulous Elyon Tote Bag in Blackcurrant British leather as part of our Buy British Day celebrations.


LellieBag offer bespoke leather bags and products handmade in Great Britain. Their designer bags are designed and handmade by Lesley Shepperson using traditional methods of craftsmanship and tailoring skills.

The beautiful Elyon Blackcurrant Tote Bag is made from specially commissioned high quality British leather supplied by British leather specialists.

This Elyon Tote Bag is open top with a deep internal close-able pouch. Both the pouch and the handles are made from dark brown Italian leather.

A beautiful stylish accessory to grace your wardrobe and now one of our lucky readers will WIN this fabulous bag.

To be in with a chance to WIN just answer this simple question:

Which fruit is also the colour of the Elyon Tote?

Competition now closed

For more information about LellieBag click here or visit them at LellieBag


Your chance to WIN this stunning Alaska Faux Fur as part of our Buy British Day celebrations.


Established for 27 years The Throw Company offers the world’s largest range of luxury Faux Fur products. Their vast range of homeware, fashion and giftware are lovingly designed and handmade in their UK studio. Every item is handmade with the foremost rule of quality over quantity.

The top quality faux furs are hardly distinguishable from real fur, so there is now absolutely no need to use animals for their fur.

As part of our Buy British Day celebrations The Throw Company are offering one of our lucky readers the chance to WIN this large Alaska Fur Throw which measures 2m x 1.5m with fibres up to 6cm long. It is luxurious, silky and backed in cuddle soft velboa, which as the name suggests is very tactile!

All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this gorgeous throw is t answer this simple question:

Which American state is also the name of this throw?

Competition now closed

For more information about The Throw Company click here or visit www.fauxthrow.com