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+

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

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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!

Peacheyboo

Peacheyboo

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

Morrck

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

Bubbabibs

Bubbabibs

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!

Wildthings

Wildthings

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

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…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!!

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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.

christmas-present-2016

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

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1213979841993022/

Second gift revealed – Bianca Elgar Silk Scarf

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1216784201712586/

Third gift revealed – Cravat Club Silk Cravat

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1217727814951558/

Fourth gift revealed – Bee & Tea Apron

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1218655168192156/

Fifth gift revealed – Corrymoor Socks

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1220045358053137/

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

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1220741414650198/

Seventh gift revealed – Mille Saison’s Cushion

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1224415490949457/

Eighth gift revealed – Hettie Company Dog Bandana

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1225835800807426/

Ninth gift revealed – Growlees Dog Tags & Muggi Cup Holder

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1228074613916878/

Tenth gift revealed – Starchild Leather Baby Shoes

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1229692367088436/

Eleventh gift revealed – Charlie Noble Bat & Ball

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1230966430294363/

Twelfth gift revealed – Carddies Kids Colouring Set

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1233964416661231/

Thirteenth gift revealed – Rose Tree Organic Toiletries 

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1235527793171560/

Fourteenth gift revealed – Pigeon Organics Baby Blanket

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1237586669632339/

Fifteenth gift revealed – Romor Designs Silk Scarf

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1238451846212488/

Sixteenth gift revealed – Blue Badge Company Wheat Warmer

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1239858716071801/

Seventeenth gift revealed – Good Joe T-shirt

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1240958045961868/

Eighteenth gift revealed – VVA Leather Handbag

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1241465192577820/

Nineteenth gift revealed – Carrything

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1242082045849468/

Twentieth gift revealed – Woof and Meow Dog Collar

https://www.facebook.com/makeitbritish/videos/1242593099131696/

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

buy-british-community-facebook-banner

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.

elyon-blackcurrent

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.

11-alaska-throw

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

 

Saturday October 1st is Buy British Day – please support it and buy products Made in Britain

Buy British Day 2016

 

This Saturday, October 1st 2016, has been designated as Buy British Day.

Everyone will be using the hashtag #BuyBritishDay to promote products Made in the UK and lots of British-made brands will be supporting the occasion and offering special discounts.

We have over £1000 worth of British-made goodies to give away in a special Buy British Day 2016 competition bonanza.

Buy British Day 2016Last year we had an amazing response to our competitions which caused our website to go a bit wobbly. So this year we are giving you three days to enter.

Competitions open at 12:01am on Friday 30th September and close on Sunday 2nd October at midnight.

Enter the competitions here.

Buy British Day Offers

Here are some great discount codes that our lovely members have kindly offered our readers to use over Buy British Day Weekend:

Farmers Choice are offering 20% off of any food order up until the 9th Oct using code MIB916

Genevieve Sweeney is offering 20% on her knitwear with free delivery using code GSXBBD20

Red Dragon Flagmakers are offering a 20% discount on the 1st Oct using code FLAGSGALORE16

Chloe Haywood is offering free shipping on all hats in her annual sale using BUYBRITISH2016

Perfectcharm.co.uk are offering 20% discount on all products this weekend using code BuyBritishDay

The Worcestershire Leather Company are offering 10% off all bridle leather belts handmade to order until 3rd October using code MIB10

Bianca Elgar womenswear is offering 20% discount on using code MAKEITBRITISH

Happy & Glorious are offering £10 off when you spend £50 this weekend using code BBD16

Staunch Industries are offering 25% off all stock for 2 weeks using code BBD16

Please consider your purchasing and spend wisely on Buy British Day

Industry experts will tell you all you need to know to develop a ‘Made in Britain’ brand at our first Make it British Forum

Make it British ForumMake it British has announced the speaker line up for its first Make it British Forum on 26 October 2016 at De Montfort University as part of the Leicester Business Festival.

Speakers will include: Justine Tabak, who recently launched her own eponymous womenswear brand ‘Justine Tabak’, manufactured entirely in the UK, will be sharing the trials and tribulations of developing a brand

Designer, Karen Tickle of Ticklish Kids, will look at the challenges of designing and pattern cutting

Simon Platts of ASOS will explore what to look for in a factory partner and how to avoid the most common production pitfalls

Jess McGuire-Dudley, of John Smedley, will be offering advice on how to promote a British-made brand

Saf Ismail of Elite Labels will be joining us in a panel discussion, giving a manufacturers’ perspective on product development

We’re delighted to have such a high-profile line up of speakers for our debut Forum in Leicester.  This one-day event will provide you with all you need to know to develop a made in Britain brand, from design, product development and manufacturing to funding, promotion and selling the product.

The sessions will be interactive with plenty of time for Q&As and networking.  And with such a diverse mix of opinions across a broad range of product areas, from menswear, womenswear and childrenswear to knitwear and footwear – we’re expecting some lively debates!

The Make it British Forum will be held in association with the UK Fashion and Textile Association.

Go here to book tickets and find out more details about the event

One day event will provide answers to many questions that businesses have about developing a Made in Britain brand

develop a made in britain brand

Click image to book tickets

Over the past few years I have had thousands of people contacting me looking to manufacture their brand in the UK. Quite often they’ve ended up getting in touch because they have found the whole manufacturing process confusing – they don’t know how to find the best manufacturing partner, or what the best way of communicating with a factory is.

They also want advice on what truly constitutes a ‘made in Britain’ product, and how to go about promoting and selling a brand that is made in the UK.

I also know from how popular our Meet the Manufacturer event held yearly in London, that there is a huge appetite from the fashion and textile sector to find out more about manufacturing in the UK.

So we have decided to launch a one day event (outside of London), which will provide answers to many of the questions around product development and promotion that I am frequently asked by businesses wishing to grow brands with a ‘Made in Britain’ label.

The first Make it British Forum – ‘How to Develop a Made in Britain Brand’, will be held in association with the UK Fashion and Textile Association on 26 October 2016 at De Montfort University as part of the Leicester Business Festival.

Leicester is a region of the country traditionally known for textile manufacturing, and to have the opportunity to be the first public event to be held in this new art and design faculty at De Montfort University is amazing.

The one day conference will provide designers and business owners with the knowledge and tools required to successfully develop a ‘Made in Britain’ brand. 

The Make it British Forum will offer a step-by-step guide on how to build a great British brand, covering all aspects of design, branding, manufacturing and marketing.  Designers, buyers, fashion students and UK manufacturers will have the opportunity to forge links with one another and fill the gap on ‘how to source in the UK’.

To book tickets go here.

Textile manufacturing in Leicester is booming – hear all about it in this interview with Kate Hills, founder of Make it British, on BBC Radio Leicester

Kate Hills, CEO of Make it British, was interviewed by Jonathan Lampon on BBC Radio Leicester

I was interviewed this morning by BBC Radio Leicester about buying British. It was fantastic to be invited onto the show, but unfortunately they interviewed me remotely via Skype and there were a few technical hitches!

Worth a listen to also hear the great interview with Mick Cheema of Basic Premier, who was also on the show. Mick’s garment manufacturing business in Leicester is booming. He’s making for lots of the High Street retailers and you can find out all about this by listening to the live recording from his factory. Mick was on of the speakers at our Meet the Manufacturer conference in 2015 and his unit in Leicester is one of the largest clothing factories in the UK.

Just click the image above to hear the 11 minute interview on buying British and Leicestershire textiles on BBC Radio Leicester.

Basic Premier Leicester

Basic Premier Leicester

The country is waking up this morning to the news that Britain has voted to leave the EU – but how will this effect UK manufacturing?

Brexit52% of the residents of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland have made the decision that we would be better off out of the EU. Is this the right decision? At this stage, no one really knows. But what’s for sure is that for a while there will be a period of uncertainty for UK manufacturing.

Certainly the drop in the value of the pound that has happened over night will help make our goods cheaper overseas and help increase exports – but what will it do to the cost of raw materials, many of which are imported?

Britain sells 50% of its exports to the EU – will these countries continue to buy British-made goods without the tariff-free trade that currently exists?

Most UK manufacturers appeared to want to stay within the EU, according to a pre-Brexit study that was carried out by the EEF. And this sentiment was echoed by research carried out by Make it British a few weeks ago when we surveyed 120 UK textile manufacturers and 54% indicated that they wanted to remain, versus only 20% that thought they would be better off if we left.

UK manufacturers Brexit

Results of a survey of 120 UK textile manufacturers by Make it British

One of the issues influencing the textile industry in wanting to remain is the difficulty in finding skilled workers for the UK clothing industry from without importing staff from countries in Eastern Europe where these skills are still taught and valued. How things will now pan out for this growing part of the UK manufacturing sector now is anyone’s guess.

Another way UK manufacturing is likely to be hit is in no longer receiving the huge amount of funding for research and development that it has benefitted from by being part of the EU. How will this effect the development of innovation by these manufacturers now?

But what won’t be missed following the country’s choice for Brexit is some of the non-sensical red tape that the EU has created.  We were never keen on the plans to change the country of origin labelling so that British-made goods could no longer carry a ‘Made in Britain’ tag, so we can breath a sigh of relief on that one now.

Either way, one thing is for sure – UK manufacturers are likely to see a lot of instability and uncertainty over the next few months and years.

What are your thoughts on today’s news?

We took a trip to Northumberland for ‘The All-in-One Experience’ to create our own onesies and watch first hand as they were being made

My All-in-One Experience by Flossie Hills

How many kids these days can say that they have visited a factory? Do they even stop to think about who made the toys that they play with or the clothes that they wear?

Wouldn’t it be great for them to be able to see something that they own being made from start to finish, by skilled craftsmen that care about every step of its production?

My daughter Flossie got the chance to do just that when we were invited along to ‘The All-in-One Experience’ in Northumberland to create our own onesies.

All-in-One experience

Flossie starting out on her All-in-One Experience in front of the Onesie Hall of Fame

The All-in-One Company is the brainchild of ex-nursery nurse Kate Dawson, who started the onesie craze back in 2008 when she came up with the idea of making traditional baby sleepsuits for bigger children and adults. Knowing nothing about making garments, she set up a clothing factory from scratch and started making her onesies. The business has been phenomenally successful and the idea has been copied all over the world.

What makes Kate’s onesies different though, is the fact that you can design them yourself using a clever tool on their website which allows you to completely customise every part of the garment – from choosing the fabrics, to deciding which ear and tail styles you would like. And it’s not just the kids that choose these added extras. See the example below of Holly Willoughby in her spotty bear All-in-One!

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 10.36.38

One of the advantages of a factory that is based in the UK and that sells directly to the customer is that it is feasible to make this type of mass-customised product here. Had Kate Dawson decided to manufacture these onesies overseas then long shipping times and minimum order quantities would have made creating this type of bespoke product for her customers practically impossible.

Having successful created thousands of customised onesies in the last 8 years, Kate wanted to take this personal service one step further and actually invite customers to The All-in-One factory in Northumberland to watch their onesie being made – and that was when she came up with the idea of The All-in-One Experience.

This ‘tour round the factory’ with a difference only launched last month and we were very privileged to be some of the first visitors to go and try it out.

final onesie

Our All-in-One Experience started with a long train journey from Surrey to Newcastle, followed by a short train ride to Morpeth in Northumberland where we were met by Kate off the train to drive us to The All-in-One factory in Ashington.

The long journey was more than worth it as my daughter Flossie absolutely loved every minute of it. From the moment she walked into The All-in-One headquarters she was like a kid in a sweetshop – there was row upon row of fluffy and fleecy fabrics to choose from, all of which elicited lots of ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’.

Making a decision as to which one to choose was pretty tough. In the end she settled for a pale pink jersey with grey stars that was fleece lined on the inside. She added pug ears and front pockets, including an i-poc-it for a mobile phone (not entirely essential, but if you are eleven years old this little extra gives you added kudos on a sleepover!).

We then followed the onesie on its journey around the factory as it went from the cutting room, to the embroidery station, to the sewing room and finally for checking and packing – except Flossie decided not to have hers packed as she wanted to wear it on the train home!

Flossie absolutely loved ‘The All-in-one Experience’ and spent the whole of our journey home creating the little video that you saw above.

I hope that more factories will open their doors like this in future so that kids can see first hand how things are made.

In the meantime, if you fancy visiting The All-in-One company for their ‘experience’ you can book on their website here.

Our third sourcing event took place at The Old Truman Brewery in London last week with over 120 companies from all corners of the British Isles exhibiting

Meet the Manufacturer 2016

Thank you to everyone that came to our Meet the Manufacturer event last week. We were delighted by the overwhelming support for this year’s event, borne out by the fact that we had more people attend this time on the first day than attended overall last year.  Our workshops, which were new for this year, were phenomenally successful with around 900 people attending them over the two days.

An inspiring line up of conference speakers on day one included Hal Watts of Unmade, with a stimulating insight into how he developed the first on-demand knitwear platform. Peter Needle of headline-sponsor Segura talked through how businesses can source locally and Brendan McCormack of English Fine Cottons explained why a UK company making automotive insulations has made the investment to spin cotton again in the UK.

Day two focused on the relationship between the ‘creatives’ and the people that run the factories, including a candid panel discussion with Nick Ashley (Private White VC), Mike Stoll (Cooper & Stollbrand), Sarah Watkinson-Yull (Yull Shoes) and Jack Savva (Staffa Shoes), chaired by Pete Schonbeck of the London Small Business Centre. Rosie Wolfenden MBE oozed enthusiasm as she took to the stage to explain the importance of originality and why she runs Tatty Devine. Closing the conference, Katya Wildman revealed why she brought the production of her iconic bombshell dresses back to the UK.

New for 2016 were Innovation Accelerator and Designer’s Den where businesses that had made it through to the finals could pitch their ideas to a panel of experts live at the conference. Sockmine scooped the overall prize, by a narrow margin, with their innovative approach to developing highly technical socks for sports, such as snowboarding, running, walking or cycling. Designer’s Den was won by Dot One, who impressed both the judges and the audience with their DNA personalised design start-up using a customer’s genetic code to create truly unique and fashion pieces. They walked away with £1,000 to develop their product in the UK. You can read more about the winning companies in future articles on this website.

Plus, top designer, Tony O’Connor, was curating a collection of outfits from a raft of different designers and manufacturers, including Gosha London, Lavenham, Dege & Skinner, John Smedley, Emma Willis, Shackleton, Dawson Denim, Harris Tweed Hebrides and Katherine Hooker to capture the strength of skills and breadth of styles available in the UK today.  He also took the opportunity to reveal his Spring/Summer 17 Connor menswear collection in an exclusive preview for Meet the Manufacturer, explaining: “We’ve created this collection with a successful collaboration with premium British mills and leading British manufacturers to develop a new exclusive modern menswear collection made in the UK”.

Finally, Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council, was there to co-host a debate and networking party to bring together key designers and manufacturers to discuss positive fashion and sustainability in the British fashion industry. We’ll leave you with a quote from Caroline about the event:

“The atmosphere when you arrive at Meet the Manufacturer is incredible.  For the exhibitors here, it’s a great opportunity to hear that our designers want to make in the UK and to talk about the opportunities and how to overcome some of the barriers.  The British designers that we promote through London Fashion Week and London Collections Men really wouldn’t be able to start if it wasn’t for the manufacturing on their doorstep.”

We have already confirmed next year’s dates at The Old Truman Brewery which will be the 24th & 25th May, and we will also be hosting an event as part of the Leicestershire Business Festival on the 28th October. Watch this space for more details.

MEET THE MANUFACTURER 2017, The Old Truman Brewery, London. 24th & 25th May 2017