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.

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Think we don’t make clothing or textiles in the UK anymore? Think again!

There was over £2bn worth of textiles produced in Britain last year…and that figure is growing.
My name is Kate Hills and I’m on a one-woman mission to save UK manufacturing.
After years as a buyer for big name brands I gave it all up to help support the textile manufacturing base that we have left in the UK.
I now help to connect UK manufacturers with buyers and designers looking to make their products locally.
Making in the UK means easier communication, greater transparency and faster lead-times. And in today’s economic climate it means less risk too.
If you are developing a product and you think that making in the UK is going to be too expensive then I urge you to think again.
Come and visit our trade show – Make it British Live! – and see for yourself the fantastic manufacturers and brands that we have that make in Britain 🇬🇧

Your chance to WIN a Memory Improvement Course from Memory Power

Memory Power Online Courses

Want to improve your Memory Power?

Memory Power is an online, interactive memory improvement programme for adults and children created by Jonathan Hancock.

Memory is central to everything you will ever do, so memory training is vital for personal development, and a key factor in mastering the most important life skills.

The innovative Memory Power courses will give you the confidence to take on any learning challenge. Students can develop essential study-skills for all exams. At work you can use your memory skills to boost your efficiency and confidence. And whatever you do in your free time and social life, a powerfully creative mind is a great tool for organising your plans, improving your communication and achieving more of your goals.

The winner will get to choose between a Memory Power course for 1 adult or child.

To be in with a chance of winning this fabulous prize just answer this simple question:


Who created Memory Power?

  • Winners will be contacted via email and/or SMS. We will not pass your details to any third party unless you have expressly agreed to us doing so.
  • By giving your mobile number you agree to us notifying you via SMS if you have won the prize.
  • Closing date: 15th May 2018 – Entries received after the closing date will not be included in the prize draw.

    *Competition is only open to UK residents over the age of 18. **By ticking the consent box for receiving more information from the business holding the competition you are agreeing for us to pass your name, email and telephone number to them. As we say in our privacy policy we will never pass on your details without your consent.

    See our terms and conditions for full details.

To find out more about Memory Power click here or visit their website – www.memorypower.org

Your chance to WIN an Arundell Cowhide Clutch from Hyde and Hare

British Brand Hyde and Hare

Win a beautiful Cowhide clutch bag from Hyde and Hare

Hyde & Hare – are a British-born, luxury lifestyle brand offering the finest cowhide bags and accessories. What makes them special as a company is not just their impeccably stylish, beautifully designed and affordably priced products, but the fact that each of their bags is completely unique. You won’t find another one like them anywhere!

With headquarters based near Cirencester in the Cotswolds, Hyde & Hare prides itself on its commitment to innovation, design and above all, superb craftsmanship. Great thought, care and attention to detail goes into every item they make down to the smallest parts, including their signature silver Hyde & Hare Lozenge recognisable as a trademark on all their products.

No outfit is complete without that thoughtful accessory, and with the stunning cowhide clutch from Hyde & Hare on hand the decision becomes effortless. Handcrafted in England from the very finest cowhide, each bag is unique, thanks to its hand-selected hide and one-of-a-kind patterning.

British prizes by Hyde and Hare

Hyde and Hare’s Arundell Cowhide Clutch Bag

To be in with a chance of winning this fabulous prize just answer this simple question:


What town is Hyde & Hare’s headquaters based near?

  • Winners will be contacted via email and/or SMS. We will not pass your details to any third party unless you have expressly agreed to us doing so.
  • By giving your mobile number you agree to us notifying you via SMS if you have won the prize.
  • Closing date: 8th May 2018 – Entries received after the closing date will not be included in the prize draw.

    *Competition is only open to UK residents over the age of 18. **By ticking the consent box for receiving more information from the business holding the competition you are agreeing for us to pass your name, email and telephone number to them. As we say in our privacy policy we will never pass on your details without your consent.

    See our terms and conditions for full details.


To find out more about Hyde & Hare click here or visit their website – www.hydeandhare.com

Answer: The UK Government seems to think that they are all better made elsewhere!

We once had a fantastic volume bicycle manufacturing industry in the UK.  Just think Rayleigh – they were ubiquitous in the 1970’s – who didn’t want one of their Choppers?

Whilst most bicycle manufacturing went overseas in the 1980’s there are still several quality British bicycle manufacturers in the UK, including Pashley. I have one of their bikes myself and it’s a fantastic example of UK manufacturing at its very best.

Bikes, Pashley, British-made

The Pashley Factory

London Mayor Sadiq Khan must think so too. When he came into power in 2016 the contract for the London street bikes (formerly known as ‘Boris Bikes’) was handed over to Pashley. The street-hire bikes have been made at their Startford-upon-Avon factory every since.

But whoever has awarded the contract for the street bikes in Birmingham obviously doesn’t feel quite the same way. They’ve given their contract to a German factory instead. Ironic when you consider that Pashley are based in the Midlands too. Maybe someone has failed to point out the advantages of procuring from a local company to the person responsible for Government procurement!

Maybe it was the same person that made the clever decision to award the contract for making the new post-Brexit blue passports to a French company? Although I am guessing they realised they cocked up there when the Daily Mail launched a petition calling for the British passports to be made by a UK manufacturer. A petition which received 2,000 signatures an hour because the UK public felt so strongly about it!

Manufacturing of the new UK passport will be done outside of the UK

At least one MP is standing up to it. When Stoke-on-Trent North MP Ruth Smeeth noticed plates in the Houses of Parliament that didn’t have the renowned Stoke-on-Trent backstamp she questioned the UK Government’s procurement policy. Stoke-on-Trent-made plates are renowned the world over for their quality…so why weren’t the MP’s lunches being served on them? She called for a Parliamentary debate on public procurement, which has yet to happen.

Public sector procurement has done nothing to favour British-made products for a long while.

You just have to look at the cars that our police force drive (German made for the most part) or the uniforms that the British army wears (coming from as far afield as China). The fact is that we currently import about £57 billion more goods than we export.

This is partly due to the fact that EU procurement rules do not allow a country’s Government to favour its own products when tendering for a contract. However, one wonders what aspects are being taken into account when these contracts are awarded?

I suspect that it is cost price alone which has been the deciding factor in all three examples.

Which means that other aspects such as quality and product-longevity, jobs and sustainability, are not taken into account. Pashley’s general manager Steve Bell said that 10 new jobs could have been created at their factory if they’d got the Birmingham bike contract. That’s just one example of how, for the sake of a saving a few bob in the short term, the long term and wider economic impact is not taken into consideration.

If we are to start growing our UK manufacturing industry again everyone involved in some sort of buying or procurement decision needs to consider the TOTAL cost of a product and the wider impact of their choices.  Not just the initial cost price.

That includes not only those in Government responsible for procurement, but also YOU when you are out shopping and making your own purchasing decisions.

Remember – buy cheap and you buy twice!

What makes a fabric ethical? What does zero waste mean? What are the benefits of sourcing sustainable materials?  Ethical textiles expert, Charlie Ross, talks us through the world of sustainable fabrics.

With a Masters in menswear from the Royal College of Art, Charlie Ross was an experienced fashion designer determined to work only with ethically sourced raw materials and production. But, incorporating sustainable textiles and eco-friendly dyes into her collections proved to be a real challenge.

Taking matters into her own hands, she is now the founder and director of Offset Warehouse, a company which supplies eco fabrics and haberdashery, fulfilling both small and wholesale orders.

In this interview, Charlie outlines:

> The difference between sustainable and ethical fabrics.

> Alternatives to cotton and other ethical fabric choices.

> The benefits of zero waste to your bottom-line.

> How to find out more about manufacturing ethical textiles products.

This interview was recorded as part of The Make it British Show, a weekly Facebook live session broadcast every Thursday at 1pm on our Make it British Facebook page. 

Find out more about Offset Warehouse here.

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This year our Make it British Live! two-day symposium will be coordinated and anchored by renowned industry commentator Eric Musgrave.

Eric Musgrave Make it British Live!

Renowned industry commentator Eric Musgrave will chair the Make it British Live! Symposium in 2018 (Photo: Laura Lewis)

We are delighted to announce that Eric Musgrave will be chairing the Symposium at our Make it British Live! event on 23 & 24 May 2018

Since 1980, his journalistic career has seen Musgrave observe and analyse the entire pipeline of the fashion industry, from mill to high street and now to the internet.

Eric’s breadth of knowledge and his depth of contacts across the industry is unrivalled and I’m confident that his chairmanship of our seminar programme will bring out the best of the speakers and panellists.

Eric’s commitment to championing British manufacturing is well-known. While at UKFT in 2010 he established the Let’s Make It Here database, the first free-to-use listing of British makers and he has written regularly about British manufacturing for titles like Financial Times, Business Life and Jigsaw’s Style + Truth magazine.

We’re delighted that he has agreed to take on this important role this year.

A few words from Eric Musgrave about his involvement in the event…

“My view of domestic manufacturing is simple: use it or lose it. I was born and brought up in Leeds in the 1960s and 1970s, when it lost its position as men’s tailoring capital of the world, so I am aware of the market forces at work.

“For the past 10 years or so I have realised there are great gaps in knowledge about the industry. Important people in fashion retail trade, politicians and the general public often have no idea what is still made in the UK. In turn, the industry is not brilliant at promoting itself or, in some cases, in adapting to changing requirements of the market.

“I got to know Kate Hills when she was setting up her Make It British initiative in 2011 and I am so impressed with the way it has developed. The ‘live’ incarnation of the movement has been a very inspiring place to visit over the past five years, so I am delighted to join Kate for the fifth event under its new name of Make It British Live!.”

The two-day programme of seminars will bring together inspiring, informed and provocative people who are passionate about what they are talking about.

If you have any interest in UK manufacturing, as a designer, a maker, a retailer, an investor or a potential employee, you will find much to enjoy at Make It British Live! 2018 on 23 and 24 May at The Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, London.

Alongside the seminars there will be over 200 exhibitors in the trade show and a series of workshops.

To register to attend go to Make it British Live!

Make it British Live!

Does the UK’s younger generation really not have the same work ethic as the older one? Or is it just that manufacturers are not presenting themselves in a way in which to attract them?

In this article I consider WHY manufacturers may be having trouble appealing to young people, and what they can do about it

When Make it British ran a survey in 2017 amongst UK textile manufacturers, 50% said that they were worried about the age of their current workforce. They gave us feedback such as “the UK’s younger generations don’t have the same work ethic as the older generations” and “it’s just not seen as an inspiring career for young people.”

But is this really true? Or do youngsters just have a different idea about what their working life should look like?

After all, companies such as Google don’t seem to have a problem attracting young people. They get over 2 million job applicants a year and the average age of their workforce is 30. Facebook’s is even younger at 28.

I’ve visited hundreds of UK factories since I started Make it British. In some of them the average age is well into the 50’s and 60’s, but in others at least half are under 30. I notice that the ones that do have a younger than average workforce, often have have several features in common.

Here are the four steps that I think manufacturers can take to help make themselves more appealing to the younger generation….

– Have a good presence on social media

Like it or not, social media is a part of everyone’s lives these days, especially the young – they use Snapchat and Instagram to communicate with each other, and You Tube as a search engine.

If a business has no social media presence, or worse still, a very dull and uninspiring one, on these channels then it’s not got to help dispel the myths that manufacturing is not a great place to work.

Behind-the-scenes photos on platforms such Instagram help give a potential employee an insight into what it’s really like to work for a company, and it’s probably going to be the first place they look when they want to find out more about you.

UK manufacturers need a good presence on social media to appeal to young peopleClick To Tweet

– Create a working environment that is a pleasure to work in

There is a culture within tech companies of turning the workplace into something more akin to a nursery than an office – bright colours, beanbags and even a slide rather than stairs from one floor to another (not kidding, I saw it with my own eyes when I visited the Moshi Monsters HQ a few years back).

Lots of UK manufacturers have had little money to invest in the upkeep of their premises over the last few decades, doing nothing to dispel the myth that manufacturing in the UK is a dying profession.  Yet many of the warehouse buildings that they are based in are the height of cool in a tech company. I’m not saying that manufacturers should start to install swings and slides into their factories to emulate them, but just having a lick of paint and a some great images on the walls can help.

– Have a website that reflects the quality of manufacturing

I’ve lost count of the amount of manufacturers that have said to me ‘I must get our website updated‘. Some of them still have sites that look like they were built just as the internet was invented! Or worse still, they don’t have one at all.

Just a simple website with some great photography will suffice. One that reflects the quality of British manufacturing and shows that the business is in the 21st Century.

– Turn a canteen into a cafe

I once got called shallow when I declared that all it takes to attract young people into a workplace is a decent coffee machine! But you have to remember that this is the generation that has grown up with a Starbucks on every corner. A vending machine with a cup of lukewarm tea is not going to cut the mustard.

The cafe at ASOS headquarters looks like a Soho eatery rather than a prison dining hall, so it’s probably no surprise that the average age of the staff there is under 30. Every manufacturer could take just a small leaf out of their book and make the breakout area in their factory a little more inviting… and a decent coffee machine should be top of their list of equipment purchases if they want to attract young people into manufacturing!

If you’re thinking of skipping it this year, here’s why you shouldn’t!

In case you missed it…a few weeks ago I announced that I was changing the name of our Meet the Manufacturer event to Make it British Live!

You can read the reasons behind the name change here.

And in just 3 months from now at 9am on the dot we will be opening the doors…

Our fifth trade show… and our first ever Make it British Live!

(Mark it in your diary now so you don’t forget)

We’ve had some great feedback on the name change, but also several people asking whether the show will be focusing less on manufacturers now.

The answer to that question is No, and Yes.

Make it British Live! will still be the only place that you can find all of the UK manufacturers that you need under one roof.

But it’s not just about finding manufacturers any more.

It’s also about a whole community of buyers, designers, students, retailers and manufacturers coming together to inspire, learn, network and support each other in their quest to make British manufacturing great again.

But no one ever said regenerating the UK textile industry was going to be easy.

Despite new factories and mills opening all the time, there is still a long way to go. The UK supply chain is still quite fragmented…which is why I set the show up in the first place. So that the industry could come together and meet face-to-face.

Someone told me yesterday that people don’t go to trade shows any more. They do business over the internet instead. Poppycock!

You can’t beat meeting people and doing business in person, which is why I wrote this article here:

Why you need to meet a manufacturer face-to-face

Our trade show is not just about visiting stands (of which we’ll have about 200 this year by the way)…but it’s about meeting people too. Other people that have the same passion for UK manufacturing as you do.

So if you were wondering whether you were going to bother coming down to the Truman Brewery in London on 23rd and 24th May this year, either because you aren’t specifically looking for a manufacturer at the moment, or because you think you can do all of your business online…please think again.

You have my personal guarantee that it will be worthwhile.

And just so you have some ‘skin in the game’ as they say, why not register now so that you commit to coming!

(and if you want to snap up one of those stands for your business, whether you are a UK manufacturer or British-made brand, click here and we’ll contact you with more details)

In an age where the majority of connections are made online, you still can’t beat doing business in person. Here’s why…

meet a manufacturer face to faceA lot of what I do is to help people find UK manufacturers to make their products – be that on a one-to-one basis or through our trade show.

Many of the connections that I help facilitate turn out to be successful, but it still amazes me the amount of designers, buyers and product developers that do not take the time to go and see a manufacturer before they try and place an order!

I know emails are very handy for quick correspondence, but in these days of digital communication there are still lots of advantages to doing business face-to-face, especially where product is concerned.

Here are 5 of the reasons I give as to why you should meet your manufacturer face-to-face…

Meeting someone in person aids communication.

There is little room for a lack of understanding or misinterpretation of ideas if you can meet with someone and discuss business when you are both able to look each other in the eye. It is even better if you can also show the manufacturer the type of product you want to make, and they can show you other things that they might have made previously that are similar.

It demonstrates that you mean business

If manufacturers receive hundreds of emails a week from prospective new customers and can only take on a limited amount of new business, why will they pick you? When you make the effort to go and meet someone face to face and explain what you are trying to achieve they are much more likely to see the potential in a future business partnership.

You can touch and feel the product and see the quality of their workmanship

We are, after all, talking about developing products here. There’s no point complaining about a first delivery coming back from a manufacturer and the quality being disappointing, if you have never seen anything that the factory has made before. Taking a few hours out of your busy day to browse the quality of craftsmanship coming out of the British Isles may reassure you as to why you may pay a little more to get something made here instead of overseas.

It can lead to some great collaborations

Who knows what might come out of a visit to a factory or trade show when you have the opportunity to network with others in a real life situation? Social media is great for virtual networking, but being in the same room as someone can’t be beaten. Ideas for new business opportunities often come about in the most unlikely of meetings, but you won’t find out about them unless you make the effort to go and see some people.

There may be things that you never thought possible

Who knows what you might discover when you actually take the time to look around and see what different manufacturers have to offer? There maybe products that you never knew could be made here. Or different manufacturing techniques that you hadn’t even heard of.

You won’t find many of these on the internet or in en email. So get yourself out there and go and meet some manufacturers!

MP demands to know why Parliament aren’t serving on plates made in Stoke-on-Trent

Should UK Government be buying British? When Stoke-on-Trent North MP Ruth Smeeth noticed plates in the Houses of Parliament that didn’t have the renowned Stoke-on-Trent backstamp she questioned WHAT the UK Government were actually buying that was made in Britain.

Ms Smeeth requested figures from the House of Commons to find out what percentage of their crockery was UK made, and was appalled to find out that it was less than half. She was understandably aggrieved – Stoke-on-Trent still has some amazing pottery companies that could have supplied the goods, including Steelite and Moorland Pottery.

She has now called for a Parliamentary debate on public procurement after Brexit, to try and ensure that the Government commits to buying British.

At the moment EU ruling says that a country can’t favour it’s own products when buying goods and services. Hopefully with Brexit that will change

I was interviewed by Perry Spiller on BBC Radio Stoke to give my thoughts on the matter.

You can hear the interview below:

Should the UK Government buy British?

We’re looking for two amazing people to join our team – could it be you?

Despite what people might think, Make it British is run by a very, very small team.

Considering that we run a large trade show visited by 5,000 people, conferences for over 200, and a busy online portal with over 125,000 unique visitors a month, there’s still only full-time in the business making this happen (me, the founder), plus a team of freelancers and specialists who work on an as-needed basis.

However, I want Make it British to pride itself on offering amazing support to our members and exhibitors, as well as producing the very best content about making in the UK and buying British that we can.

So I need more people to join the team!

We’re currently looking for two people to join us on a part-time basis working remotely (in the UK obviously!)

Read on for more information about the two people that we’re looking for, and to find out how to apply…

Membership Co-ordinator We are looking for a Membership Co-ordinator to work remotely on a part-time basis to look after and support all of our lovely Make it British members.

This person will have responsibility for supporting and retaining current members as well as developing ideas to enlist new members.

This is a customer-facing role for someone who enjoys building relationships with people and loves great product – because you’re going to see a lot of it from our members!

You’ll need to be able to work under your own steam,  and be super-organised, and the sort of person who loves using systems and creating processes. Experience of using a CRM system and other digital tools would be very useful too.

To find out more about the Membership co-ordinator role click here and we’ll email you details.

Event Sales Executive

Make it British Live! is a two day business to business trade show and conference for the fashion and textiles sector held at The Old Truman Brewery in London.

We are looking for someone who enjoys selling to help with following up leads and closing sales for exhibition stands, sponsorship and advertising for the event in May 2018. This is predominantly a telesales role but it’s not cold-calling!

This is a fixed term position for three months with the flexibility of working from home with an immediate start. Ideally you’ll have previous experience working on event sales, but what you really need is great enthusiasm and a wonderful telephone manner 🙂

To find out more about the sales role click here and we’ll email you details.

If you know someone that might be interested in either of these roles please share this article. We’re looking to fill the positions by the beginning of March 2018.



Just months ahead of our fifth annual event we’ve taken the decision to rename the show…here’s why

In 2014 I set up a little trade show and conference called Meet the Manufacturer.

It came about because I saw a growing number of enquiries to the Make it British website from businesses looking to connect with UK fashion and textile manufacturers.

At the same time, the factories that I spoke to were still predominantly relying on word of mouth to find new customers. I realised that the industry really needed a trade event to bring them all together – and Meet the Manufacturer was born!

The first event took place in a small warehouse of 11,000 sqft at The Old Truman Brewery in East London.

56 exhibitors from across the industry took stands at the first show, and a two day conference programme for 250 delegates ran alongside.

Less than 5 months in the planning (would have preferred long but that’s another story altogether!) and not having held an event before, I was unsure how many people would actually turn up…

But I needn’t have worried.

The conference was a sell-out, and there were queues around the block as over 2000 visitors waited to get into the trade show!

Now in its fifth year, the event is held in a warehouse unit of 55,000 sqft at The Old Truman Brewery, over the road from where the first event took place.

More than 5,000 visitors and 200 exhibitors are expected in 2018, showing the increasing demand for making in the UK and buying British products.

The show attracts overseas visitors from 17 different countries, including Japan, Germany and Scandinavia, who come to the event looking for authentic British-made products to stock in their stores.

Now that the show is about more than just meeting manufacturers the name didn’t seem quite so appropriate. So I’ve taken the decision to rename the show to more accurately reflect our core values.

From now on the show will be called Make it British Live!

We pride ourselves on still being the ONLY 100% British sourcing event and I believe that our new name will connect the event even more closely with the other activities that we do at Make it British.

I’m confident that our rebrand will be the fanfare to attract even more progressive businesses looking to source locally and reshore their production back to the UK.

From garment manufacturing and textile mills to pattern cutters and trimming suppliers, Make it British Live! brings together all the UK manufacturers you need under one roof.

The event is also the place to go to discover a British brand, with a selection of creative businesses showcasing their distinct and inspirational labels.

Plus we will still have an packed two-day programme of talks with a line-up of inspiring speakers and informative workshops that reflect the diversity of the fashion, textiles and homeware industries.

More and more businesses in the UK are looking to manufacture locally and we’re seeing increased interest from overseas as more companies seek out brands with a made in Britain label.

For many years the fashion and textiles supply chain in this country has been fragmented, but Make it British Live! is all about bringing that supply chain back together!

Make it British Live! takes place on 23 and 24 May at The Old Truman Brewery, London.

For more information go to: makeitbritishlive.com

BBC Radio 5 Live’s Nihal Arthanayake asks “Is Made in Britain a label to be proud of?” in this interview live from the Grenson factory in Northampton.

Radio 5 Grenson Interview

Click the link above to listen to the interview

In this special edition of BBC Radio 5 Live’s afternoon show, presenter Nihal Arthanayake visits the famous Grenson footwear factory in Northampton.

At the factory he is joined by Grenson’s owner Tim Little, Adam Mansell CEO of UK Fashion & Textile Association and Kendall Robbins, Programme Manager for Fashion at the British Council.

Tim Little explains why he went from advertising to buying the Grenson shoe factory, which was founded in Northampton in 1866.

Kate Hills from Make it British is interviewed 24 minutes into the feature – hear her thoughts on what ‘made in Britain’ actually means and what the rules are surrounding its use.

We don't want to become a museum brand, we want to be a modern business, Tim Little, GrensonClick To Tweet



Find out how Ruth Dent went from working in IT to becoming an artist and then turning that art into a printed scarf business

How I started my printed scarf business with Ruth Dent

Have you ever thought about having a career change because you wanted to follow your passion? That’s exactly what Ruth Dent did, when she went from working in IT to becoming an artist.

In this interview Ruth explains what inspires her work and the process involved in turning her artwork into wearable pieces of art.

She talks you through the process involved in  turning a painting into a printed piece of fabric, using the silk printer she works with in Macclesfield. Find out how long the whole process takes from start to finish and the advantages of working with a manufacturer in the UK.

If you’re interested in starting your own printed textile business you’re going to find Ruth’s advice invaluable.

To find out more about Ruth go to ruthdent.com

Ruth has been a member of Make it British for several years and we were delighted when she offered to be our first interview for a series of live member interviews we’ll be doing at 1pm every Tuesday on Facebook.

If you want to find out more about how Make it British can help your British-made business click here.

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Are you looking for a UK garment manufacturer? Thinking of starting with a Google search to find a factory to make your clothing brand? Let me stop you right there.

A search engine is not a good place to start in pursuit of your ideal UK garment manufacturing partner, and here’s why…

UK garment manufacturer searchDo a Google search for a UK garment manufacturer, and this is what you’ll find.

Amongst the listings on page one of the search results there are; several manufacturers who actually produce overseas, an advert for a company encouraging you to manufacturer in Poland, and an article from The Guardian entitled ‘Fashion entrepreneurs: How to find a factory to make your products‘, which is out of date.

Some of the imposters require quite a bit of digging on their website to actually uncover where their production process takes place.

Take for instance the company that is at number one in Google at the time of writing. The title of the link says ‘ Clothing Manufacturer UK ‘and the description includes the term ‘ clothing manufacturers UK based service’. If you were looking for a UK clothing manufacturer you’d probably have every reason to think that this company could be a good bet. They even promise to be fast, affordable, quality and a low MOQ (minimum order quantity). If you were someone starting up a clothing brand using Google to start your search you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d struck gold with this one.

So you click on the link and see phrases such as UK based clothing manufacturers and UK clothing manufacturing services.

You have to really dig into the small print to find out that this company is not actually making the garments in the UK. Buried deep on their About page you will just about find a single mention of a network of factories based in the Baltic region of Europe. How very disappointing if you are wanting to manufacture your garments solely in the UK.This example is not unique – there are lots of businesses, for all different types of apparel and accessory manufacturing, that have a high ranking website on Google for search terms that include the words British and UK but who carry out the production overseas.

So how can you avoid getting hoodwinked by these imposters when trying to find a UK garment manufacturer?

For a start, always read the small print and be aware of phrases often used to deceive, such as ‘UK-based’ (they have an office here) or ‘designed in the UK’ (they have a designer here), or probably the most confusing ‘developed in the UK’ (they make the first prototype here). If you can’t determine from the website exactly where the production is being done, ask questions.’How many machinists do you have in the UK?’ and ‘Where is your factory based?’ will usually weed them out.

And of course, make sure that you go and visit them! One of the advantages of making in the UK is that your manufacturer is on your doorstep.

Looking for UK manufacturers? Our Make it British Live! trade show is the only 100% British sourcing event and has over 200 exhibitors making clothing, accessories, homeware and leathergoods. Details here.

If you’re looking for a UK manufacturer here are 3 things you need to know before you begin your search for one…

I get a lot of people contacting me at Make it British looking for a manufacturer to make garments or accessories for their brand. Often they are a start-up and have no experience of the fashion industry. They all ask the same question – can you find me a manufacturer to make my products in the UK?

Often they have a long list of different product types that they want to make – hoodies, caps, belts, trousers, backpacks – and would like to find one manufacturer that can make everything. I tell them that finding one manufacturer to make all of it is going to be impossible, and here’s why…

UK manufacturers are specialists in what they do

Let’s get this straight from the start – working with a UK manufacturer is going to be very different to outsourcing to an agent that works with overseas factories. In the case of the latter, you could brief them on all of the different product types in your range and they will go away and make it happen (at a cost). Whereas when you work directly with a UK manufacturer you will most probably need to work with a selection of different factories, depending on the type of products within your range.

For instance, a manufacturer may specialise in outerwear, which means they will only make coats. Or they will be a knitwear factory, in which case you are sorted if you want to make jumpers and cardigans. But even then they make not make childrens knitwear, or will only work with certain types of yarn.

You will also find that manufacturers who are specialists in making high-end products such as silk dresses are able to do so because they have skilled hand-stitchers on their production team, so you wouldn’t go to them if you wanted a pair of jeans made!

What a manufacturer can make is dictated by the machinery that they have

The types of machinery that a manufacturer has will dictate what they are able to make.

Say for instance you wanted to make activewear, you’re going to want a factory that has a coverstitch machine so that they can produce the type of flat seams that won’t rub when a garment is worn.

Similarly if it’s a woven garment with buttonholes you’re making you’ll need a manufacturer with a buttonhole machine. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to ask this question!

The same goes for shoes and accessories – the construction of a trainer requires different machinery to a Goodyear welted brogue. And a small leather workshop may not have the press machine to cut leather in bulk, which is fine if you are only making small quantities but when it comes to volume production you’re going to want something more automated.

When it comes to fabric there are different types of factory too. A weaver will make their fabric on a loom, producing a non-stretchy fabric such as cotton canvas or denim, whereas a warp knitter is the type of mill you’re looking for if you want T-shirt material.

By the way, if you want to find out a little bit more about the different types of machinery so that you sound knowledgable when you visit a manufacturer I’d highly recommend looking on the AE Sewing website. They list all of the different types of machines and tell you what they are used for.

Similarly, DCR Machines is a good place to start if you want to find out more about machinery for the leather industry.

Manufacturers have different MOQs

How many of each style you want to make is also an important consideration. If you’re a start-up and only want to produce a few of each style, you would be far better suited to a smaller manufacturing unit or workshop where they are used to working with low MOQs (Minimum Order Quantities). Even if you did manage to persuade a larger factory to squeeze you in, you may find that when a bigger order comes in from an existing client your work gets pushed to the back of the queue. Not because the manufacturer doesn’t value your business, but because trying to timetable a larger order can be more difficult than a slotting in a smaller one, so will often take precedence.

Similarly, if you want to make 1000 T-shirts there is no point in approaching a small fashion studio with only 2 machinists, because it will take a very long time for them to make a big order quantity. And they are probably not used to working at the speed required to produce high volume orders.

If you’re looking to find UK manufacturers then you may be interested in an online course we are launching very soon which will help you do just that. Click the image below and we’ll send you all the details when they become available.

Click here to find out more

Here we round up our highlights of 2017 as we continue to celebrate another great year for UK manufacturing

2017 has been a great year for UK manufacturing and for us here at Make it British, as we continue our campaign to support British-brands that make in the UK.

Traffic to the Make it British website has doubled this year, and we now have over 300,000 page views a month. That shows the growing interest for making in the UK and buying British-made products.

Interest from overseas has also increased massively, and International visitors to the website now make up 30% of the site’s traffic. USA, Canada, Germany and Singapore have shown the biggest growth in our visitor demographics.

So as we reflect on 2017 we take a little look back at our highlights from the past year.




Make it British team

The Independent ran an article about the Make it British story in March 2017




  • Meet the Manufacturer, the only 100% British sourcing event, is declared a resounding success, as 185 exhibitors and 5,000 visitors from 27 different countries attended our yearly trade show at the Truman Brewery in London
  • – We got something we didn’t bargain for when a fire alarm went off during a Facebook Live broadcast on the second day of Meet the Manufacturer
Highlights from Meet the Manufacturer 2017

Our biggest ever event took place in May 2017, as MTM opened the doors to 5000 visitors


  • – Our interview with womenswear designer Justine Tabak, who left corporate life to launch her own label struck a cord with many and was our most popular post on Facebook that month






The Make it British Forum in November welcomed 250 delegates


UK textile manufacturing made primetime news on Boxing Day

Make it British helped put together this piece for  BBC News about the regeneration of the UK cotton supply chain

Cotton industry feature on BBC News

The film follows the journey of raw cotton from bale to rail – the first time that this has happened in the UK for decades.

First the raw cotton is spun at English Fine Cottons, a brand new cotton spinning plant in greater Manchester.

Then it makes it’s way to Blackburn Yarn Dyers to be dyed pink.

The coloured yarn then makes its way to Burnley to be woven into cloth at John Spencer Textiles.

And finally the cloth is stitched into a shirt at Manchester garment manufacturers Private White V.C. who recently opened a shirt making unit.

This is a fantastic example of how textiles manufacturing is coming back to Britain and I’m extremely proud to have been a part of it.

To see the Make it British textile manufacturers survey results which this piece is based on click here.

The annual Make it British survey of fashion and textile manufacturers has revealed that 2017 has been another great year for the sector.  This comes despite economic uncertainty with issues surrounding the availability of skills for an industry that just a few years ago everyone considered to be dead.

The Make it British survey of UK fashion and textile manufacturers

The Make it British survey of UK fashion and textile manufacturers – click image to download the full survey results

Half of UK textile manufacturers saw turnover increase in 2017

Nearly 100 manufacturers from across the fashion and textile sector were surveyed, ranging from small workshops producing luxury womenswear to textile mills producing millions of metres a year. The results showed that despite economic uncertainty and issues surrounding the availability of skills, nearly half were seeing an increase in turnover on the previous year. One manufacturer reported that “this year has been an exceptional year”.
Enquiries are increasing too, with 58% of manufacturers receiving more interest than they were a year ago, as more companies look to source locally and restore their production back to the UK.

Production is up more that 25% for booming UK textile industry

Textile manufacturers reported that on average production was up by 25%, and many are now running double shifts to keep up with the demand. Yet others were reporting that production volume had stayed the same as “we are focusing on clients with higher margins and less bulk turnover”.
The increase in production and turnover is being helped in part by the exchange rate working in UK manufacturers favour. One manufacturer reported “as the pound loses its value our turnover has increased by 30%”. 30% of UK textile manufacturers are exporting more than they were in 2016, yet still a third of those surveyed said that they weren’t yet exporting – a massive opportunity going forward.

Young people coming into the industry increases as manufacturers take on apprentices

An ageing workforce is still a concern for many, with nearly 50% saying that they are worried about the age of their staff. Two thirds have an average workforce age of over 40 at their factories, but many are taking on young people through apprenticeships. Yet attracting young people into the industry is still a struggle with young people not coming into the industry quick enough – the average employer only having taken on one young person in the last year.

What does 2018 hold in store for UK textile manufacturers?

So what does the future hold for UK textile manufacturers in 2018? It’s looking pretty good – with respondents scoring 3.2 on a scale of 1 to 5 when asked how optimistic they feel about the future of their industry.
Are you a UK textile manufacturer? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Either in the comments below or contact us here.

Think you can launch a fashion brand with £500? I’m sorry to break this to you, but that amount of money might not even going to touch the sides!

We asked Make it British members to reveal how much it cost them to launch their brand and the results may surprise you…

How much does it cost to start a fashion brand?

How much does it cost to launch a British-made brand?

I’m sure many of you have heard the Cambridge Satchel story  – how it’s founder Julie Deane launched a multi-million pound handbag brand with just £600 from her kitchen table? That story has a lot to answer for! Not a day goes by that I don’t get a keen new business owner contacting me looking for a UK manufacturer that can help them get their brand off the ground with just a few pounds in their pocket.

Sorry to break your bubble, but you’ll most likely need a five figure sum to start a fashion brand in the UK

You’ll most likely need a five figure sum to start a fashion brand in the UKClick To Tweet

We surveyed members of the Make it British Community and asked them how much it had cost them to get their brand off the ground. Over 50% of them had spent more than £15,000. That’s just to launch – up to the point where the product can go on sale – you’ll still need a buffer of cash to cover more stock and ongoing marketing and overheads.

The true cost will obviously depend on various factors – how many products you have in your range, what level of the market you’re aiming at (luxury will cost more) and what the product type is. Luxury leathergoods will cost a lot more to launch than a casual T-shirt business for instance.

Rebecca Barton had over twenty years of design experience before she launched utility-inspired clothing brand Pajotten. In her case she says, “We spent about £8,000 but really could have done with double that.

At the other end of the scale, Isabelle Ugochuckwu, founder of handbag brand Isabella Queen, said “Mine is a luxury brand and the costs involved in sampling, trade shows and showrooms in the first two years is almost £200,000! And I’m frugal. I could have easily well spent £500k if I had it

How do these costs break down?

  • Prototyping

This is the cost involved in producing your samples. It will include research and development, materials, manufacturing, and design costs (either your own or a designer you employ). Bear in mind that a manufacturers costs to produce a prototype will be higher than the normal production costs – often at least double. If you have any branded trims there will be mould charges too. You may also have to pay a pattern cutter and someone to help with fitting. Most importantly you’ll need to produce some samples that can be used for trialling (to check that they are fit for purpose) and testing (which many retailers expect). Cut this stage out and you may end up with some disgruntled customers.

  • Stock

The cost to make your first batch of stock is very much dictated by what your manufacturers minimum order quantities are and the price of your garments. I’d always advise investing as little as possible in stock until you’ve tested out your idea.

The cost of your stock will comprise of the total cost of all of your materials, manufacturing and packaging. Materials can include, but is not exclusive to: yarn, fabric or leather, hardware, components such as lining and stiffenings, trims and labels, and boxes and bags. Plus the shipping costs of any of the raw materials.

There’s then your bulk production costs to take into account, which includes the cutting, making and finishing of the garments or accessories. And there’s packing costs to be added in here too! If you’re making the product yourself then you’ll probably have to invest heavily in machinery, but this will cut your manufacturing costs down.

  • Marketing

Now let’s consider the cost of getting your new brand out there in front of potential customers. For a start, you’ll need a good website – I can’t emphasise enough how important this is. You’ll also want to pay someone to design your branding, plus there’s business cards and any other printed promotional material.

You also need good photography to show off your product in its best light. Zalina Denis, founder of womenswear label Zalinah White, offers this tip for designers based in London  – “Photography services are expensive so opting for a Manchester-based photoshoot is another option to produce quality photographs and save money.”

If you want to get your brand into retail stores, especially overseas, you may also need to budget for a sales person or distributor. Plus there’s the cost of trade shows, which may be considerable if you’re travelling abroad.

For raising brand awareness social media is a great tool, and mostly free for now. And for British-made brands, platforms like Instagram can really help you to tell the story behind the label. But with video starting to dominate these channels you may want to set aside some budget for producing a quality short film about your brand.

Finally you should think about PR, and how you might achieve press coverage for your new business. It’s easy to spend thousands on a PR agency and the results can be varied to say the least. Sarah Watkinson-Yull, founder of Yull Shoes, offers this advice for designers starting out: “There are many things that you can learn yourself and do for free. No one will be better able to market your business other than yourself. Passion and enthusiasm sells!

Whatever you do, don’t try to skimp on the marketing. Otherwise you’ll find that the stock that you’ve invested in just sits there gathering dust and you won’t build up the cashflow needed to pay for your next collection.

  • Admin costs

Let’s not forget some of the less exciting, but essential costs, of setting up a new brand – legal fees for contracts, trademarks and NDAs don’t come cheap. And you may also want to have some form of insurance cover too. Will you also need any staff to help you? And who is going to pick and pack the orders going out to customers? You may also want to rent a studio space or workshop, and depending on your location that doesn’t come cheap.

What if you don’t have £15,000 in your back pocket?

If the above has frightened you somewhat, and you don’t have that sort of cash to invest to get something off the ground, there are ways of raising money upfront to help.

One of the ways that I see many British brands launching these days is via crowd-funding platforms such as Kickstarter. It’s not only a great way to raise initial cash but also to validate your idea and test the market. But it’s not without hard work, and you’ll still need to drive potential customers to your crowd-funding page in some way. Brant Richards, co-founder of the Hebden Trouser Company says “We launched on Kickstarter for £1000 and two months of hard work. First year total marketing spend was circa £25k.”

Crowdfunding is a great way to raise the cash to launch a British-made fashion brand Click To Tweet

Is the cost of starting a fashion brand cheaper if you manufacturer overseas?

Given all of the above, I still think that launching a brand that is made here is going to be cheaper that making overseas. If you did that you’d also need to include additional costs such as flights to visit factories, International courier charges for samples, and possibly also an agent’s fees to handle everything for you. Plus you’ll have to invest in a lot more stock if MOQ’s are higher. Heaven forbid the costs involved if there’s been some miscommunication with the factory and everything has been made wrong!

Click here to find out more

It’s been 9 years this month since I left my well-paid job as a fashion buyer with a mission to do something about the decline in UK manufacturing. As the year comes to an end it has made me reflect on my former career and how far I’ve come in the last nine years.

If you’re currently in an unrewarding job and want to do something different in 2018 then read on for some inspiration…

Why I quit my corporate job to save UK manufacturing

At our Meet the Manufacturer trade show in 2017

The dream job?

In 2008 I had what many would consider a dream job. In one year I had travelled to Hong Kong, China, India, Brazil, San Tropez and Los Angeles developing products for the large high street retailer that I worked for. Yet life was tough. I had a three year old daughter that I never saw, a team that kept leaving because they weren’t paid enough, and an unsupportive boss who refused my request to reduce my hours to a nine day fortnight. What’s more I was told to drop the last of my ‘local’ suppliers ( a swimwear supplier in Portugal) because their cost prices were higher than those from China. To top it all off my mum passed away that year too.

Handing my notice in without a plan

Life was suddenly looking very short…and I knew that I didn’t want to be beholden to someone else’s strategy any more. I wanted to spend more time with my family. I also had this inkling at the back of my mind that local manufacturing was going to come back again, and I wanted to be at the forefront of it. I hadn’t decided HOW I was going to save UK manufacturing, but I had three months notice in which to hatch a plan. So I walked into my boss’s office and handed my notice in…and I’ve never looked back!

Starting the Make it British blog

It took me 3 years to get Make it British off the ground. In that time I had another baby (an unplanned surprise!), got myself a masters degree (one can never stop learning) and nearly started a handbag brand with a crazy American lady I met on the internet (that was a close call). In that time I was researching and visiting UK factories and going through several ideas for how I could make some sort of business out of what I was discovering. At one point the idea was to set up an Amazon-style marketplace for British-made goods. But I soon realised that I was going to have to sink my life savings into getting that one off the ground (this was in the days before you could buy the software to build such a platform off the shelf). So instead I launched a little blog called ‘Make it British’ and started to write about all of the great brands and UK manufacturers that I was discovering. That was February 2011.

Supporting British-made brands and UK manufacturers

By January 2013 I was appearing on the BBC talking about buying British. In June 2014 I had launched a trade show so that UK fashion and textile manufacturers could meet buyers and designers wanting to make in Britain again. In May 2017 that same trade show welcomed 5,000 visitors through the door. Now not a week goes by that I don’t get a UK manufacturer or British-made brand thanking me for the support that we give their businesses.

A more rewarding life

Could I have predicted all of this when I decided to leave my job at the end of 2008? No. Am I making as much money as I was in my previous career? Definitely not! But I’m a ton happier 😃 I get to spend more time with my kids and doing the things that I love, and life is so much more rewarding.

My advice to you

So my advice to you if you’re thinking of a career change is just got for it!! Especially if it’s something to do with making in the UK.

In fact, if it involves making in the UK, we can definitely help you. At the beginning of next year we’ll be announcing lots of new resources that we’re working on which will help you to launch a British-made brand. If you’d like to be kept in the loop please click here.

The Make it British Forum helps you to build a made in Britain brand. Why should you attend the event? Here are 7 reasons…


yearly conference,  Make it British Forum, can help you to build a Made in Britain brand – even if you’ve never been to a factory.

Not sure whether it’s right for you? Here are 7 reasons why you might want to take time out to attend:

If you need convincing as to WHY you should be making in the UK

You might currently be making overseas but want to look into the validity of making closer to home. Has the UK textile industry got anything to offer your business? How are other businesses making it work? Our experts will show you how.

If you want to know whether customers appreciate a product being made in Britain

What does ‘made in the UK’ mean to your customers? Hotter Shoes MD Sara Prowse will be divulging the latest research into the value of a ‘made in Britain’ label to consumers both here and abroad.

If you’d like to make contact with other businesses that manufacture here

The Make it British Forum provides an excellent opportunity to network and make contacts from within the UK textile industry. With brands, buyers and manufacturers in attendance, as well as members of the press, the connections made at this event can prove invaluable to building your business, as many of the attendees at the Leicester version of the Forum will attest.

If you’re launching a brand and know nothing about developing a product

The Make it British Forum gathers together a room full of experts with hundreds of years experience between them. The amount of useful product development information that you will pick up at this event will be invaluable if you are launching a new fashion business.

If you’re concerned about how Brexit might effect your business

Many of the speakers at the event have seen exports rise since the referendum. Find out how they are making the most of the current demand for made in Britain products in the wake of Brexit

If you want some fantastically sound business advice from those that make in the UK

Where else would you get the opportunity to pick the brains so many UK textile experts all in one place? The Make it British Forum allows lots of opportunity for delegates to ask questions of all of the speakers, which includes British brand owners and manufacturers in the apparel, homeware and leathergoods sectors.

If you are a student studying fashion, business or marketing

Particularly if you are interested in local and ethical supply chains, you’ll find the information you gain at this event will set you well above your fellow students…there’s a special price on tickets for students too!

Want to find out more about the event? Visit makeitbritishforum.com to book your ticket



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

Make it British has announced the speaker line up for its second Make it British Forum on 2nd November 2017. The event is kindly being hosted by the Manchester Fashion Institute in the stunning location of the Manchester Business School in central Manchester.

Speakers for the one day event include:

Sara Prowse, CEO of Hotter Shoes, the largest footwear manufacturer in the UK, will be talking about what made in Britain really means to her customers

Mat Booth, founder of Both Barrels, will focus on why simplicity is key when building a brand made in the UK

English Fine Cottons will be on hand to talk about how the first cotton spinning mill in the UK for decades now affords businesses the opportunity to have a totally British supply chain

David Collinge of John Spencer Textiles in Lancashire, who will be joining English Fine Cottons to share his part in the renovation of a completely British supply chain.

Isabelle Ugochukwu, the inspirational founder behind the Isabella Queen handbag brand, will give an honest account of what it’s really like to launch a British-made brand. She will explain how her brand is disrupting the status quo, and aims to educate the world away from fast fashion and unethical manufacture

Mike Stoll, co-owner of Manchester-based brand and factory Private White, will be giving the low-down on what it takes to develop a great partnership with your manufacturer

Denise Pearson, of leathergoods manufacturer Deni-Deni will be joining our manufacturing panel – which is your opportunity to quiz some of the UK’s best fashion and accessory manufacturers

Charlotte Meek from The Stitch Society will be imparting some great advice for those wanting to go down the route of setting up their own manufacturing unit

Ross Barr-Hoyland, will explain how his award winning British label label Ross Barr has got off to such a flying start with the press and buyers

Bruce Montgomery, a menswear consultant and professor in design craftsmanship, will be bringing his years of design experience to our panel to answer your questions on design and brand identity.

We’re delighted to have such a knowledgable line-up of experts for our second Make it British Forum. 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 Agenda for the Make it British Forum on 2nd November:

9:00 – Registration

9:30 – Welcome – Colin Renfrew, Director of Manchester Fashion Institute

9:45 – Intro – Kate Hills, Make it British

10:00 – Session 1 – Keynote. Mat Booth, Both Barrels

10:30 – Session 2 – Keynote. Sara Prowse, Hotter Shoes

11:00 – Coffee Break

11:30- Session 3 – Regenerating the UK textile supply chain

English Fine Cottons; David Collinge, John Spencer Textiles

12:15- Session 4 – Ask the Experts – Manufacturing Q&A

Chair – Kate Hills, Make it British; Mike Stoll, Private White V.C.; Denise Pearson, Deni-Deni; Special Guest (TBC)

1:15 – Lunch

2:15 – Session 5 – Barbara Shepherd , Manchester Fashion Institute

2:45 Session 6 – Ask the Experts – Brand Q&A

Chair – Kate Hills, Make it British; Bruce Montgomery, Menswear Consultant; Ross Barr-Hoyland, Ross Barr; Charlotte Meek, The Stitch Society

3:45 – Coffee Break

4:00 Session 7 – Isabelle Ugochuckwu, Isabella Queen

4:45 – Closing Remarks

5:00 – Close

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, accessories and textiles  – we’re expecting some lively debates!

The Make it British Forum will be held in association with the Manchester Fashion Institute

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

Over 60 businesses and stakeholders came together in Leicester last week to develop a plan to support the growing demand for UK garment manufacturing. Read on to find out why now, why Leicester and what’s next…

Leicester Clothes the World

Can Leicester get back to it’s garment manufacturing heyday?

A ground-breaking meeting was held at Leicester City Hall on the 6th October 2017 to look at ways in which retailers and manufacturers in Leicester can work together better, and to address concerns around bad practice by some manufacturers in the area.

The assembly of retailers, manufacturers and regulatory organisations was chaired by Leicester City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby. Attended by senior leaders from several High Street retailers including ASOS, New Look, Dunelm and Next,  there were also several manufacturers present, including Jenny Holloway from ethical London-based garment factory Fashion Enter.

Representatives from the British Retail Consortium, Citizens Advice, HMRC, Fire Brigade and Trading Standards also attended, as well members of the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership.

The meeting was called after management at Asos and New Look, who both manufacture garments in Leicester, said they would like to increase the amount of products that they make in the UK but were worried about the unethical credentials of some Leicester manufacturers.

Why is this in the spotlight now?

More and more retailers are waking up to the fact that making locally can help to reduce markdowns and therefore increase profitability.

In the meeting Nick Beighton, CEO of ASOS, said that his business already makes 3% of its products in the UK (with the majority in Leicester) and planned to triple UK production in the next five years. Mr Beighton said: “Our goal is to bring customers the best fashion as quickly as possible, and there’s nothing faster than manufacturing in the UK.”

Why is all of the focus on Leicester?

Leicester has the largest amount of garment workers in the UK – there are 1500 garment manufacturing businesses in Leicester employing over 10,000 people. Textiles is estimated to be worth half a billion pounds to the Leicestershire economy.

If there is to be a significant revival in UK garment manufacturing Leicester is the obvious place for it to be.

What are the challenges?

According to recent reports in the press, there are some manufacturers in Leicester who are flouting the law in order to produce garments at lower prices. Staff being paid below the minimum wage, and factories operating from unsound buildings are amongst the concerns.

It’s a problem not unique to the textile industry – other industries such as nail bars and car washes also suffered from similar issues according to HMRC – but with high profile brands involved in fashion it means it is much more likely to hit the headlines.

Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, acknowledges that there are unethical and illegal working practices in the textile industry in Leicester, which prevents retailers from making more in the region.

“This is not just an issue for Leicester, but a national one.” he says. “However, in Leicester we want to make sure that we have the highest standards of employment; that workers are properly paid, well trained and work in safe environments. We want to support our factories to be the best they can and to set an example that others can follow.”

If everyone knows there are some wrong-doers out there, why aren’t they shutting them down?

As is often the case when so many different stakeholders are involved, no individual regulatory organisation has the power (or the resources) to take action. Unlike in the US where the equivalent of HMRC has the power to embargo goods if they are believed to have been made outside of the law, there is no such ruling in the UK.

Sadly it takes something bad to happen – such as a fire – for anyone to take action on the bad guys. That is why the meeting in Leicester was so ground-breaking, as finally it brought all of the key stakeholders together to come up with a plan to make things better.

What are the views of the manufacturers?

According Saeed Khilji, owner of Figure8Fashion, a garment manufacturer in Leicester and founder of The Textile Manufacturer Association of Leicestershire, retailers need to be paying an ethical price in order to avoid driving ethical manufacturers out of business.

Mr Khilji said that the Fast Forward initiative asked for factories to provide 40 hours a week contracts to their workers, but with no commitment from retailers it was impossible to keep staff in constant work. In his view, manufacturers in Leicester would all love to pay not only a minimum wage but a living wage, they just need some longer term commitments from retailers than most of them currently provide.

Buyers lacking an understanding of manufacturing and costings was also one of the reasons cited for creating issues. This is not surprising given that many buyers only have experience of working with overseas manufacturers and may never have stepped foot in a factory.

Jenny Holloway, owner of London garment manufacturer Fashion Enter, suggested that one of the ways that Leicester manufacturers could address the issue with wages would be to use her model of paying staff a performance related pay. Her great partnerships with retailers have been built on ‘open books and transparent costings’ and this model could be used in Leicester to overcome some of the issues around supplier/retailer relationships.

What are the plans going forward?

One suggestion is that a guiding coalition should be formed, with key stakeholders exchanging information and working together to overcome the current issues.

It’s too early to say what impact the meeting at City Hall may have on Leicester garment manufacturing going forward. What is revolutionary is that so many people actually came together to look at the issues and to find ways to address them.

With local manufacturing in such demand, now is definitely the time to return Leicester manufacturing to its heyday!