On a recent trip to Staffordshire I caught up with Toby Gaddum, owner of the Gaddum Group and Tempus clothing, and self-titled ‘Gobby Git’ of UK manufacturing.
Toby, whose family have been trading silk since 1826 and who is a member of the Worshipful Company of Weavers, has had the foresight to realise that clothing manufacture is returning to the UK. He has put considerable investment of his own money into setting up a brand new, purpose built clothing factory in Leek, which he envisages will hold over 100 machinists very soon. I chatted to him to find out why he believes that making clothing in the UK is viable again.
What can a UK clothing manufacturer offer that an overseas manufacturer does not, and how is Tempus Clothing capitalising on this?
It is the speed of response that offers an advantage over manufacturers abroad – Tempus Clothing is able to produce bulk production for retail/wholesale sales from initial sketch to fully made garment in 6 weeks. Furthermore we have access to a fabric dyeing facility with a laboratory and fabric printing (both rotary and digital) which are within 100 metres of our factory. This particular infrastructure is unique in the UK and allows us to be even more flexible in terms of developments and production. We also have our own sample room, which is separate to the production, thereby enabling a fast turnaround on new developments.
Furthermore, we have embroidery, screen printing and heat transfer machines under the same roof, which means we are not reliant on outsourcing this to other companies.
What do you think are the biggest issues facing UK clothing manufacturers today?
The main issue is the local (UK) infrastructure of component parts – be it labels, buttons, zips or accessories, to make up the garment. Because there is not a lot of choice in the market place you become reliant on a few suppliers normally importing product from overseas factories. If there is a break or delay in that chain then there will undoubtedly be a knock on effect which in turn could cause delays in production.
The other concern is the supply of sewing machines and the availability of second hand ones in the market place. It is very difficult to source and find some specialist machines. So many were either shipped overseas in the ‘90’s or were scrapped or simply left to decay outside buildings. Further to that we are lacking the skills on mechanics, and of course sewing machinists. Our youngest machinist in the factory is 50!
How are you planning to address this issue of machinists who aren’t getting any younger?
I’m putting together a training school at the factory. We will be running apprenticeship courses to train newcomers, both in sewing machining and sewing mechanic skills. The students will spend one year in the apprenticeship school and then a year in the factory. When they are qualified I hope to be able to offer a job to those who have passed the course and have gained their qualifications. When the apprentices move out of the factory after a year another 10 will be taken on in the school. I hope to make Tempus Clothing the biggest garment factory in England.