fbpx M&S Best of British collection - is it any good?

M&S Best of British collection – is it any good?

Marks & Spencer previewed their forthcoming Best of British range this week, and we got a sneak peak…

M&S Best of British

M&S Best of British. Shirt £89, Jacket £199, Trousers £129

When Marks and Spencer announced that they were launching a Best of British clothing range earlier in the year there was a fair bit of scepticism, both from me and the readers of this website.

Was this a load of ‘Brit-wash’ on M&S’s behalf in order to ride the wave of popularity surrounding all things British at the moment? Would the product actually be manufactured here, or just have a British link, such as fabric or design, like some retailers have done? Would the M&S Best of British collection go to more than just the flagship London store? And most importantly, would it actually be something that the customer would want to buy?

M&S Best of British

M&S Best of British. Jacket £275

I am pleased to report, having been invited to the press show yesterday for a sneak peek at the new range that will launch in Autumn, that M&S seem to have done things right. Their Best of British collection, which includes clothing and accessories for both men and women, has been developed with integrit, and to a high level of quality and craftsmanship.

Belinda Earl, M&S’ Style Director, who was previously at Jaeger and Aquascutum, assures me that everything in their Best of British collection will be 100% made in Great Britain. They have collaborated with some very reputable and long-established British manufacturers too – the jumpers are coming from the Scottish Border town of Hawick, renowned for its world class knitwear, the outerwear will be manufactured in Manchester, in a factory that has made for Barbour and Macintosh, and the footwear will be produced in Northampton, the home of the Goodyear-welted sole shoe. Not only that, but many of the fabrics used have been woven in the UK, with the mills, such as Abraham Moon and Mallalieus of Delph, being credited in the labels inside the garments. Some of you are now going to ask ‘why are they not using all British-made materials?’ And that is a good question. Neil Hendy, Head of Womenswear design at M&S, told me that whilst it had been easy to find fabrics such as the woollens in the UK, some of the other materials, such as the linings for coats, just weren’t produced here anymore.

M&S Best of British

M&S Best of British. Coat £299, Trousers £129, Jumper £99, Shoes £165

Much of the recent criticism of M&S has been that the quality is not as good as it used to be, or that they have attempted to be too ‘fashion’ in order to try to align themselves with the rest of the High Street. They have certainly addressed both of these issues with the Best if British collection. The clothes and accessories are back to where Marks & Spencer used to be in the good old St Michael days – timeless, good quality items that you could own for years and would consider a good investment. The designers have even raided the M&S archives to bring back some great classic pieces that are still relevant for today’s customer.

M&S Best of British

M&S Best of British. Boots £185

I bet it’s expensive” I’m now hearing you say. Well, that depends on how you measure expensive. Yes, the prices are considerably more than the average person is used to paying on the High Street, with a coat costing up to £299 and a pair of men’s brogues retailing for £265. But when you consider this on a cost per wear basis, it is really not too bad. I would much rather pay that price for a classic coat, that is well made and will see me through the next 10 years, than pay £50 for something where the fabric will look shabby, the seams come apart, and the style look dated before the season is out. And a Goodyear-welted pair of brogues will always be a good investment because they can be re-soled time and time again.

I actually think that when you compare the cost of similar quality items from ‘British’ brands such as Jaeger and Burberry, you are getting amazing value. And if you bought a coat from either of them it would cost at least double the price, and probably wouldn’t be made in Britain either. In fact, M&S must have taken a considerable cut on their margins to produce this collection at these prices, so for that reason alone I think that they should be commended.

M&S Best of British

M&S Best of British. Brogues £265

Sadly the collection will only go to 5 UK stores, 2 International stores and the M&S website, when it is launched at the beginning of October. This, I would imagine, is due to the current limitations of production space at the UK factories, who are not geared up to make the sort of volume orders that M&S would require to send the collection further. If Marks & Spencer are really serious about working with British manufacturers then this is something that they’ll need to address if they want to quieten their naysayers.

What are your thoughts on the M&S Best of British collection? Will you buy it? Or do you still have your doubts? Please leave your comments below.

M&S Best of British

M&S Best of British. Dress £159

Comments

  1. Cass on May 17, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Based on this article and your knowledge, I’ll be buying it.

    M&S should be celebrated for making this decision, but as you say, perhaps next step is to support manufacturers in this country to enable them to produce more, for a greater number of M&S outlets.

  2. Patricia Veale on May 17, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I am old enough to remember when Marks & Spencer sold British made goods all the time and were well known for it. I will certainly by British goods from M&S I find it hard to find good quality cloths at resonable prices and don’t consider those quoted above as being too expensive. Living between Bath & Bristol I hope a store near me will be one of those that stocks items as I prefer shops to on line.

  3. Mike on May 17, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Good on M&S, I am very glad to hear they are doing this properly and excellent that they invited you to the launch. I wish them every success with this as the long term knock on effect could be really good for increased UK capacity. Will definately be looking to purchase.

  4. Anna on May 17, 2013 at 11:00 am

    I think the time is right for a return quality, locally made clothes and I’ll certainly be taking a perambulation to see the collection.

  5. vic on May 17, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Awesome, looks great and really worth paying more for.

  6. Julie Franklin on May 17, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Well done M&S you can have my custom .
    I think this is really exciting and Long overdue !

  7. Jude Cron on May 17, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    I’m 5’8″ size 12. My daughter 5″11′” size 12. I really like the Best of British concept. I just hope it fits. Although a 12L trouser fits perfectly – everything long sleeved is too short in the arm. A number of my taller friends also find this a problem. Perhaps M&S should consider a tall range for jackets and coats etc. My daughter is unable to find anything to fit her length of leg or arm.

  8. Joanna on May 17, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    I am Design Manager for S Dawes Weaving Ltd in Lancashire and I am very disappointed to read that M&S imply that certain fabrics cannot be produced here in the UK. We have 30 looms weaving Jacquard and dobby designs for the fashion and upholstery markets and are currently extremely busy. We have woven lining fabric and we have a range of cotton fabrics for apparel too. Visit us at http://www.sdawesweaving.co.uk

    • Kate Hills on May 19, 2013 at 7:28 pm

      Hi Joanna
      M&S told me that they are buying some woven jacquards for their spring summer range and I think that they would also be interested to hear that you can make lining fabrics. That’s great news.

  9. David on May 17, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Well done M&S on what looks like a very classy collection of British made clothing. One thing though, lets not get too carried away with regards to their margins being considerably reduced. I have got a factory here in London making men and ladies outerwear and separates and I have done my own costings regarding the suit and coat and yes, their mark up probably is lower than it would be from overseas but there is still a good profit being made. Don’t get me wrong, I would love them to have to repeat their orders within a week of going on sale to prove that buying British is the best. Keep the turnover going M&S, forget reduced margins, think of the volumes.

  10. Karl on May 17, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    This has to be the first time in nearly twenty years that I’ve been excited about a bit of M&S clobber. Looks fantastic – really timeless, quality stuff by the look of it.

    Might actually make my first M&S purchase this century!

  11. M&S used to be super-efficient when my aunt worked for them.
    Maybe the cost of a high street shop is just too expensive.
    Maybe the cost of shoes made in a democratic welfare state is affordable, and the shop is a distraction.

    When I buy vegan shoes I buy minimum orders. The set-up cost is about half the price of the batch and I probably pay courier costs as well. £25 or £35 is the sort of price I pay times 24 or 50 pairs of cemented shoes. It’s a bit more than double for sewn-together ones that have more room for mid-soles because the sole sticks to the side of the shoe.

    So elastic sided shoes ought to be about £25-£35 wholesale for a minimum order plus delivery, and a bigorder with negligable setup costs might be half of that or less.

    Why are M&S charing silly prices for UK-made products?

  12. Paulette Brough on May 17, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    I used to work for a large manufacturer Bentwoods supplying M&S. I loved it and was very proud of our high quality. Sadly they are no more…. but I have put all the skills I learnt and the high quality standards expected by them to good use in my own business. Lets have lots more.

  13. Joanna on May 17, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    It is so disappointing to read that M&S are suggesting they cannot source fabrics such as lining fabric in the UK. We at S Dawes Weaving in Lancashire are one of the last remaining Jacquard weavers in the UK. We can manufacture lining fabrics alongside all our other apparel and upholstery weight fabrics. We are striving to keep this here in the UK and with support from some of the larger companies we stand a good chance of being here in years to come. S Dawes Weaving have been weaving since 1903 under various names but always in the same mill.

  14. Steve on May 17, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    Well done M&S, I used to live near a shirt factory that produced for them, alas it was closed and production went to Turkey. Lets hope this new venture is not just a flash in the pan and will be expanded. As for cost, as my son in-law said I my shop once, “Thats not expensive, thats how much they are”! Expensive is buying lots of cheep ones that don’t last, instead of one good one that lasts ages and will be by nature more pleasant to wear.

  15. David Courtney on May 18, 2013 at 7:13 am

    M&S can only be congratulated for making this step, but we shouldn’t perhaps forget the devastation M&S’s withdrawal wreaked on the British clothing industry all those years ago. M&S was seen as a bell-weather and when they relented, others followed. So, perhaps the inverse will be true, too. The return of production for M&S in the UK is not only good for M&S, I believe, but will also encourage others to follow suite. The revival will take time, but the benefits are obvious. It is now down to us as consumers to support M&S and send a clear signal that we want more of the same!

  16. Ken Craig on May 19, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Well well, we thought the day would never come! It seems a v good start, a pity ive got British made brogues. The coat linings are a bit of a mystery, I have a wool coat ex pte White vc who insist everythings sourced in the uk, still, a small thing in a super start, lets hope its a massive success, & others will follow.

  17. Woody on May 19, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    True enough, it is a start, but mere scratching the surface for now and at what price? Designer prices in a high street store? The shoes are very like Loakes make only they can retail them for sub £200 so why are these so much more expensive, are they Barker’s and if so why not keep Barker’s name on them so you can trust the make?

    Joanna is right, there are still mills operating (not many I’ll grant) that could supply and with more orders some would expand. All that M&S need do is take their present ranges and have them made here by British machinists with British produced textiles. Don’t need fancy designers and way out photography using glum looking models (he doesn’t sell me that jacket, that’s for sure.)

    I just wonder if M&S are playing on the ‘railroad’ technique in that if it doesn’t work out, they’ll say “Well, we tried it, but the British public would rather buy foreign produced goods.” Come on Marks, add a lot more at the lower, but still quality end of the market. It can be done.

    • Agree.. Glued-together or “cemented” shoes are much cheaper in 24-pair wholesale batches.. My quotes above might be wrong as I usually pay for the uppers. Shoes with soles sewn to the sides of the shoes, to allow more layers in between, are cheaper than the M&S price as well. NPS (shoes) Ltd. is another supplier alongside Barkers and Loake Brothers that you mentioned. Something has gone wrong with the usual mark-up here.

      • Kate Hills on May 19, 2013 at 7:46 pm

        Hi Woody & JR.
        Before we shoot M&S down before they even start, I think I should justofy the reason why i said that i thought the prices were good value.
        For a start, Loake and Barkers may be able to charge less for a pair of Goodyear welted brogues, but the reason that they can do this is because the clicking (cutting) and closing (stitching) for their shoes is done in India, the same goes for Barkers I believe. Whereas the M&S shoes are 100% made here by a very reputable shoe maker who sell their own similar styled shoes for £100 a pair more. It is the same with the men’s jacket shown above – check out how much a similar priced item from Private White V.C might be and you will see that like for like quality from designers is double the price
        As for saying that M&S need to take all of their present ranges and just get them made here – we would all love that to be the case but sadly it is not that easy. For a start, there just isn’t that many factories left here that are big enough to cope with their orders given that an M&S all-store line might be up to 10,000 units. If they scrap the British-made range after one season THEN i think we are all more than justified in shooting them down.

        • David on May 20, 2013 at 8:57 am

          Hi Kate,
          Totally agree regarding the comments about the jacket, also it would take my factory appro 6 months to turn out 10,000 of them, albeit everyone would be perfect. I would be interested though in what payment terms M&S agreed with its suppliers, I hope it wasn’t any more than 30 days. Its very commendable to give out work to British suppliers but not to then cripple them with payment terms.

          David, Tower Garments (London)

  18. Just for clarity – cemented shoes are about half the price of sewn together shoes.
    http://bit.ly/shoefactories is my list of UK suppliers that I want to stay in business.
    The quote I remember was £25 each for 25 per style and colour gibsons or brogues from Mike Barnes Trading Company 9 London Road Woolaston NN29 7QP. The quote was from when he had his own workshop staff and machines at another company.. Mike Barnes is now more freelance and I don’t know quote what he’d quote, but you can tell from the home address and no business phone number that it’s a lean operation. I’m sure he can ring you back and talk about samples if your enquiry suits what he can do.

  19. Kate Hills on May 19, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    JR, if there is really a shoe manufacturer in the UK that can make 100% British Goodyear welted sole shoes £25 a pair then i think everyone will be banging down his door!

    • Welted shoe prices under 70 + VAT were common from NPS and a couple of companies that use the same factory, http://www.whiteandco1890.com and http://www.georgecox.co.uk/. It’s a few years since I last checked the price. These were shoes with three-layer soles based on plastic and welded to the welt, like a DM, which could be cheaper. And I was buying in a funny way, sending them vegan upper material, so it could be different when John Lewis of M&S ask for quotes. Most of their production is small batches of say 24 per style and colour, so it makes sense for them to use their own workshop to make the uppers.

  20. Lesley Webb on May 22, 2013 at 9:29 am

    The new M&S collection looks great, back to what they used to do best! I hope it’s an indication they’re taking returning to UK production seriously. I’d love to see a British made, good quality range in all their stores.

  21. Alex on May 23, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Well done, M&S. Historically, known for quality and “UK made” until they tried to compete with the fast fashion market, this is a very welcome move and would certainly entice me back to M&S. Just as others here have expressed , my preference too is to spend more for an item of good quality and a long life. Cannot subscribe to this throw away society. My sewing skills have improved dramatically during the last few years, having been unable to find in the shops anything resembling classic design, British made or decent quality. A few basic, classic sewing patterns have seen me through 🙂 I will be watching M&S with great anticipation!

  22. KARL on May 24, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Well done to M & S now lets get behind them and actually buy their products and help sustain real skills, employment and economic sustainability in the UK !

    I echo previous writers comments about the relative economics of buying ‘throwaway fashion’ that accounts for over 300,000 tonnes of the household waste we send to landfill every year compared with more expensive but quality products that will still look good in 10 years time. Economically and environmentally its a complete no brainer!

    For balance M & S should further take the moral high ground in the market and compliment this British made range with clothing from Fair Trade suppliers in developing countries and demonstrate some corporate social responsibility by ensuring that workers producing M & S products in these countries earn a living wage and in working conditions that do not expose them to the kind of tragic disaster we saw in Dhaka Bangladesh a couple of weeks ago.

  23. Catherine madge on May 31, 2013 at 7:22 am

    I am pleased M & S are doing this as their quality had sadly dropped in their efforts to keep prices low. It is not surprising that they could not find some parts of the outerwear to be made in the UK. I hope this trend continues as I for one would love to be able to buy more things made in Britain, with the materials etc sourced here too, as it is the only way this country is going to get back on its feet. I hope that it is successful, not only for M & S but as a kick up the backside for all other British retailers, that this is a good idea, and will get people back buying again. If I for one can buy a quality item, yes more expensive, that I know will last me for years, and still look good, then I will do it, and I am sure others will too. I am concerned that the manufacturers are not there, however, and am surprised that there is not a larger lobby or group of British manufacturers shouting about how good their products are and how this country must use them.
    The old saying “use it or lose it” has never been more appropriate. Come on Mr Cameron, pull your finger out, get behind this, you know it makes sense.

  24. Mickey No Fit on June 4, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Hi all,
    I like to dress with style so i have no time for fashion ,having said that my main choice is Navy, Grey White,Brown and Burgundy .
    I love when to visit M&S in London and look around for great garments, but once i try classic trousers and realise that rise is too low i get reminded how much i love idea of shopping at M&S-
    but there is something with that narrow cut of slim fit which is too much or if on roomier side it is very parachute feel.
    I really hope they managed middle of the road with fit in this collection, as i would be very happy have investment garments.

  25. Andrew Magill on June 4, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Marks and spencer need to be given credit
    For the make it British collection .
    We really need to help out local economy
    And keep educating the consumer on the well designed good Quality product that can be made locally in the UK .
    The collection is designed and aimed at the
    Normal classic fashion consumer .
    I currently hold a nice productive concept
    Which can educate and drive a slightly younger professional consuner through the marks and spencer doors and enable good traffic onto the marks and Spencer website.
    This concept is all based around the archive and past history of the British based business .
    Please kindly contact belinda earl and ask her to kindly contact soon
    Many thanks
    Andrew Magill
    British fashion and brand consultant .

  26. Liz on June 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Really pleased to hear M&S are expanding their UK manufacturing. I live close to their flagship store in Cheshire and when I heard that Moon & Sons were manufacturing some lines for them last winter, I headed straight there. I really had to hunt through a lot of ‘stuff’ to find the lines and felt they had been chucked in with everything else, which was such a shame. I really hope that they present the new range and communicate the story behind it in an appropriate way that cultivates loyalty and drives sales!

  27. Mark Connor on June 4, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    I stopped buying clothes from M&S years ago when I realised I could get almost the same quality from Primemark for a lot less money. It is not always about the cost I would be much more willing to shop at M&S knowing that the product is made in the UK and the quality is good . I have an old M&S jumper from 20 years ago which has out lasted all new ones i have had bought for me from said store; the only bad point is that my tummy has grown to big for the jumper.

    Hopefully this initiative will grow.

    Regards
    Mark Connor

  28. Catherine on June 5, 2013 at 8:50 am

    I am very particular about cut and fabric quality and what I have seen above would definitely
    put M & S on my list! Simple lines, quality fabric and good design cannot go wrong so let’s
    hope the real thing lives up to the launch images. There is something about good British
    tailoring that is unbeatable.

  29. Gail Joyce on June 5, 2013 at 10:44 am

    I am very pleased to read that M&S are finally going British again. I will definately buy if it’s made in Britain. I was starting to shy away from M&S because I was fed up with all their goods being made abroad. However, I will buy and pay the extra because we have to support our industry, So good for you M&S I will start shopping with you again.

  30. Geoff Moulds on June 5, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Like many others I too have been put off M&S by everything seeming to have been made abroad and nowhere near the old quality. Lets hope this filters through to the whole range of clothes.

  31. Michael on June 6, 2013 at 3:51 am

    It’s a good start. But is this just a flash in the pan? Long term commitment is required. Clearly they are having to get to know the local manufacturing industry all over again, as Joanna from S Dawes Weaving has pointed out. There is really no excuse for that.

  32. William Hall on June 8, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    I do not buy into the explaination offered by M&S, stating they were unable to source all the necessary fabrics in this country,simply put,this is not the case,with a little more research British companies can be found to produce the fabrics required. The company is a position to do volune sales and therefore focus on reducing their margins in the first instance to generate sales.Others have touched on M&S past efficency and committment to British produced goods,sadly like so many other companies over the last twenty years, they have mostly sought to increase or maintain thier margins,in many instances wholly unrealistic margins,this has resulted in th rapid decline in Britsh garment manufacturing with subsequent loss of employment for many thousands of the garment industry workers and a severe contraction of available skills within this sector.Furthermore, I note the approach at M&S in the last ten years is to try and reinvent the wheel, with millions of pounds wasted on gimmicks,makeovers and resurrecting many sections of operations and then discarding them,and after a few years go through the same process again.The company was held in high esteem for its foresight and sensible approach to retailing and maintaining quality ad high levels of customer service,nowadays there appears to be no long term stratgey inplace,only a set of inachievable targets which ends up with the cart before the horse,in other words profit before customer service.I buy British produce goods whenever they are available.

    • Mark Connor on June 10, 2013 at 11:43 pm

      Well said

      • Kathleem Smith on August 9, 2013 at 7:44 pm

        I agree with William and think it could well be to lull the public back .One only has to walk into M and S , and simliar stores and smell that awful stench that comes with goods imported from far off lands where quality is zero . We have the talent the right kind of machinery , the lot .What we dont have are sweat shops ………Until M and S can give a 100% promise I wouldn’t touch their goods

  33. Vivienne Austin on August 2, 2013 at 7:30 am

    It’s great the M & S have decided to dip their toes into manufacturing in the UK. Having said this I have worked in companies where M & S become the sole customer due to their demands for production. Therefore there needs to be a long term strategy developed to support Brisitsh manufacturing. My fear is that as William commented, of them using gimmicks, and if this recent gimmick fails, it could leave the companies ‘high and dry’ without other production contracts.

  34. Amanda on August 11, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    In the late 1980s, I joined M&S’s graduate training scheme as a trainee merchandiser and had regular trips to factories in Leeds, Leicester and the North East where the overwhelming majority of the clothes were made. Imported goods were limited to speciality items. It is tragic that now they can only find enough British production capacity to put a limited line of British made clothes into 5 stores. However, much of the blame for that lies with M&S who helped kill British garment manufacturing by relentlessly moving production overseas.

    I’ll buy this range when it’s in stores. In fact, I bet it sells out within days. I am one of a growing army of consumers who want my clothes to be ethically made, which includes being made by workers who have the full benefit of UK employment law protections such as the minimum wage and the working time directive. I bet there’s thousands of us. Let’s hope our mass retailers take note.

    Meanwhile, this site does terrific work: we must all think about what we buy and how and where it is made. Keep up the good work.

  35. Amanda on October 13, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Well, I put my money where my mouth is and bought some of the Best of British range and I have to say I am delighted with it. The quality and style are utterly superb. This is one of the greatest collections I have seen on the high street: as I read online somewhere, forget being best of British – these are some of the best clothes in the world. And it looks like I was right about it selling out in days: many styles are out of sizes online after just 3 days of sale. Which is hopefully translating into M&S buyers picking up the phone to the suppliers and placing huge repeat orders. Wouldn’t it be great if there were some British garment manufacturers out there pondering over their Sunday breakfasts the fact that they’re going to need a bigger factory.

  36. Terry Jakson on December 31, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    Yes and about time too,to sell items made in the u/k,re-create manufacturing which brings more jobs for our people,which they deserve,bring back the weaving mills,it`s not impossible,we should be proud to fly the flag.
    Never mind supporting the overseas sweat shops,with people working round the clock,within closed LOCKED DOORS.
    Thank you.
    Regards,
    Terry.

  37. Alan Cannon Jones on February 7, 2014 at 9:38 am

    The Men’s tailoring made by Cheshire Bespoke is certainly the best that M&S have had in store since the Baguir suits back in the 70′. Unfortunately I cannot see the person who will pay £800 for a suit going into M&S as there is no service offered. I have visit the main store near Marble Arch / Baker Street twice and tried on 3 garments each time. The quality is very good and worth the price tag but on both occasions no member of staff approached me and no service was offered. M&S need to promote and support this if they want to get this level of customer into the store.

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