UK-Made Fashion & Textile Procurement and Onshoring Opportunities

Make it British has been championing UK manufacturing and local sourcing since 2011. As someone who has over 30 years experience as a designer and fashion buyer working with both local and global supply chains in the fashion industry, to me, making locally  makes sense. Here are some of the opportunities and challenges that I see for the industry over the next few years, and a wish list for what UK manufacturers and brands would like government to take action upon.

Onshoring Opportunities

Lower Carbon Footprint

If we are to reach Net Zero targets we can’t be shipping, and worse flying, clothing and textiles from the other side of the world when we could make them here.

Make on Demand

The fashion industry is one of the most wasteful industries. 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year, and another 700,000 tonnes goes to recycling centres. Making locally and on demand reduces waste, but it requires and investment in technology to do it.

High Value / Low Volume

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental and ethical impacts of their clothing choices, and are starting to turn their backs on fast fashion, and the UK cannot and should not try to compete with countries that mass-produce clothing and sell it at low prices. We are renowned the world over for quality textiles such as Scottish cashmere knitwear and wool cloth from Yorkshire

Regenerative Textiles

We have the opportunity to grow our own fibres and produce home-grown textiles with regional initiatives like Fibreshed that bring together local communities of growers, spinners and manufacturers to create materials that are natural biodegradable.

Collaborative Manufacturing

Collaborative manufacturing hubs, where designers and makers share equipment, skills and technology, are springing up throughout the UK as a solution to the traditional investment required to set up your own factory.

Repair Centres

There is a growing trend towards repairing clothing rather than throwing it away, and repair needs to be done locally in order to make it viable. The recently opened United Repair Centre allows brands to offer a lifetime repair on their clothing by making the process of servicing repairs easy for the consumer, and trains people in essential sewing and repair skills.

Industry Challenges

So those are some of the opportunities for onshoring production, but none of them are without their challenges.
The main ones being:

Skills Shortage

The biggest issue that the industry faces right now is attracting and retaining skilled staff. And the problem is, once the skills are gone, it is going to be very tough to get them back. In some parts of the UK fashion supply chain, skills are almost non-existent. We are down to our ‘last of’ in terms of some areas of specialism.As an example, the last remaining Nottingham lace manufacturer, a 300 year old 9th generation family business, has gone from 20 staff to 4 since over the last couple of years because orders from Europe have declined dramatically since Brexit.

Government Support Lacking

In 2015 the Alliance Report produced recommendations to the government for what the industry needed, and although accepted, it has not had any long-term implementation or sustained investment.

Access to Funding

Getting access to funding is really hard for fashion and textile manufacturers as banks and lending institutions see them as high risk. I spoke to one manufacturer recently who applied to his bank to create a much-needed carbon-neutral dyehouse, and despite meeting the lending requirements for approval was unable to secure a loan. He said the only options available to many textile business are the business equivalent of payday loans.

Lack of Commitment

Sadly a lack of commitment by big brands to UK manufacturing has caused many factories to close down, particularly in Leicester. Big brands also abuse their power by asking for retrospective discounts and prices so low that the manufacturers make a loss on big orders. This has to stop!


Mislabelling garments as made in the UK, such as T Shirts made overseas, printed on the front and then relabelled is wrong! Fast fashion retailer BooHoo was recently caught doing putting made in UK labels in clothes made abroad and claimed that it was because they were unaware of what the country of origin rules are. Clearer rules around what constitutes ‘made in UK’ would help overcome this.

An industry made up of SMEs

The UK fashion and textile industry contributes more to UK GDP than the fishing, music, film and automotive industries combined. Yet because it is made up of thousands of micro businesses, they fly under the radar. 90% of UK garment manufacturers employ less than 10 people, yet there are over 4,000 of them. They are neglected by Government because their voices are not heard. 

UK Manufacturer Wish List for Government

If we are to take advantage of the opportunities to the economy and the environment afforded  by onshoring local production, there are 5 main wishes that UK manufacturers have:

1. Focus on Skills

Skills training centres are needed, along with ree movement for skilled workers from the EU. The upcoming rise in skilled worker visas to £38k will make bringing in skilled workers from Europe totally unattainable for any manufacturers.

2. Technology and Data-driven Solutions

Adoption of technology to improve efficiency, traceability, and accountability in manufacturing processes need investment if the UK is to compete in the future. We are already behind many other first world countries when it comes to embedding new technology into  textile manufacturing.

3. Extended Producer Responsibility

Accountability is needed so that brands are forced to be transparent about all layers in their supply chains, helping consumers to make more informed choices and holding brands accountable for their sourcing practices.

4. Tax incentives

So that we can create a level playing field for local manufacturers and ensure their long-term viability and sustainability. They would like to see reduced VAT on UK-made clothing and textiles and anti-dumping duties like there are in other industries such as steel and ceramics.

5. Funding

Make funding more easily accessible for those businesses that are actually developing sustainable, regenerative and circular textile solutions, and not just given to academic institutions for research. 

By taking these steps, we can pave the way for a more transparent, sustainable, and resilient future for British garment and textile manufacturing. It’s a future where we value local communities, skilled workers, and ethical practices as much as we do innovation and global markets. Together, we can ensure that the UK’s textile industry thrives and retains its place on the world stage.