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Paul Smithers, Halcyon Blue – The Challenges of Making Swimwear in the UK

Paul Smithers Halcyon Blue
Why is swimwear so difficult to make when the products look so simple?

This is one of the questions that I put to guest Paul Smithers from Halcyon Blue, a swimwear manufacturer based in Hampshire, UK.

Paul fell into manufacturing by accident after acquiring the small factory that was making his swimwear brand for him. He now makes 3,000 garments a week for both his own brand and other clients.

In this interview he discusses some of the challenges of making a product that looks deceptively simple, but which is actually quite difficult to make in volume in the UK.

Halcyon Blue will be one of the exhibitors at our Make it British Live! trade show on 29 & 30 May 2019 – register for your special podcast vip ticket here.

More about Halcyon Blue

Factory website – www.hbfactory.co.uk

Sensory toys – www.hbsensory.com

Swimwear – www.halcyonblue.co.uk

Paul’s tips for making swimwear (or any product!) in the UK

  1.  Don’t get your heart set on designs until you know they can be made in the UK
  2. Visit as many factories as you can – bring samples of the garments and finishes you want
  3. Don’t take it personally if a factory says they either – can’t do what you want or that what you want won’t work. Sample makers can make you anything you want and send you an invoice with a big smile on their face. It doesn’t mean it can be easily done in production.
  4. Be flexible with finishes. Small factories have a limited number of machines and folders for binding and straps. If you want 10mm and the factory only has 9mm you have to think does it make a difference?
  5. A factory won’t buy new equipment so they can make your order if you only want 50 units.
  6. If you contact a factory and say I want 50 pieces making this year – don’t be surprised if they don’t take you hugely seriously. Everyone has to start somewhere, we understand that, but factories need regular work they comes back every year so are looking for commitment from their customers.
  7. Environmentally friendly fabric is great. It is the big thing at the moment and more and more brands are moving to fabric made from recycled materials including fishing nets and carpet fluff. However, I just want to point out that when your factory cuts the fabric all the off cuts or cabbage as it used to be called goes into the bin. It cannot be recycled and ends up in landfill. Dyeing fabric is very polluting and uses huge amounts of water. So the best way to make environmentally friendly swimwear is to make something else!
  8. Machines needed – Elasticator (a customised overlocker basically), Overlocker, Seamcover (or Cover Stitch), Lockstitch and if you want straps a Binding machine. Also a big cutting table and some kind of motor powered fabric cutter. This is just what you need to make BASIC swimwear!

Comment on this episode

1 Comment

  1. Marcia McGrail on March 29, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Fascinating stuff! …that’s what makes it difficult but it would have been even more facinating to hear how off-shore (if you’ll forgive the pun) factories do it. Thanks.

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