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Designers support UK manufacturing

By FashionUnited


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At the annual Retail Week conference a few weeks ago, Arcadia head honcho, Philip Green called for UK companies to bring their manufacturing back to the UK, and announced that he would be acting on it across his multi fashion brand empire.

Chief execs from French Connection to River Island have all voiced similar concerns about why British companies aren’t supporting our own manufacturers.

It seems, however, that despite big brand fears and even Government calls to support the industry, there is an undercurrent of homegrown top design talent doing just that.

Feted names from Erdem and Meadham Kirchhoff to Roksanda Ilincic are making their creations in local parts of the country by local craftspeople – and to good effect. With their sumptuous, fashion editrix endorsed pieces selling out faster than hot cakes to some of the biggest and leading retailers across the States, Europe and the Middle East, it’s a big cry out that, ‘Britain’s has indeed got [manufacturing]talent.’

f past connotations of British made clothes were a slightly embarrassed, down mouthed story of unprofessionalism, currently they are being transcended with designers tipped for their attention to construction, cut and detail – Victoria Beckham, Meadham Kirchhoff, Christopher Kane – sourcing knits and tweed in Scotland, lace in Nottingham and then manufacturing the whole lot in North London.

Another young designer taking innovative measures is Christopher Raeburn – he employs UK craftsmen to make sustainable clothing, like casual outerwear of dead army material. Last month however he spoke at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion about ‘the difficulty of finding skilled machinists in the UK.’ However he ‘has set up in London to seize the opportunity to influence bigger companies.’ We ‘need to make an impact.’

Dawne Stubbs, head of design and creative director at luxury knitwear brand John Smedley, said that investment in UK manufacturing had helped build John Smedley overseas but that there needed to be a culture change before UK-made product would get the same recognition at home.

“Being made in England and made in Britain has been essential to our export trade, but it is not as important to UK consumers, who are more seduced by price and brand popularity,” she said.

The design duo behind Meadham Kirchhoff say it makes sense, ‘We’ve found people in the UK open and willing to experiment,’(The Telegraph). Contrary to popular opinion, ‘we do have the resources in the UK’ and more importantly, ‘we have easy access to them, so we can direct and control what’s happening.’

And these intricate, exquisite homegrown pieces are now being given global reach through platforms such as Net a porter where Kane’s £3000 odd lace dresses are snapped up by clients from China and the States well beyond British clientele or initiatives like Matches founder, Ruth Chapman launching a pop up store for British design talent in Qatar; ‘it’s true about 80% of clothes made are exported.’

In a roundabout way, it’s like starting locally and bringing everything back around to where they’ve started via a huge global intake.

And it seems that the example these top talents are taking are filtering down and can only lead to a more prosperous and self sufficient UK industry.

Image: John Smedley S/S 11
All Party Parliamentary Group
Dawne Stubbs
John Smedley
UK manufacturing