Brand manager of short-order womenswear brand Closet, which manufactures in London
The lead times and communication are the plus side. The factories will come in once a day to talk to the design teams, so we get really great quality and fit. It also helps us to react to sales and trends; if something is a bestseller we can repeat it again in just two to three weeks. You’re looking at months to do this when manufacturing overseas. We feel the quality justifies the price. It’s great quality for the price, which is something that’s harder to get from China.
Chief executive of cashmere and woollens brand Johnstons of Elgin
All of the growth we can generate will be completely wasted unless the government and industry work together to rapidly accelerate training. Our industry is heavily reliant on the superb skills of our workers, but we need to invest time and effort if we want to keep these skills alive and meet the needs of an ever-more demanding consumer. Johnstons of Elgin is pushing ahead with a growth in modern apprenticeships and we established a training centre at our knitwear mill in Hawick [in November, for six apprentices]. However, as an industry we must accelerate the pace of training and make this as big a priority as our search for new customers and new markets.
Head of buying, menswear, John Lewis
The inherent product attributes of Made in Britain clothing and fabrics make the garments stand out and our customers are responding very positively towards them. We feel a loyalty and a duty to support what is a world-class and specialist industry with an unmatchable heritage. Clothing retail is a competitive market and retailers all need a USP. Made in Britain products offer a point of difference - not only across product categories but also from a modern-to-timeless aesthetic point of view.
General manager of Leicester garment manufacturer Basic Premier, which works with F&F, George and Arcadia
Buyers need to know what the basic and ethical price is and engage with manufacturers on that. They are so used to dealing with overseas companies that can perhaps afford to do big discounts, but in the UK you can’t; you have to think ethically and look after your workers.
Buyers have got to engage more with the manufacturers. It’s got to be a partnership. They need to visit manufacturers and understand how costs are made up.
Director of The Alliance Project, which promotes UK textiles manufacturing
There’s no real careers service for the textiles industry and there’s a big dislocation between young people’s impression of the industry and the career opportunities that are available.Textiles is one of the most socially mobile industries and young people need to see it as a positive career of choice. Working with schools and colleges to promote career opportunities is key.
Founder of not-for-profit clothing manufacturer Fashion Enter in London
We should be applauding big retailers like M&S who are helping to underpin the revival of on-shore manufacturing. This is just what we garment manufacturers need, a true collaborative spirit. All we need now is the government to provide the Regional Growth Fund for London [currently not permitted] and we can then invest in new plant and machinery.
The potential is huge. The priority for the industry should be on exposure and promotion of centres of manufacturing excellence. Thegovernment could focus on helping with tax relief/funding for training and apprenticeship schemes to replace the skills of an ageing workforce, but they need to make them uncomplicated and user-friendly, especially to small businesses.
Managing director of weaver Hainsworth in Pudsey, West Yorkshire
It’s about strong collaboration right through the supply chain, from the retailer to the fibre manufacturers, in Hainsworth’s case wool. I believe the Germans are the most effective in this area as they funnel research and development funding to textile institutes and universities through an industry body, meaning R&D is close to market and supports industries’ long-term goals. There is already some great collaboration in the UK, but such a structure may mean there is an incentive for further education to be even closer to employers’ needs.
Head of general merchandise technology, Marks & Spencer
It’s important for us to support UK manufacturers to make sure there’s a talent pool available from design to production.
Managing director of Derbyshire manufacturer of womenswear, knitwear and nightwear David Nieper
We need to encourage future entrepreneurs who may or may not be fashion designers. I’d suggest all undergraduate courses include a manufacturing module and a week’s work placement. The government should maintain the current capital allowance [Annual Investment Allowance] of £500,000 a year, which encourages manufacturers to invest in new equipment and not only means they’ll need to employ people to use the equipment, but they’ll be more mechanised and therefore more competitive.
Second, reduce employers’ national insurance - the tax on jobs. Government could encourage employment by reducing employer risk and eliminating national insurance on the first £15,000 of earnings.
Retailers have the most to gain from a safe, controlled and local production - so don’t wait for a supplier base to magically appear, just start your own.