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UK manufacturers queue up to join our SOS campaign

Letters from UK manufacturers to join Drapers’ SOS campaign.

I am loving your articles on saving our skills and the plight of UK manufacturing.

At Barrington Ayre Shirtmaker & Tailor, we have been using English and UK manufacturing for the past year for all of our bespoke, made-to-measure and ready-to-wear clothing, and we have been receiving incredible support, not only from the local market in the Cotswolds, but also across London and from customers in Scandinavia, Australia and the US, who are all keener than ever to support fine English tailoring.

We just wanted to say how grateful we are that you are supporting the plight of English and UK manufacturing and we hope that yours and the industry’s continued support will help kick-start the Government into creating grants and tax breaks to bring even more manufacturing back to these shores.

We would also like to say to other young companies that there is a wealth of manufacturing talent out there - you just have to work a little bit harder to find it. When you do, you will realise we still do make the finest clothing anywhere in the world.

Thank you again and I look forward to reading more.

Tom Wharton, owner, Barrington Ayre Shirtmaker & Tailor, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

We were very happy to see articles emerging in Drapers about the manufacturing industry in the UK. The emphasis you have placed on ‘Made In England’, coupled with the recent Channel 4 programme on

the same subject, will hopefully encourage manufacturers to come forward, and together persuade retailers to buy more from the UK. Hopefully it will also encourage shoppers to look in particular for the ‘Made In England’ label.

We are a leading knitwear manufacturer based in Leicester that truly supports and wants to see retailers returning to sourcing from the UK. Having been manufacturing in this country for going on 24 years now, we have seen the highs and lows of this industry and struggled through to survive today as one of the very few factories left in the UK.

Retailers fail to realise that, although they feel they may be getting a better margin by sourcing from the Far East, if they are let down on delivery, surely this is more of a loss of profit than if they were to source in the UK and pay those extra few pounds?

We want to see our future generations adopting the skill sets we once used to know and thrive on, growing this industry back to what it was and to the next level. One of our biggest problems is trying to find the workforce - with our staff currently averaging an age of 50 or over, we are trying to encourage younger people to come into the business to learn and feed from the experience of the older generation to take over one day and prevent this trade from dying out completely.

Snahal and Minal Patel, directors, Jack Masters, Leicester

I read your editor’s comment in the February 11 issue of Drapers (‘Putting out an SOS to save UK skills’) with great interest and particular endorsement of the sentiment expressed in your first sentence. Our experience at David Nieper would definitely confirm your view.

We have been employing interns for some time, but are now about to make a step change in our offering, so have launched a fashion academy to provide for the development of vocational skills and graduate apprenticeships.

Every student gets an introduction to the business of business in a real commercial environment. We are playing our part in ensuring

that not only is there a home for raw talent, but that designers are acquiring the skills necessary to convert a flat sketch into the patterns necessary for their manufacture. We have relationships with a number of higher education institutions, are offering trophies for students developing an understanding of the needs of the growing market for women over 50, and already have accredited masters and postgraduate programmes.

Your SOS campaign certainly has our backing.

Juliet Williams, director, David Nieper Fashion Academy

I have been following your articles in Drapers on SOS for the last two weeks with great interest.

How pleased I am to finally be reading what I feel is so accurate about what is happening in this country with regards to skill shortages and the awareness of it.

I am passionate about the fashion industry, as it has taught me so much and given me so much. I’ve inherited the skills of my mother, who has worked her whole life in the industry.

I studied at the London College of Fashion and soon after set up my own business of designing and making wedding and evening wear. My skills extend to the knowledge of designing, pattern cutting, and making up a garment of the highest standard. It has given me great pleasure for the past 25 years and I am currently doing a teacher training course, and I hope to teach all I know of the subject and hope that whoever I teach will enjoy and be inspired.

I am so aware we need to encourage these sorts of skills in this country and not accept it as a dying trade. I would be interested in listening, helping and networking among people in the industry.

Nilgun Hassan, designer and owner, Beau Monde Bridal

As a 1986 graduate of what I believe was one of the first technology courses, the BA Clothing Studies course at Hollings (Manchester Polytechnic as was), and having worked as a technologist ever since, I was very surprised and saddened to hear that De Montfort University is cutting its garment technology course.

Gone are the days when a technologist was primarily a quality assurance inspector. The role is now much wider and the need to show fashion students that the garment industry is not just about choosing frills and bows, but making sure the frills fit and wash well and that the bows don’t contain some dangerous chemical, has never been more important.

Garment development is teamwork and a technologist is a very necessary part of the team. Care has to be taken that fit, performance and legislative requirements are not compromised due to cost. To reduce the number of experienced technology graduates is the wrong decision in a world where competition is high and customers want the most for their money.

Elizabeth Sheard, lingerie technologist, Avon Cosmetics

I was interested to read your article in Drapers (January 28) regarding UK manufacturing, as well as the editor’s comment (‘Why the UK is on the make again’) in the same issue.

London Tradition was founded only nine years ago, but in that time has established itself as a supplier of quality outerwear to many export markets, as well as prestige brands in the UK - either under our own brand or contract manufacturing under the customer’s brand.

We have seen dramatic growth in the past two or three years, with approximately 70% of our business being exported. Much of our growth is coming from UK customers, mirroring the comments made in your article.

Rob Huson, managing director, London Tradition

I have followed with interest your articles about the lack of reliable manufacturing facilities in the UK and the impending problems regarding the teaching of these skills in universities.

We are a London-based sampling and manufacturing studio, and have been trading for 15 years, offering the services you have highlighted. In the past year, we have been inundated with enquiries for both top-end sampling and specialist manufacturing.

Many of our clients have unfortunately been to factories that say they offer these services only to have been stitched up and left out of pocket and disillusioned by the whole process. They seem inordinately grateful to find in us a company that is not out to rip them off. Our policy is that, if you help these fledgling companies, they will grow and succeed and everyone will benefit.

We also do a lot of work with students (we were all there once) and are looking to take on a student to train up in manufacturing, so we will be following your forthcoming articles with interest.

We are very proud to work for clients including Jasper Conran, Bruce Oldfield, Christopher Kane, Giles, Clemency, Mary Katrantzou, Vivienne Westwood, Beulah London, Marks & Spencer’s Limited and Autograph, Browns, Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Topshop and Bamford.

I look forward to any feedback you may have on expanding our business and flying the flag for Great Britain.

Rachael Bromley, director, Sienna Couture

To join the campaign, go to www.drapersonline.com/news/save-our-skills

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