The mood at the fourth edition of UK fashion sourcing event Meet the Manufacturer was “cautiously optimistic” among manufacturers, brands, buyers and designers, as Brexit boosts interest in made in the UK products.
meet the manufacturer general shot
The two-day event on 25-26 May at The Old Truman Brewery in east London, showcased more than 150 British fashion, textiles and homeware brands.
Make It British founder Kate Hills said overall demand for UK-made products had noticeably soared, and she reported representation from “every” high street retailer, as well as museums and galleries, at the show.
“It is great to see everyone, from designers to buyers and manufacturers, having conversations on how they can collaborate.”
Those on the exhibition floor praised a surge in interest in manufacturing in the UK in the aftermath of the European Union referendum last June.
However, several exhibitors said this display of interest had not necessarily translated into high-volume sales, as buyer activity was curtailed by the ongoing uncertainty caused by Brexit and the fall in the value of sterling.
Rob Huson, joint managing director at premium outerwear company London Tradition, said: “There has been a lot of interest in UK products but, when discussion turns to prices, it becomes a different story. Retailers are looking more towards offshoring to save on costs and therefore compromise on products made in England. This has been very noticeable for autumn 17.”
This year’s show was expanded with a hall dedicated to brands, and attracted greater interest from start-ups and younger businesses.
Bhavik Master, director at knitwear company Jack Masters, said there was a “good variety” of buyers and brand owners in attendance: “There has been increasing interest in products that have been made in England, and a lot of focus on yarns in particular. There are a lot of young brands coming in that are looking to buy into the UK look.”
A series of interactive workshops and demonstrations also debuted at this year’s event.
Jim Lockwood, owner of Huddersfield Screenprinting, which was showing for the first time at Meet the Manufacturer, said: “It’s been fairly upbeat. As we’ve expected, we’ve seen a lot of start-ups interested and looking for ideas for products.”