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Comment: Beat Brexit by buying British

Graeme Moran

 

Although the dreaded “B” word was a key topic of conversation at the recent edition of menswear-focused trade show Jacket Required, British heritage brand Peregrine helped lift my Brexit fatigue, at least for a while.

Peregrine at jacket required autumn 19 (3)

Peregrine at Jacket Required autumn 19

Pinned to a mannequin and taking pride of place in the centre of its stand was a sign that boldly read: “Brexit – no problem. 100% made in England.”

It was attached to a wool blanket shirt made from 100% wool brushed tweed by British mill Abraham Moon & Sons. And Peregrine, founded in 1956, proudly states on its website that every stage of producing all its items, from “design to the finishing stitch”, has been executed in the UK.

It made me realise, as the uncertainty around Brexit continues, there is no better time than the present to support and promote UK brands and businesses, and particularly for British buyers to buy into our homegrown brands.

And although Peregrine was hoping to lift the mood with its light-hearted signs, it has a point.

“What we meant by ‘Brexit – no problem’ was that our garments are made 100% in England, so our pricing won’t be affected by Brexit, and therefore British buyers won’t be impacted,” explained Peregrine’s managing director Tom Glover. “After Brexit, 14% duties may be applied to goods being shipped into the UK from Europe. Also, importing goods into the UK could be more complicated and therefore take longer. When buying UK product, this won’t be an issue.”

Buying from brands that make and sell locally could be one way to avoid some of the headaches associated with Brexit, such as possible tariffs, price fluctuations, import duties and disrupted deliveries.

Peregine autumn 19 (7)

Peregine autumn 19

After Brexit, 14% duties may be applied to goods being shipped into the UK from Europe

Tom Glover, Peregrine’s managing director

The UK has a lot of these labels to offer across menswear and womenswear – and not just heritage brands such as Peregrine. At this season’s edition of Jacket Required I also discovered Haar, a contemporary brand based in Scotland that launched in 2018 and is debuting wholesale for autumn 19.

All of its items are manufactured in Scotland and British fabrics are used in most of the collection – from Harris tweed to cotton from Dundee. Even its buttons are UK-made corozo “plant ivory”. The brand stood out at the trade show thanks to its mixing of quality fabrics and contemporary, on-trend shapes, giving the utility, heritage look an update.

“Although we’re new and have only just debuted at our first trade show, we’ve received a lot of interest with Haar’s made in Scotland credentials,” says Jessica Seymour, director at Haar. “Making an entire collection in Britain is not the easiest way to start a business, but it was the only decision for us.” 

For Seymour, buying British not only helps to “better control” some of the risks associated with Brexit challenges – such as price fluctuations and import duties – but also has a sustainable angle.

“As well as minimising the potential practical and financial implications of Brexit, the appeal of buying British is increasing as a drive towards quality and traceability for not only retailers but the end consumer too,” she says.

“The end consumer now has a greater awareness about where their clothing comes from and what buying British means. Beyond the high quality and local economic benefits, workers have rights and are paid fairly for their time. Consumers are consciously seeking products [and brands] that are of high quality, and have integrity and an inherent ethical approach to manufacturing.”

Ticking quality, sustainability and Brexit boxes are all positives of buying British, but just as with the growing trend for all things sustainable, time will tell if shoppers will be drawn to these advantages, particularly over cheaper options, when Made in Britain products can often come with a punchier price tag.

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