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Drapers Next Gen: Manufacturing in the UK will happen if we teach the skills

UK manufacturing could flourish if more people were taught the relevant skills and the industry promoted the attractive careers paths these jobs could lead to, a panel of experts told attendees at today’s Drapers Next Generation event.

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Drapers Tara Hounslea talks to Fashion Enter founder Jenny Holloway, shirtmaker Emma Willis, and Karen Millen production director Fay Tear

“If you have the technical skillset, you can command a big salary because you are an expert, a real technical expert,” revealed Fay Tear, production director at Karen Millen.

“Our head of technology started as a machinist. You could go any route: there are so many paths you can take,” she added. “For example, you need to know how to put your clothes together if you want to be a designer.”

Emma Willis, of the eponymous Made in Britain menswear label, said having those technical skills are the way into working in her company. “I’ve always made in England – it’s one of the things I’m most passionate about.

“But I had to make it attractive for young people to come and sew again” to find the staff she needed, she added.

Fashion Enter founder Jenny Holloway argued that it is vital to bring mass manufacturing back to the UK: “It’s the only logical thing to do. I constantly hear there is no future for manufacturing here in the UK. But it is happening and it is possible. I just think we have to keep on supporting the people with skills. There’s so much you can do with them.”

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