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Supply chain must ‘unite to thrive’

The fashion and textiles industry must unite and work with the government to create a climate for British manufacturing to thrive, said experts at a Westminster forum on domestic manufacturing, skills and wearable technology on Tuesday.

“The industry, which by its historical nature is disparate, needs to come together and speak with one voice,” said John Miln, chief executive of the UK Fashion and Textile Association.

Miln said the fashion and textiles industry is worth £12bn in gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy, but noted that the manufacturing base is much reduced from 25 years ago after companies began outsourcing to Asia to take advantage of lower labour rates and competitive pricing.

“We need a constructive dialogue with government and politicians, a level economic and business playing field with Europe and internationally, and a sustainable economic environment and stable regulatory framework for the UK.”

He called for greater export support, tax incentives and capital allowances, as well as help with skills generation and accessing private finance and credit.

David Ward, Liberal Democrat MP and chair of the all-party parliamentary group for textile manufacturing, echoed Miln’s sentiments: “We need to work together to ensure we have the skills base to not just survive but thrive in the future.”

Make it British founder Kate Hills said British manufacturing offers many advantages for retailers including quicker lead times, less margin for error and better communication with suppliers. She also cited various studies that suggest consumers will pay a premium for products made in the UK.

Jenny Holloway, director of not-for-profit organisation Fashion Enter, echoed this, saying the perception that British manufacturing is the preserve of luxury brands is wrong. “We did an exercise for recently and found that we can make a pair of leggings [in the UK] for 90p – cheaper than Turkey.”

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