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UK manufacturing is worth the effort

Caroline Nodder

There were a few sharp intakes of breath last week when Next’s Lord Wolfson told the assembled masses at the relaunch of the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) that he didn’t believe there was a place for clothing manufacture in the UK.

There were a few sharp intakes of breath last week when Next’s Lord Wolfson told the assembled masses at the relaunch of the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) that he didn’t believe there was a place for clothing manufacture in the UK.

Certainly given recent talk about the growth in this side of the UK industry, it was interesting to hear Lord Wolfson’s very different take.

He believes the UK can never compete with the likes of China when it comes to manufacture and offered up his own Next suit as an example. It was designed in the UK, and then made in China using Italian fabric, and Lord Wolfson stressed that this design and strategy function was where the UK should look to add value and grow.

It’s hard to disagree with his comments when it comes to the product and price range he works with at Next, but I’d really welcome his thoughts on the rest of the market.

I think writing off UK manufacture as a lost cause would be a great shame when the more premium part of the market, and indeed even strong British-branded mid-market product, could be seriously viable. Consumers’ version of value isn’t just about price, and while the UK cannot compete on cheap bulk supply deals, I do believe we can compete in some arenas.

I also disagree with those who say Brits will never agree to work behind machines in factories. I’ve visited factories and seen the pride machinists can have in their work.  

There is great excitement at Drapers this week as we are putting the finishing touches to a whole new look. Next week’s magazine will be bigger, better and bolder, featuring a brand new design with loads of new content, some exclusive market insight, and lots more. Our redesigned website will launch at the same time. Watch this space!

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