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Why the UK is on the make again

Jessica Brown

Last year I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a gem of a business housed in a rather rundown building in the backstreets of Manchester. That business was Cooper & Stollbrand, the last remaining factory from the North’s once thriving rainwear manufacturing industry.

Last year I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a gem of a business housed in a rather rundown building in the backstreets of Manchester. That business was Cooper & Stollbrand, the last remaining factory from the North’s once thriving rainwear manufacturing industry.

Interestingly, while business was by no means easy for Cooper & Stollbrand, orders were on the up, with leading young fashion retailers such as Topshop, Asos, All Saints and Manchester indie Oi Polloi joining premium brands like Burberry as its customers at that time. The advantage was Cooper & Stollbrand could offer small runs and authentic, high-quality outerwear production.

While the tearoom at Cooper & Stollbrand was like a 1950s timewarp, the place was an absolute inspiration and a shining beacon of what British manufacturing is all about - brilliant standards and highly skilled people.

Against the rising prices of fabrics and manufacturing and long lead times of the Far East, suddenly ‘Made in Britain’, while still more expensive, has started to become a real possibility.

It’s not only being driven by the rising cost of overseas sourcing though. Provenance is moving up the purchasing decision list for recession-weary shoppers and the trend towards heritage brands and styles continues to gather pace as a result. Note the recent menswear designer references to our master tailors from Savile Row and authentic British fabrics such as the Scottish Harris Tweed, which has seen a massive resurgence in sales, as we report on p6.

I’m not suggesting we’ll ever return to the heady British manufacturing days - that’s just not realistic. Price remains prohibitive for most, and the skilled workforce no longer exists

in the UK. But it is important that those that do still exist make the most of this opportunity.

Jessica Brown Editor

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