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June Sarpong flies the flag at the Best of Britannia

Brexit brings renewed support for buying British at the trade show

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Left to Right: Antony Wallis, Joe Pidgeon, Patrick Grant, June Sarpong MBE, John Pearce, Esme Lynch

There was a renewed energy at the London edition of Best of Britannia this season, as designers enjoyed a recent groundswell of support for UK manufacturing.

Now in its third year, the London edition of the show was 20% bigger than in 2015. More than 100 brands exhibited at the show, which ran from 30 September to 2 October in the new venue of Victoria House in Bloomsbury.

“There’s a world of difference in quality between the items here and what you may typically get on the high street,” said exhibitor Patrick Grant, menswear designer and founder of not-for-profit label Community Clothing. “When people can actually feel the products, they understand how much better quality they are and that makes it extraordinarily appealing.”

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Escorial wool dress coat by Paula L Wilson

Paula Wilson, co-founder and designer of the eponymous luxury sleep sleepwear brand, said the Brexit vote had failed to dampen demand for made in Britain product from outside the UK. 

“Now is the perfect time to be focusing on artisan skills, as they can be very appealing to other countries,” she said. “We are really good at luxury in the UK, the detail available here is unparalleled.”

Best of Britannia is benefiting from the increasing popularity of made in Britain by stretching its reach around the country. A “North” edition debuted in Preston earlier this year in March, and a “West” edition is set to take place in Bristol in November.

Antony Wallis, creative director of the show, also hopes to set up an “East” edition next year in a location to be confirmed.

“The regional events allow us to become more localised,” Wallis explained. “Factories and brands from the area make them a kind of capsule range for the area. Things become local, and people realise that you can actually make things in the area.”

The company plans to launch a menswear ecommerce site in the next few weeks, featuring Best of Britannia exhibitors. This will be expanded to include womenswear shortly after the initial launch.

 

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Brant Richards and Ed Oxley use the last trouser factory operating in the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge to produce their trouser brand, Hebtroco. The duo wants to preserve Hebden’s heritage as “trouser town”.

 

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June Sarpong launches LDNY at Best of Britannia

TV presenter June Sarpong launched her new fashion brand LDNY at Best of Britannia. She tells Drapers how she is using the brand to promote young, British talent and spread a message of empowerment.

 Why did you set up LDNY?

I wanted to create a project and a product that could empower the next generation of talent from low-income communities – those talented people who often don’t get a chance in our society. We are running an apprenticeship programme with [London-based] Fashion Enter. They have two parts to their business: they produce garments for the high street, but they also have an academy that trains young people. So we created a brand that could work with some of the young people at Fashion Enter.

Tell us about the collection

We have a collection of 15 orange dresses that Daniella Helayel [founder of Issa] has created [below]. They went on sale on the LDNY website on 1 October and 50% of the funds raised from selling them will go to the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. We also have the apprenticeship collection, which is another 15 pieces and was designed by the team at Fashion Enter. Selling those clothes will help to fund the apprenticeship programme. The apprentice collection goes on sale on 10 November, to coincide with Equal Pay Day.

How has the process been so far?

Amazing. I feel like a mum to all six apprentices. If it does well we want to extend the programme, we want as many apprentices as possible. For me fashion and ecommerce are so exciting because there are so many different entry points to be able to develop talent. Our apprentices are doing things including graphic design, photography, design and pattern cutting – there are so many openings.

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Why did you decide to launch at Best of Britannia?

It made sense: this is the best of Britannia. Everything you see on the catwalk today was made in the UK – even the fabrics were sourced here. The orange dresses were made in Leicester, using eco-technology. I’m not saying that’s always how it is always going to be for the collection, but right now, everything is British.

Why do you think made in Britain is important?

It’s so important, especially with Brexit. Now we’re really going to look at how we source talent from inside the country. We’re going to have to start retraining all these skills we’ve lost, and manufacturing is one of them. Now more than ever we need to make sure that we champion things being made in the UK.

Where are you taking the collection from here?

I hope it can turn into a proper social enterprise, like Fashion Enter, where we are able to train lots of great talent and also empower women through some fabulous clothes. We’d hope to extend the collection if things are successful, but we couldn’t do anything seasonal, as it’d be hard to do with the apprentices, so we’d be expanding on previous designs.

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