Julie King talks Manufacturing in the UKFriday, 12 October 2012
Over 160 delegates, from afar afield as the US, listened to speakers who have not only supported but put into practice the once dismissed idea of homegrown UK manufacturing. These retailers span across the consumer base from heritage brands to online retailers and niche labels and came together to highlight how luxury and volume garment production could be feasible here on homelands. Delegates also heard how employers and colleges are launching collaborative apprenticeship schemes designed to fill the skill shortages gap and make a career in garment manufacture sexy and appealing to a new generation.
Speakers involved include: J.Barbour & Sons, Shop Direct Group and FashionCapital.com.
FashionUnited caught up with Dr Julie King, ASBCI event director and head of fashion and textiles at De Montfort University.
Why do you think there has been such a turnaround in active support for bringing manufacturing back to the UK?
A combination of reasons were cited at the conference, the increasing fuel costs mean higher transportation bills when bringing goods in from overseas, wages in many traditionally ‘low cost countries’ are increasing, and the market is moving more rapidly than ever before. All these factors actually make manufacturing in the UK quite competitive, in particular for smaller order, or high end work.
How are you aiming to keep moving the Made In UK forward from here?
We have info on our ASBCI website, and regular contact with our members, organising visits to UK production and distribution plants. We would like to keep this subject active, so questioned delegates as to what they would like to see ASBCI focusing on next. We can also put prospective buyers in touch with our members who would make suitable potential business associates.
You had a wide array of retail speakers at the recent ASBCI event -what do you think was the strongest message which came over was?
The fact that we can still manufacture at all levels and price points successfully in the UK. There were some presenters who focused on why prospective suppliers should look at compliance, and ensure their factories are of the very highest standards, and other speakers who demonstrated their factory was sustainable and energy efficient, so we can do things very well in the UK.
What are the most challenging aspects for retail designers to bring production back to home shores; how does it affect the different ends of the retail pyramid from designer to high street differently?
At the higher designer end we have tremendous products to work with, amazing quality materials and heritage from brands which continue to invest in the UK workforce through apprenticeships and onsite training. There is also the great entrepreunerial spirit of the British industry, finding new markets where they can. In general, the higher end demands smaller quantities, but one speaker said they could produce higher volumes if they were given the chance to do so.
What or where do you think the weakness in the fashion production system currently is?
The ageing workforce, as many young people do not want to be a machinist or operative as it’s not seen as aspirational. Many eastern European workers have taken over these types of posts in the UK, so we don’t have sufficient home grown talent.
What is some of the key feedback you've had since the conference?
Members and delegates were all very enthusiastic about exploring the possibilities further. There was a lot of networking going on!
What are some of the future plans you have for the next year?
We are arranging a sizing seminar in February, and looking for other events to follow on the heels of Made in the UK.
Image: Julie King addressing at the Made in UK conference