Manufacturing Closer to Home

The European manufacturing industry is attracting many start-up brands as young designers and established retailers opt for factories closer to home.

By Kate Berry & Sally Blaxall, founders of QHQ technical consultancy for retailers and their supply chain.

UK factories are currently producing garments for luxury designers such as Victoria Beckham, Roland Mouret, Burberry and House of Holland. British favourites such as Jigsaw and Fred Perry manufacture in the UK, as do many smaller start-up brands such as Justine Tabak. In terms of European manufacturing, there are plenty of brands opting in: All Saints, Sweaty Betty, Hobbs, Boden, and Me & Em all have production facilities based in Portugal.

The UK Fashion and Textile Association reports that British-made clothing and textiles has seen the number of people employed in the sector grow by 9% in the past five years, and predicts that 20,000 more jobs could be created by 2020. According to HM Customs and Excise there has been a 25% rise in the export of British-made clothing since 2011. Only last month, a new high tech mill opened in Greater Manchester for English Fine Cottons, to meet the demand for homespun luxury in the British garment industry.

Manufacturing closer to home has obvious advantages –designers can easily visit factories in UK or Europe thanks to affordable travel options and can have more involvement in the manufacturing process. Manufacturing in Europe reduces their costs and the time spent travelling, and saves wasting hours attempting to make decisions over Skype. Products manufactured in the UK and Europe appeal to a generation of consumers who are interested in sustainability and ethical processes.

Fashion Enter, an award winning social enterprise, launched in London in 2006 strives to be a center of excellence for learning and development within fashion and textiles, centering on the UK government’s apprenticeship programme. Fashion Enter has a factory and sampling studio in North London, which creates the highest possible quality standards for clients’ orders ranging from a quantity of 1 - 7500 a week. The Factory has produced clothes for ASOS, Finery, Marks and Spencer and Tesco’s F&F collection. The Studio has many clients including Harrods, Hobbs, Jaeger, Phoebe English, PPQ, Joy of Clothes, Faustine Steinmetz, Bea’s List, Boho & Co, Concert Clothes, Barbara Hulanicki plus a host of small new business start ups.

Tabitha Webb is a luxury British brand launched in June 2013 by young designer, Tabitha Somerset Webb. The brand now has many celebrity fans including Pippa Middleton, Davina McCall and Fearne Cotton and is known for it’s quirky British glamour. Proud of the brand’s heritage and the rich history of luxury manufacturing in the UK and Europe, Tabitha says: “I am presently manufacturing in the UK mainly, with some bits in Portugal and LA. So all depends on the product…”

‘Make it British’ launched in 2010 by Kate Hills, an ex-designer and buyer for Burberry and M&S. The initiative matches designers and brands to production opportunities. Prices in the Far East were increasing, so Make It British aimed to boost the UK supply chains – it has been a great success and now receives 2000 enquiries per month. Designers, manufacturers and supporters of the UK textile industry were at a packed conference in Leicester last month. Rachael Hobbs, of Bridge & Stitch in Nottingham, said on the panel for Ask The Experts: Product Development: "People are much more conscious about the clothes they wear and how they are made, and there is a real resurgence and demand for clothes made in Britain."

With brands enjoying the renaissance of British production and calling on the reputation for quality and luxury manufacturing in Europe, things are looking up for the European garment industry.

Kate Berry & Sally Blaxall, founders of QHQ technical consultancy for retailers and their supply chain have noticed an increase in the job sector as more brands and retailers opt for European manufacturing: “The UK has a reputation for producing consultants with very strong technical skills. Key German international brands are currently recruiting across Europe (Spain, UK and Germany) for technical skills and often look to the UK market for technical expertise. QHQ have also recently supplied technical consultants for key British brands with factories in the UK. There are now lots of opportunities arising right across Europe – it’s truly an exciting time for European manufacturing."

You can also read this article on Fashion United