Friday, 16 January 2015

Bringing It All Back Home

Some cheering news for those of us who regard fine British tailoring as a good example of sustainable, ethical fashion. Growing interest in classic British labels like Burberry and the attraction of the bespoke suit has had a surprising byproduct.

Happily, it seems that many high class names are hiring apprentices and bringing their production line back into the UK. There's a distinct advantage to this regrouping: products can be brought to market more quickly, and it's easier to innovate.

"Made In Britain" branding is quickly becoming the true mark of quality in the textiles marketplace. A recent report by Barclays puts potential earnings at over £2billion in the next year, as markets like Qatar and China develop a taste for fine British tailoring--and more importantly, are willing to pay a premium for it.

But there's also an opportunity to expand in the home market. For example, lingerie and nightwear brand Headen And Quarmby brought all their manufacturing back to the UK last year, gaining greater control of how the brand is marketed and sold.

But the big success in this local regrouping is in the re-establishment of the apprentice as a valuable path to continue and re-establish old skills. Mulberry has put 70 graduates through its program since 2007, and in Savile Row 60 new tailors have picked up needle and thread in the last 5 years, thanks to a scheme put together by the Savile Row Bespoke Association.

This is vital, as the venerable street was seeing a major drop in employee numbers, thanks to retirement of a significant number of old hands. This reassertion of a well-known brand as a major, profitable force in high end fashion retailing is very good news indeed.

Once, the textile industry was a major part of the UK export portfolio. Off-shoring production to save costs may have worked in the short term, but ultimately led to a fragmented sector that was unwilling to innovate and invest in the future. By moving production back home, we're starting to see a boost in confidence that shows why our clothing has always earned its premium price tag.

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