The concept of Made in Britain has come to mean different things for different brands. Yet, they are united in a common sense of pride and of smart business sense at the economic contributions of UK-based manufacturers and the art and craftsmanship of UK designers in the highly competitive fashion and retail industries.
High-End and Designer Manufacturers Database (HEDMD)
In 2017, the BFC launched the High-End and Designer Manufacturers Database (HEDMD), a national database of selected UK manufacturers, which aims to make it easier for UK-based designers to gain ethical supply chain certificates and facilitate successful relationships between designers and production units. The HEDMD database will also audit to secure sustainable/ethical practices that facilitate conversations between brands and suppliers, access to information and specialised craft and know-how.
This initiative was a direct recommendation from the Manufacturing Report, published in 2015 which had many key findings, such as:
- The Alliance Project 2015 puts production of UK Textiles and Apparel Manufacturing at £9bn and employment at 90,000 to 100,000.
- In 2015, nationally there have been 5,000 new jobs in textile manufacturing created the UK last year and 20,000 projected up to 2020.
- Manufacturing benchmarking is required.
Lean and Local Manufacturing
The past 30 years have seen a structural transformation of the UK’s manufacturing sector. Whereas previously the sector was populated by businesses struggling to match international best- practice, it is now characterised by businesses which are:
- Lean, efficient.
- Using state-of-the-art technology.
- Specialising in higher value-added areas of production.
This process is summarised by the shift in the sector’s overall share of employment and GDP. The corollary of this is that labour productivity in the manufacturing sector has risen much faster than the rest of the economy during this period.
Data provided by the UKFT shows that in 2016 £9 billion worth of fashion and textiles was made here. Over 105,000 people are employed in manufacturing (and that figure rises to 127,000 when we include the self employed). In addition, there are over two hundred companies making fashion and textiles in London employing over 13,500 people. Employment has risen by 15% in the past five years and collectively they made almost £510 million of product.
Renaissance of Small, Dynamic Fashion Businesses
The fashion and textiles sector has been a microcosm of this process, with competitive pressures leading to the retrenchment of an industry, which is now increasingly populated by small, dynamic businesses, which specialise in niche production areas.
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the topic of “reshoring” of the UK’s fashion manufacturing base, there is, as yet, no strong evidence base regarding how significant this process could be for the high-end and designer sector and what the key obstacles are that need to be overcome in order to realise this potential. However anecdotally, it is a popular idea and one which benefits UK-based brands in many ways.
Sustainable and Ethical Benefits of Local Manufacturing
The textile and clothing production units that remain in the UK are typically lean and competitive and the benefits of local manufacturing are obvious in terms of environmental, sustainability, social and political factors. Importing products from overseas has a huge impact not only on the carbon footprint of a company but also socially in terms the loss of potential employment locally. However, some high-end brands are very successfully countering this.
An example of a global brand with a strong UK presence is Somerset-based luxury accessories brand Mulberry, which employs 200 people in its factory, responsible for 30% of its handbag production. The company has an apprenticeship scheme which employs 700 craftsmen and women (2015), manufacturing handbags, travel bags and men’s satchels. The apprentice scheme addresses training and skills by having detailed training programmes. Before Mulberry implemented the scheme, the average age of the workforce was 56, the average age is now significantly lower at 32.
The company received a £2.2m Regeneration Growth Fund Grant from the Government in 2011 that enabled them to build their second factory. They have now paid back the debt tenfold, through employees taken off benefits, paying NI contributions and taxes.
Stay Ahead with British-made
The Made in Britain element of what Mulberry, for instance, do is very important to the brand, and has become its unique selling point. They are the only British Luxury brand of scale that manufacturers over 50% of its accessories in the UK (2015).
In light of the forecast that the UK will be the first luxury goods market of Europe by 2018, it is a key timing for British brands to consider local production and strengthen their value proposition.
Manufacturing products locally contributes to the nearby economy, employs local people and provides the opportunity to offer apprenticeships, to preserve a regional skills base in quality craftsmanship, a strong ethos of Positive Fashion.
- Nowadays successful UK manufacturers are niche, lean and competitive, which can bring positive benefits to UK brands that partner with them.
- Sourcing from local manufacturers is beneficial for the local and national economy, culture and can help preserve regional craftsmanship and techniques as well as reducing the carbon footprints of a brand.
- Use the BFC’s High-End and Designer Manufacturers Database (HEDMD) to find UK- based manufacturers.
- The HEDMD makes it easier for designers to form supply chain relationships and reach production units with high quality suppliers.
- The concept of The Made in Britain element is one way for UK brands to differentiate themselves in competitive fashion and retail markets, while promoting sustainable business practices.
By producing locally, brands are valueing UK craftsmanship and skills that have been passed on through generations, bringing an unique value to products and nurturing the fashion ecosystem as a whole.
Given the recent consumer shift towards more authenticity, seeking to understand why and how products are made, and the current economic condition, oportunities for local manufacturing growth exists.
For more information, please visit UKFT.