Mary Portas has got it wrong

There is a lot of momentum at the moment about UK Textile manufacturing and the potential of manufacturing returning to the UK.  I had a conversation this morning with a friend and colleague and it seems we have similar ideas about the subject and a general lack of appreciation for the way that certain people are jumping on the bandwagon in the interests of good PR.

The UK textile industry went off shore in the 90’s because certain retailers  were driving prices down and the growing manufacturing markets in Asia were the perfect source for the low cost garments that we all loved.   At the time of this change the consumer did not care about carbon footprints or sustainability and they certainly did not  care  about the UK manufacturer. 

What the British consumer wanted was 3 shirts for £10 or 5 pairs of knickers for £5.00,  run forward a few years to the new millennium and we are all talking about sustainability and trying to be caring sharing, we are living in austere times,  with financial meltdown occurring on our doorsteps and the cries from the same consumer to save our jobs and more especially to create new ones.

So step forward the very retailers who caused the death of the UK textile industry in the first place to position themselves as its saviour “we are returning to the UK “,  step forward retail guru Mary Portas  with her British Knickers experiment. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2117642/Mary-Portas-Great-British-Knicker-Experiment-underwear-goes-sale-Boots.html.  We can make knickers in the UK for the same price as they are made in China.  Great but why bother?  why are we trying to re invent the wheel or compete with foreign imports and make cheap products? The British market was always quality competing with cheap foreign imports is why the industry failed in the first place .  Do Ferrari care what Kia do ?

  We should be proud to be making British products and make a quality product that ok may cost a little bit more but its British and its quality and that’s what the British textile industry is about.  We are famous for our Harris Tweed,  Worsted Suiting Cloths they are world renowned and I think most of them have come through the recent textile crisis quite well doing what they do best and sticking to their principals.

When I worked for a dyehouse in Keighley  Yorkshire in the late 1980’s we had a contract to produce the yarn for the jackets that went into making the jackets for the Tokyo golf club members.  The wool was high quality Merino was spun to fine counts and made into fantastic fabric by companies over the hill in Bradford.  The jackets were expensive, membership of this particular golf club was expensive and exclusive and they decided that the only thing that their members would wear for the official jackets was the world renowned Bradford made worsted cloth. 

These are the markets the UK should be looking at,  while expensive jackets are out of many people reach there are garments that could be made that are much more accessible and do not have to cost less than a packet of detergent.

The colleague who I was speaking too made a very good point the UK Textile market does not need a return, it merely needs a restart.  The industry is populated with quality companies making quality products, doing it very quietly and efficiently, the media , consumer etc just need to sit up and take notice.  The government, media celebs like Mary Portas should be supporting these companies not only for the  home market but also to help them export a quality British product. 

Unfortunately the mentality of the old UK textile industry was not good and this is why it ultimately failed, the companies that survive have good mentalities and philosophies and have achieve the right success.  This current resurgence in interest in British Manufacturing will ultimately wane as the media move onto the next reality program and new campaigns are started and to be honest the quality British companies will probably keep going,  but while the UK textile industry is in the limelight at the moment I would ask Miss Portas to champion quality companies they are something to be proud of they have history, quality products and they are The Best Of British.

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