We were able to attend the Meet the Manufacturer event at Tobacco Wharf in London last week. It was good to see more UK manufacturers showing the huge talent we have in the UK for textile design and manufacture. Many of these organisations would meet the criteria of being a small business and while there were some larger companies in attendance the likes of Toray were very much in the minority. From talking to a few people it seems that the profile of the visitors followed the same line as the people exhibiting i.e smaller companies and individuals working on bespoke ranges. The conference had some household names speaking and extolling the virtues of UK manufacturing, but you have to ask the question after so many years of being told that UK textile manufacture is coming back, what is percentage of product that major high street labels source from the UK. I suspect it is still a very small amount and not growing at any significant rate. So the question has to be asked how do we change this and make the growth in UK manufacture significant a real force? Is there any appetite for this growth in UK sourcing of products from the high street? Probably the most important question that needs answering is ‘if a major retailer asked the UK market to produce a significant order of garments is the infrastructure in place to be able to fulfill this order ? At the moment ‘meeting the manufacturer’ is very nice and there is very much a cottage industry feel about the UK textile industry. Will this twee nice idea ever develop into a real industry that is driving forward on lower cost apparel. Unfortunately I think the answer is NO and maybe we just have to accept that fact.
Ian Smith CText ATI is a textile professional based in the UK, and is the MD of Textile Consult Ltd, a business consultancy that services the textile industry, offering textile training, dyehouse and processing consultancy and project management for wet processing, colour measurement and fabric construction projects.
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