Can Brexit Ignite A British Manufacturing Revival?

It’s fair to say that the predominantly pro-EU fashion industry was somewhat shocked at last summer’s Brexit decision, however despite all the negative press and businesses on pause in anticipation of what will happen next, there is notable growth in the British garment manufacturing industry.

Talk about a Made in Britain revolution when it comes to the apparel industry and you are often met with sceptical retorts:

  • ‘We can’t compete on price or output with the likes of the Far East.’
  • ‘Made in Britain is just a marketing term that’s happening on a very minimal scale.’
  • ‘We don’t have enough skilled workers in Britain to develop the manufacturing sector.’

Sister company to FashionCapital, Fashion Enter, responsible for a London based factory that outputs 7,500 units a week, along with related apprenticeships and production courses, disagree with the sceptics whole-heartedly. Jenny Holloway CEO of the company comments:

  • “Since Brexit our factory orders and enquiries have gone up, we can turnaround a design concept to finished garment in just 3-weeks and we are fully addressing the skills shortage by providing on-site training via our Stitching Academy and Fashion Technology Academy.”

Caroline Ash, Production Manager at Fashion Enter’s Factory adds:

  • “We have seen an upturn in interest in the factory with Asda, Primark, Debenhams and many more large names, making enquiries. We are proud to have leading status in the Fast Forward audit which is being taken up by more and more high street companies, which centres particularly on the modern slavery act and how to eliminate it.”

Britain’s online giant ASOS.com collaborated with Fashion Enter to set up the Stitching Academy, the plan to bring more of its production closer to home was always on the cards. Currently, just 4pc of ASOS’ clothes are made in two British factories, one of which is Fashion Enter, however plans are in the pipeline for ASOS.com to double its UK based manufacturing. And that’s thanks to the post-Brexit sterling slump making domestic production all the more affordable.

JoJo Iles, Editor at Fashion Enter’s online sister company FashionCapital comments:

  • “While the business of fashion is no doubt led by profit we do have to think about the bigger picture. When I tell people that I work in fashion many ask: Do you know which retailers are ethical? Who can I buy from guilt-free on the high street? Of course there is no straight-forward answer as supply chains are complex and many brands have multiple factories that they work with globally. However, what this says to me is that there is a real craving from consumers for goods that are made ethically, sustainably and that haven’t travelled all over the world to get stitched-up on the cheap. At the moment the story behind each garment is very unclear however transparency and more in the way of on-shore production could be a positive way forward.”

Adam Mansell of the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) recently told The Daily Telegraph that another obvious advantage for a retailer with a UK factory was the “ability to jump in the car and speak to a supplier face-to-face if something is not right, rather than flying several hours or having a conference call with someone in Asia."

Currently the UK Textiles Manufacturing industry is worth £9bn to the economy, and while this looks relatively small compared to say the $30bn figure produced by Bangladesh, the sector is experiencing both domestic and export growth. Additionally, it is estimated that the sector will create a further 15,000 new jobs over the next three years.

There is also the notion that ‘Made in Britain' has quality and heritage written all over it, as seen with the likes of Mulberry and Burberry, and it’s this niche which leading industry experts suggest is ripe for development.

With so many factors coming into play, economical, ethical, sustainable, environmental, surely the time is now to revive the British garment manufacturing industry?