‘Made in Britain’ Behind The Label – #insideout
In continuity with my piece on British fashion style, this week I will be looking into the British manufacturing industry and questioning whether campaigners such as Mary Portas and her Made in Britain – Kinky Knickers campaign was a real long-term contribution to the industry or just a fad.
The perception of the ‘Made in Britain’ brand is of distinct excellence in design, handmade quality and bespoke craftsmanship. When coming across a ‘Made in Britain’ label on designer wear or goods, you instantly correlate it with prestige and high notability. Such is it’s distinction on the global fashion platform but is it accessible to the masses or is it reserved only for first world, high-end consumers?
The reality is that for the high street consumer, when buying clothing, the last thing on their list of factors to think about when making that purchasing decision, is questioning where the item in question was made? Particularly when the cost of handmade clothing is high and their objective is to get it for as cheap as possible.
British manufacturing is today slowly making a rise from its festering ashes. It has experienced a resurgence in the last few years, with independent, bespoke, designer boutiques popping up on the corner streets of bourgeoisie, well-to-do London high streets and independent British designers online retailing; it is certainly in high demand.
But why did British fashion manufacturing go sour in the first place? Well, it seems it’s our fault; we wanted ready made fashion at a fast rate and cheap retail prices. Which meant that factory production prices were increasingly, economically, insufficient for the big retailers to order from. Retailers had a demand to meet, which was not been met. So they started to look elsewhere, that’s your cue ‘Made in China’.
In the 1990’s British fashion retailers steadily began fleeing Britain manufacturing in favor of foreign emerging territories, which charged a fraction of the price for their clothing production but, as a result compromised the quality of the garments.
All of which brings us back to the state of manufacturing in Britain today, the tide is slowly turning in it’s favor with Independent brands like Kitty Ferreira waving the flag for British made fashion. It sources all its upcycled materials exclusively in the UK and where possible British made upcycled fabrics. The brand produces exclusively in London, keeping their carbon footprint as low as possible throughout the supply chain.
Kitty Ferreira will be one of many designers around the world, as well as campaigners, retailers, factory workers ect… who will come together on the 24th April to remember the Rana Plaza factory disaster which took place on that very day a year ago in Dhaka Bangledesh. You can join the fashion revolution by hash tagging an #insideout picture/selfie of yourself wearing your clothes inside out, to raise awareness about ethically sourcing fabric and factory working conditions in the manufacturing industry.
Campaigners like fashion retailer expert Mary Portas have been pushing an agenda on a national scale, in an attempt to revive UK manufacturing and make Britons wake up to this problem. As part of a Channel 4 documentary series, Portas launched a knickers range to be released and sold by large fashion retailers. She reopened a sewing room factory in Manchester, which gave new jobs to some of the locals; it looked like it was going to work, but months into the reopening, the factory had to go into administration.
As of February this year the Manchester factory is back in remission due to the support from independent retailers and the factory’s high television profile but what of other factories around the country? It could be a great British success story, but we need multiple factory success stories like theirs to kick-start a real revival.
Major brands like Mulberry bringing their business back to Britain is a good indication that it could be happening; as the ‘Rule Britannia’ trend shows no signs of dying down. Embracing British heritage in industrial technique and ancient craft, the exclusivity and luxury is a big selling point abroad.
With a growing focus on Ethical fashion as a whole, the UK fashion industry and the government have been forced to sit up and rethink ways to sustain the ‘Made in Britain’ brand, on the international platform as well as here in the UK, from its craftsmanship to it’s manufacturing. Meaning investment in apprenticeship, to train the next generation of skilled workers. Investment in education, enticing budding fashion workers to want to work in manufacturing and craftsmanship, the same way that they are interested in working at the front end more glamorous side of fashion.
And above all else, investing in encouraging the British consumer to buy British once again, it is vital in reviving the ‘Made in Britain’ brand. A tough job but someone’s got to do it!
Is it a fad, I don’t think so. The ‘Made in Britain’ label and British manufacturing as always been held in high esteem and as never being out of “fashion” so to speak, but the industry as let the side down and ultimately the consumer down by prioritizing overheads and profit over quality. It has to be said ‘price’ is king in this economy and value will determine how well the ‘Made in Britain’ brand recovers ultimately.
But it’s looking well!