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@TailsClothing @BFA_Footwear Let me know if you find anyone. I'll also ask around and let you know what i uncover.
RT @__kraft: @MakeItBritish Glasgow's MAKLAB is shortlisted for a Google Global Impact Award. Please vote and RT! http://t.co/OjvCwwFD5X
Just ordered a brand new bed from @bigtable8 Great service from Steve & Kim and all 100% UK materials & manufacture
RT @CBItweets: UK Manufacturers continuing to expect strong output growth in next 3 months, CBI Survey reveals http://t.co/3WVeQm2ptc #UKmfg
RT @JohnRoseLtd: Some-of-our-Cushions-Hand-Made-in-Great-Britain e-letter: http://t.co/zXuJYzJi9c Some brightness on a cold May day....
RT @siliconeblog: Just discovered @MakeItBritish website. ALL of Primasil's silicone products are proudly made in the UK.
@TailsClothing That request has flumexed me. Don't think there is anyone, but would loved to be proved wrong. Try @BFA_Footwear
RT @multemyr: Excited to now be featured on Make it British's website http://t.co/4CLoEqlqhs. thank you @MakeItBritish
Does manufacturing have an image problem with young people? What can be done to encourage more school leavers into factories?
@BluebellGlen @MXAwards @CranfieldUniSAS That’s very true. But people also need to get used to buying LESS too. Who needs 20 handbags?!
RT @MXAwards: Are customers the real barrier to taking manufacturing forward?! That's what is being debated #mfgdebate @CranfieldUniSAS
RT @WRStirling: John Elliott @EbacUK most succinct intro to debate: "UK mfg is well underperforming, we can make more of the things we cons…
If you are interested in UK manufacturing join the debate from @CranfieldUniSAS live now http://t.co/udS658Sxz9 #MFGDebate
RT @neillloyd1974: Manufacturing was 26% of global GDP in 1970, like for like its now 16.9% #mfgdebate BUT increasing over past 4 years
RT @WRStirling: British people & children must be inspired to work in ukmfg. More social enterprise, not-for-profit activity is essential. …
RT @CranfieldUniSAS: The National Manufacturing Debate at Cranfield University will be streamed live from 2pm http://t.co/1U1a4isH41 #mfgde…
@WRStirling Unfortunately I can't make it to the manufacturing debate tomorrow. Will be following your Tweets instead
Designer/Makers are teaming up with small UK manufacturers to bring their designs to a wider audience
As someone who has been working in the ceramics industry for over 20 years, it’s interesting to see the re-emergence of small scale manufacturing in the UK again after a decade dominated by mass-produced designs. Often called batch production in the ceramics industry, this ability to be able to make small order quantities is ideal for designer-makers who want to test the market with a limited run of product made in a factory, rather than by hand in a workshop. These makers, essentially from a craft background, are exploring the manufactured approach to making their work more accessible and affordable, and in turn reaching a whole new audience with their designs.
Back in 2000 I worked with Hornsea and Park Roses potteries in Yorkshire, and English Country Pottery based in Gloucestershire, to batch produce a series of tableware ranges that retailed at the high end of the high street. At that time, retailers such as Heals, The Conran Shop and Liberty, were eager to back aspiring designers who were trying to get their foot on the ladder. Batch production offered the designer/maker flexibility in ordering short runs of ware, the opportunity to test the market before committing to larger orders, and the ability to update ranges more frequently- something that was financially, far more manageable to a small business. In turn this provided the High Street with a variety of colourways and new products that could change quickly, offering the customer fresh and exciting product.
However, the following years made it increasingly difficult for manufacturers to work with smaller design businesses – the environment was tough, and working with smaller companies became problematic; the benefits that we had been offered, such as endless coloured glazes, seasonal newness and small runs, gradually became unviable for the factories. They were turning the orders away and folding under much bigger burdens.
But with design events such as Tent, The London Design Festival, and Craft 2014 (a new show by Handmade in Britain), signalling a renewed interest in unique, innovative and well crafted product, it seems the time is right for a new leap forward; and once again, smaller factories are thriving. Whilst larger manufacturers have been struggling for a long time to keep churning out well made, volume product at a reasonable cost, many within the industry have realised that there is a growing community of customers that are looking for individual, crafted and one-off pieces that the smaller manufacturers are better placed to offer.
The problem that small manufacturers are now encountering is keeping up with demand. With the growing pace of interest and small capacity of these factories they are having to turn away business – a problem for the designer maker who can ill afford to step up production and approach the bigger firms.
Ultimately, with the focus clearly set on small scale UK production, it has to be good news for both the UK tableware industry, and the customer, that creativity and British manufacturing are alive and kicking!
This article was written exclusively for Make it British by Sue Pryke, a tableware designer who has worked in the industry for the last 20 years. Sue has created homeware collections for well known retailers such as John Lewis, M&S and Ikea and has her own brand of tableware launching at the end of 2013.
Find Sue Pryke on Twitter @Sue_Pryke
How a chance discovery by a group of miners in the North East led to a breakthrough product for eczema sufferers
At Make it British we do love the fact that so many of the products made in Great Britain have a fantastic story to tell about their provenance. Quite often the history behind a brand or products inception is quite particular to the region in which it is was developed. A great example of this is Skin Salveation, a skin care range conceived in the North East of England. Although now much loved by eczema sufferers, who often buy the lesser known brand on word of mouth recommendation because it is so effective at treating the condition (and I can vouch for this as I use it for my son’s eczema), the product originally came about under very different circumstances. I asked Skin Salveation’s director John Davidson to tell me the story behind the brand:
Hi John, can you tell me a little bit about the history of Skin Salveation?
The staple industry of the North East of England was once coal mining, a tough profession that can be very drying on the hands. A group of miners in County Durham, who had very inflamed skin due to the nature of their work, discovered that sodium silicate, an ingredient that naturally occurs in coal, helped soothe their condition. They developed their own soap, which contained the sodium silicate from coal plus various other naturally occurring ingredients, and to everyone’s amazement were able to control the adverse effects that their work had on their skin. Word spread amongst family, friends and the community, who soon discovered that the formulation also helped eczema and dermatitis too.
How did the miner’s soap then become Skin Salveation?
It was about twenty years ago when the product came to the attention of two scientists named Dr’s Randle and Drew, who conducted tests on their patients and concluded that the miner’s soap was having a uniquely beneficial effect on even the most extreme cases of eczema. A team of expert chemists were then enrolled to analyse the formulation and proceeded to modify them to be used as other complimentary products that you can now see in the range, such as the moisturiser and washing powder.
How did you become involved with the company?
I came across Skin Salveation as I used to experience eczema. I tried it and it was brilliant – Eczema gone. An opportunity arose to buy the business as it had been experiencing financial difficulties – if it had collapsed both myself and all of the other users would have suffered badly – so I bought it!
Where do you source the ingredients for the products? And where are they manufactured?
All of the ingredients are sourced in the UK, and the products are manufactured by the UK’s best companies in the healthcare sector all over the British Isles; the creams are made in Essex, the soap and washing powder are produced in Lancashire and the shampoo is manufactured in Scotland. Our packaging is all sourced locally in Northumberland too.
If anyone is reading this that suffers from a dry skin condition, or any miners for that matter, how can they get hold of the products?
Marks & Spencer previewed their forthcoming Best of British range this week, and we got a sneak peak…
When Marks and Spencer announced that they were launching a Best of British clothing range earlier in the year there was a fair bit of scepticism, both from me and the readers of this website.
Was this a load of ‘Brit-wash’ on M&S’s behalf in order to ride the wave of popularity surrounding all things British at the moment? Would the product actually be manufactured here, or just have a British link, such as fabric or design, like some retailers have done? Would the M&S Best of British collection go to more than just the flagship London store? And most importantly, would it actually be something that the customer would want to buy?
I am pleased to report, having been invited to the press show yesterday for a sneak peek at the new range that will launch in Autumn, that M&S seem to have done things right. Their Best of British collection, which includes clothing and accessories for both men and women, has been developed with integrit, and to a high level of quality and craftsmanship.
Belinda Earl, M&S’ Style Director, who was previously at Jaeger and Aquascutum, assures me that everything in their Best of British collection will be 100% made in Great Britain. They have collaborated with some very reputable and long-established British manufacturers too – the jumpers are coming from the Scottish Border town of Hawick, renowned for its world class knitwear, the outerwear will be manufactured in Manchester, in a factory that has made for Barbour and Macintosh, and the footwear will be produced in Northampton, the home of the Goodyear-welted sole shoe. Not only that, but many of the fabrics used have been woven in the UK, with the mills, such as Abraham Moon and Mallalieus of Delph, being credited in the labels inside the garments. Some of you are now going to ask ‘why are they not using all British-made materials?’ And that is a good question. Neil Hendy, Head of Womenswear design at M&S, told me that whilst it had been easy to find fabrics such as the woollens in the UK, some of the other materials, such as the linings for coats, just weren’t produced here anymore.
Much of the recent criticism of M&S has been that the quality is not as good as it used to be, or that they have attempted to be too ‘fashion’ in order to try to align themselves with the rest of the High Street. They have certainly addressed both of these issues with the Best if British collection. The clothes and accessories are back to where Marks & Spencer used to be in the good old St Michael days – timeless, good quality items that you could own for years and would consider a good investment. The designers have even raided the M&S archives to bring back some great classic pieces that are still relevant for today’s customer.
“I bet it’s expensive” I’m now hearing you say. Well, that depends on how you measure expensive. Yes, the prices are considerably more than the average person is used to paying on the High Street, with a coat costing up to £299 and a pair of men’s brogues retailing for £265. But when you consider this on a cost per wear basis, it is really not too bad. I would much rather pay that price for a classic coat, that is well made and will see me through the next 10 years, than pay £50 for something where the fabric will look shabby, the seams come apart, and the style look dated before the season is out. And a Goodyear-welted pair of brogues will always be a good investment because they can be re-soled time and time again.
I actually think that when you compare the cost of similar quality items from ‘British’ brands such as Jaeger and Burberry, you are getting amazing value. And if you bought a coat from either of them it would cost at least double the price, and probably wouldn’t be made in Britain either. In fact, M&S must have taken a considerable cut on their margins to produce this collection at these prices, so for that reason alone I think that they should be commended.
Sadly the collection will only go to 5 UK stores, 2 International stores and the M&S website, when it is launched at the beginning of October. This, I would imagine, is due to the current limitations of production space at the UK factories, who are not geared up to make the sort of volume orders that M&S would require to send the collection further. If Marks & Spencer are really serious about working with British manufacturers then this is something that they’ll need to address if they want to quieten their naysayers.
What are your thoughts on the M&S Best of British collection? Will you buy it? Or do you still have your doubts? Please leave your comments below.
On a recent trip to Staffordshire I caught up with Toby Gaddum, owner of the Gaddum Group and Tempus clothing, and self-titled ‘Gobby Git’ of UK manufacturing.
Toby, whose family have been trading silk since 1826 and who is a member of the Worshipful Company of Weavers, has had the foresight to realise that clothing manufacture is returning to the UK. He has put considerable investment of his own money into setting up a brand new, purpose built clothing factory in Leek, which he envisages will hold over 100 machinists very soon. I chatted to him to find out why he believes that making clothing in the UK is viable again.
What can a UK clothing manufacturer offer that an overseas manufacturer does not, and how is Tempus Clothing capitalising on this?
It is the speed of response that offers an advantage over manufacturers abroad – Tempus Clothing is able to produce bulk production for retail/wholesale sales from initial sketch to fully made garment in 6 weeks. Furthermore we have access to a fabric dyeing facility with a laboratory and fabric printing (both rotary and digital) which are within 100 metres of our factory. This particular infrastructure is unique in the UK and allows us to be even more flexible in terms of developments and production. We also have our own sample room, which is separate to the production, thereby enabling a fast turnaround on new developments.
Furthermore, we have embroidery, screen printing and heat transfer machines under the same roof, which means we are not reliant on outsourcing this to other companies.
What do you think are the biggest issues facing UK clothing manufacturers today?
The main issue is the local (UK) infrastructure of component parts – be it labels, buttons, zips or accessories, to make up the garment. Because there is not a lot of choice in the market place you become reliant on a few suppliers normally importing product from overseas factories. If there is a break or delay in that chain then there will undoubtedly be a knock on effect which in turn could cause delays in production.
The other concern is the supply of sewing machines and the availability of second hand ones in the market place. It is very difficult to source and find some specialist machines. So many were either shipped overseas in the ‘90’s or were scrapped or simply left to decay outside buildings. Further to that we are lacking the skills on mechanics, and of course sewing machinists. Our youngest machinist in the factory is 50!
How are you planning to address this issue of machinists who aren’t getting any younger?
I’m putting together a training school at the factory. We will be running apprenticeship courses to train newcomers, both in sewing machining and sewing mechanic skills. The students will spend one year in the apprenticeship school and then a year in the factory. When they are qualified I hope to be able to offer a job to those who have passed the course and have gained their qualifications. When the apprentices move out of the factory after a year another 10 will be taken on in the school. I hope to make Tempus Clothing the biggest garment factory in England.
If you would like to contact Toby you can do so here
British button manufacturer James Grove & Sons went into administration in December 2012 – but now there is a new business rising from its ashes
James Grove was the last horn button manufacturer in Britain, and when the business closed down it looked like over 150 years of craftsmanship would be lost. Read how one man is determined to salvage some of those skills, and is looking for investment to help him do it. (Photos by S.E.H. Kelly)
Only a few years ago James Grove had moved out of its original Victorian premises into a shiny modern plant and things seemed rosy. But then the recession hit. A chain of unfortunate events meant that a business that in 2005 had been very cash rich, could no longer pay its bills. The administrators were called in, and instead of selling James Grove as a going concern, they made a private deal to sell the assets to an aerospace company, who then proceeded to sell the bulk of the machinery to the Far East. To add insult to injury, the new owners threw 150 years worth of archive material – a priceless record of button making in the UK – into a skip.
The remaining machinery was sold as a block to an online auctioneer and one eagle eyed business man realised its worth and put in an offer for some of the key pieces. Along with the specialist button making equipment, he was also able to pick up pattern books and original dies dating back decades which will enable him to re-produce many of the original James Grove button designs. He now intends to re-establish horn button making in the UK under the name Grove Pattern Buttons and has secured premises for the new business in the jewellery quarter of Birmingham.
The new owner has also been speaking to some of the original staff from the button factory who were made redundant last December. The former Head button turner from James Grove & Son, who had worked for the company for 51 years, has agreed to come out of retirement in order get the new business off the ground. He has offered to do so on the proviso that he can have an apprentice to train, as he is really keen to pass on his 5 decades worth of skill and knowledge. Also keen to come back out of retirement is the former dyer from James Grove, who is regarded by many as the best in the world at dying horn, and the barreller (finisher); both are keen to pass on their accumulated knowledge to a new generation of button makers.
However, setting up a button factory does not come cheap, and the new owner is hoping that other potential investors will come forward to help him secure the future of the business. With several big designer brands having committed in writing to working with Grove Pattern Buttons going forward, the future of British button manufacturing looks good, provided that an injection of cash can be secured in the short term. You can hear more about their plea in the above video.
If you are interested in helping to revive British button manufacturing please contact Grove Pattern Buttons here
Photos courtesy of S.E.H. Kelly, who wrote a wonderful article about James Grove on their blog last year
Update: The button company now have a page on CrowdCube giving people the chance to invest in the company. Go here to find out more
I was delighted to be interviewed by Mich Yasue for the fabulous UK Handmade magazine this month.
For those that have not heard of it, UK Handmade is a design-led online magazine committed to showcasing and promoting the best creative talent the UK has to offer. Through a website, online and print magazine, and forum the UK Handmade team have built up a large creative community of artists, designers, makers and event organisers, who are all driven by the same vision and passion for the handmade movement that is happening in Britain right now.
You can read the rest of this article in the Summer edition of UK Handmade Magazine below, or by going to www.UKhandmade.co.uk/magazine/
We took a trip to Stoke-on-Trent to meet Norman Tempest, MD of Royal Stafford and backer of British design
A while I go I praised Norman Tempest, MD of Stoke pottery company Royal Stafford, for winning an award for his support of British design. So I was delighted to be invited up to Stoke on Trent to meet Norman and to discuss his reasons for backing relatively unknown designers, as well as to hear his thoughts about British manufacturing. I took my eight year old daughter along with me too, determined that she should experience at a young age what it takes to get things made, and here’s how we got on…
Royal Stafford is based at the Overhouse Manufactory in Burslem, Staffordshire, a site which has been used for pottery manufacturing since the late 1700s. Entering the building through an unassuming door into a café, which also houses a factory shop, we were greeted by Graham Bowen, head of Operations, and as it happens, also Norman’s son-in-law. My daughter Flossie was invited to stay in the café and paint some pottery that would later be fired in Royal Stafford’s very own kilns, whilst I was shown around the pottery by Norman and John Nixon, Royal Stafford’s general manager, who has been with the company for 35 years.
I’ve been to many factories before, but this was my first visit to a pottery, and both Norman and John very patiently answered all of my questions about the processes involved in making their high-fired earthenware. What struck me first was how white the whole place was, the consequence of a fine layer of pale dust produced during the manufacturing process settling on every surface.
Talking to the guys as we walked round, it became clear that making pottery is much like most other factory work – the skill involved takes years to learn and many of the jobs are extremely specialist. I ask Norman if he has difficulty employing and retaining people in these specialist roles, and he tells me that it is a particular issue to keep women in the factory, as many of them move into clothing manufacturing where the work is marginally better paid.
Another of the challenges facing Norman Tempest, or anyone running a pottery in the UK, is the cost of fuel used to keep the kilns burning. It is not unheard of for Royal Stafford’s energy bills to run into a 4 figure sum every week, an overhead that could cripple a business that is trying to remain competitive in International markets. It was this that recently led to British ceramics firms being made exempt from the carbon emissions tax – something that came about thanks to lobbying by local Stoke MP, Tristram Hunt.
The International market is where Royal Stafford really excels – 50% of the output from its Stoke factory is sent overseas. “I think that exporting is important to any business,” says Norman. “Our pottery is particularly popular in American, Japan and Korea”. The renowned ‘Made in Stoke’ backstamp, which recently caused controversy when it was revealed in parliament that other, less scrupulous businesses were exploiting its marketing value, is something that Norman is keen to uphold. I ask him what he thinks about those British ceramics firms that are stamping ‘Made in England’ on the bottom of their wares when they are not adhering to the rule of conducting the first firing in the UK*, Norman is clearly unimpressed. “If someone sets out to mislead the customer by stamping their company name and the word England on the bottom (when it is not entirely made here), then I think that it is morally wrong. Wherever potters go in the world they pick up a product and look at the bottom. We know who’s doing it”.
I ask Norman whether he thinks that the fact that Royal Stafford continues to manufacture in Britain is something that his customers appreciate, and he tells me that whilst being important, it is the company’s design that is their main selling feature – “I read the feedback (about our pottery) on the retailer’s websites, and most of them start off by saying that they love the design and the quality…and then they add ‘great, it’s made in England too’”.
After our walk round the pottery Norman takes me to the showroom that houses some of the great designs within the Royal Stafford collection, including the pieces by young British designers, such as Carly Dodsley and under the English Eccentrix umbrella. Unique to British pottery, the English Eccentrix collection is made by Royal Stafford, but allows the designers to sell their products under their own names. The idea was conceived by Mr Tempest in 2011 “to give designers credit in an industry where no one was given credit”, and it was this fostering of up-and-coming ceramicists that won him his recent Backer of British Design award. Royal Stafford is able to offer the English Eccentrix designers not only a way of manufacturing their ceramics, but also a foot in the door with International buyers. This sort of collaboration between manufacturer and designer helps both parties – Royal Stafford are able to appeal to a wider audience than with their core range, and the designers get someone to make their products in the small runs that they need to get started, as well as help with sales and marketing.
After a thoroughly enjoyable two hours spent at the Overhouse Manufactory it is time to leave, but I have to prize my daughter away from her pottery painting – maybe one day she will become one of the new English Eccentrix designers!
We would like to thank Norman Tempest and his team for giving us the opportunity to see inside their wonderful factory, and a special mention should also go to the highly organised Kerryanne Clancy of Plink Fizz, Royal Stafford’s PR company, for arranging our visit.
For more details about English Eccentric visit www.EnglishEccentrix.co.uk
Report predicts that rising oil prices and new technology will lead to more localised production and the creation of 200,000 new manufacturing jobs in Britain
Up to 200,000 UK manufacturing jobs could be created over the next 10 years according to recent research carried out by the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce).
The extensive report, which outlines growing opportunities in manufacturing, particularly for medium sized companies, predicts that global production will no longer be the default approach for manufacturing in the future, and instead companies will look towards local manufacturing sources to make their products.
Their projections show that a more locally-focused supply chain could increase the value of UK manufacturing output by up to £30bn. Great news for the British jobs market, as well as the economy – if the predictions are correct it could reduce the UK trade deficit by up to a third.
However, the findings also warn that the opportunity could be missed if issues surrounding skills shortages, funding and the image of manufacturing are not addressed by both businesses and Government. Attracting and retaining staff is a common problem amongst UK manufacturers across all sectors, and something that the report says the Government should be focusing on if Britain is to not miss the boat.
There is a reason why products made in Britain are often more expensive – safe working conditions for one.
The terrible news about the garment factory in Bangladesh collapsing, killing hundreds of workers inside, has truly saddened me. But having traveled all over the world visiting manufacturers, the tragedy hasn’t really surprised me – it was an accident waiting to happen. The demand for cheap fashion that is prevalent in the UK, and let’s face it Primark was one of the factories customers so those clothes were destined for here, has meant that cutting corners is inevitable. And when a factory is so far away, it is more likely to be the case of ’out of sight, out of mind’.
Bangladesh has been the source of some of the cheapest clothing for a while. In the last 30 years the poverty stricken country has seen the number of people employed in garment manufacturing rise from practically nothing, to over £4million. The industry now turns over £20bn a year and accounts for 80% of the countries exports.
This huge rise in demand has seen factories like the one that collapsed in Dhaka being thrown up quickly in order to meet the demand for cheap clothing from the West. According to an article on the BBC website, 50% of garment factories in Bangladesh are located on premises which are not safe. That is just shocking.
A couple of years ago I ran a survey on this website to ask people if they actually looked to see where a garment was made before they bought it, only 33% said that they did. If I had asked a more un-biased section of the population, i.e. those not reading a blog about British-made products, then the results would likely have been much lower. The truth is that when it comes to buying products these days, most people only look at the price, and never stop to consider why something is so cheap. They often say that they don’t buy products made in Britain because they are too expensive, but there are many reasons why this is often the case, and safe working conditions is one of them.
If there is one positive thing that comes of the terrible disaster in Bangladesh this week, maybe it now will cause people to stop and question the true value of cheap clothing made abroad.
Recognition for companies manufacturing in the UK in prestigious annual awards
I was very pleased to see that two of the brands featuring in our directory have been given a Queen’s Award for Enterprise this year – an honour bestowed on British companies that are considered ‘outstanding in their field’.
The Cambridge Satchel Company, who make all of their bags in the UK, won a much-deserved award for International Trade, in recognition of their contribution towards exports. The company, which was started 5 years ago by Julie Deane, currently sells to over 110 countries, generating over £5m in export sales.
Tiffany Rose are a stylish maternitywear company committed to making all of their products in Britain. The company has seen an impressive 137% growth in overseas sales over the last 3 years , which more than earns them their award for International Trade. Tiffany London, founder and creative director of Tiffany Rose, said: “Given our 100% commitment to quality manufacturing in Britain it’s a huge honour for us to receive this award from Her Majesty the Queen.”
Wonderful news and well deserved!