3rd June 2016, London
Meet the Manufacturer event, organised by Make it British, the campaign for the return of UK manufacturing, demonstrated that British business is doing “better than ever”, after more than 100 companies from all corners of the British Isles participated in the event.
Organisers of the trade show and conference carried out a poll in the run up to the event, which echoed these welcome signs of life for the British textiles and fashion industry, showing that 60% of manufacturers say “business is better than five years ago” and 65% say the country should “stay in the EU”.
The event took place from 25-26 May at the Truman Brewery, London, boasting a high-calibre of participants, including the British Fashion Council, Harrods, Marks & Spencer, the National Gallery and ASOS.
“We’ve been delighted by the overwhelming support for this year’s event, borne out by the fact that we had more people attend this time on the first day than attended overall last year,” commented Kate Hills, founder and CEO of Make it British.
“Our workshops, which were new for this year, were phenomenally successful with around 900 people attending them over the two days. Meet the Manufacturer is a platform for leading industry figures to come together to drive UK manufacturing and for buyers and designers to find textile and garment production in the UK. There’s an air of confidence in the industry at the moment and Make it British is definitely back in fashion.”
An inspiring line up of conference speakers on day one included Hal Watts, of Unmade, with a stimulating insight into how he developed the first on-demand knitwear platform. Peter Needle, of headline-sponsor Segura, talked through how businesses can source locally and Brendan McCormack, of English Fine Cottons, explained why a UK company making automotive insulations has made the investment to spin cotton again in the UK.
Day two focused on the relationship between the creatives and the people that run the factories, including a candid panel discussion with Nick Ashley (Private White VC), Mike Stoll (Cooper & Stollbrand), Sarah Watkinson-Yull (Yull Shoes) and Jack Savva (Staffa Shoes), chaired by Pete Schonbeck of the London Small Business Centre.
Closing the conference, Katya Wildman revealed why she brought the production of her iconic bombshell dresses back to the UK.
New for 2016 were Innovation Accelerator and Designer’s Den, where businesses that had made it through to the finals could pitch their ideas to a panel of experts live at the conference. Sockmine scooped the overall prize, with its innovative approach to developing highly technical socks for sports, such as snowboarding, running, walking or cycling.
Designer’s Den was won by Dot One, which impressed both the judges and the audience with its DNA personalised design start-up using a customer’s genetic code to create truly unique and fashion pieces. The company walked away with £1,000 to develop their product in the UK.
Also new for 2016 were a series of free drop-in workshops, which proved successful with over 900 people attending them over the two days.
Other initiatives for this year’s Meet the Manufacturer included the Sewing Studio, which brought the factory to the show with a team of skilled cutters and machinists working together to create garments live at the event, to be sold in Mary Portas’ Mary’s Living and Giving shops, with all profits going to Save the Children.
In addition, a top designer, Tony O’Connor, was curating a collection of outfits from a raft of different designers and manufacturers, including Gosha London, Lavenham, Dege & Skinner, John Smedley, Emma Willis, Shackleton, Dawson Denim, Harris Tweed Hebrides and Katherine Hooker to capture the strength of skills and breadth of styles available in the UK today.
He also took the opportunity to reveal his Spring/Summer 17 Connor menswear collection in an exclusive preview for Meet the Manufacturer. “We’ve created this collection with a successful collaboration with premium British mills and leading British manufacturers to develop a new exclusive modern menswear collection made in the UK,” he said.