This year, the British sourcing event Make it British Live! was curated by the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) and focused on supporting young talent and establishing a strong skill base to bring the industry supply chain back together after decades of decline.
Two thirds of UK manufacturers report that the average age of their workforce is over 40 and a key challenge is how to attract more young people into the industry. This is according to a recent poll carried out by Make it British of over 100 UK manufacturers in the fashion and textiles industry.
As part of the two-day event, the UKFT Manufacturing Skills Exhibition showcased the work being carried out to support the next generation with the latest manufacturing skills. It highlighted the development of new, industry- approved apprenticeships and featured Made It, a UKFT programme campaign to bring together graduate design talent and the skills of UK manufacturing, supported by Mark & Spencer.
Made It campaign
UKFT delivered a series of masterclasses at five universities across the UK last autumn, with the aim of promoting a better understanding of sourcing, production and the business benefits of selecting a UK-based manufacturing strategy.
At each of the events, a brief was set, asking the students to use what they had learnt to research, design and develop a fully UK made collection for a high street retailer. Once student from each university was selected to receive sponsorship and support from the Made It campaign to go through the full production process with one of the UK manufacturers, receiving mentoring throughout.
The result of these collaborations was on show at Make it British Live!, and the students were required to understand sourcing, costing, methods of communication and the importance of accuracy, problem solving and a good working relationship with their manufacturer.
Following the success of the programme, UKFT has announced it will be rolling out the production and sourcing masterclasses, making them available to all UK universities in the next academic year.
The pieces on show included the students’ British-made designs for the high street from Falmouth University, University of Leeds, Nottingham Trent University and University of Salford and manufactured by John Smedley, Discovery Knitting, Stoll GB and Sour Grape.
Jessica Braithwaite, of Nottingham University, for example, partnered with John Smedley, a leader in the production of fine gauge knitwear based near Matlock, Derbyshire to produce a capsule knit collection of six jumpers, dresses and accompanying trousers that would fit in the brand identity of Joseph, a luxury designer brand of fashion for men and women.
Inspired by the concepts of mindfulness and wellbeing and aimed at women “who invest in key classic pieces”, the collection features contrasting, soft tones of pink, grey and mink juxtaposed with bright yellow. “My collection is going to give women the feeling of pride when walking down the street, while still giving them the feeling of being protected from the elements.”
Developing a product
Molly Mann, of Falmouth University, produced her collection of hoodies and trousers for Mollusk, a California-based collective, providing surfboards, apparel, gear and accessories. Inspired by simple shapes, nature, comfort and functionality, the collection is implemented in pale sandy fawn colours, with contrasting colour thread.
Molly worked with Discovery Knitting, a Leicester based family business specialising in organic cotton fabrics. Simon Cook, Managing Director, founded the company in 1987 at the age of 19 and now has a New York office, a Paris showroom and a boutique British knitting mill, producing 8,000 metres of fabric a week. “Molly came to us with a concept, which we helped her develop into a product that could be produced and marketed as commercial. The designs were quite simple, yet interesting to work on. Molly chose the fabrics that she wanted, we helped her adjust the patterns, and we gave them to our garment division,” said Simon.
“This is our first year exhibiting here, at the show – I am here joined by my daughter. We have a lot of plans and we are continually growing, but I think both for us and for the industry as a whole, it is very important to support young talent. At 51, I am the youngest person I know with my level of knowledge of the industry. At our company, the average age of the employees is 55. We also currently have two apprentices working with us, and I hope we will see more young people getting involved.”
Bringing talent together
“The UK has some of the best designer graduates in the world and some of the most talented manufacturers – Made It brings them together,” said Adds Nigel Lugg, Chairman, UKFT. “The project helps to ensure the success of the next generation in understanding the business of fashion, which is a fundamental part of UKFT’s purpose and key whether you are developing a new brand, working with manufacturers or growing business overseas.”
Alongside the exhibition and as part of its ongoing mission to bring industry and education closer together, the UKFT launched its Academic Membership and the UKFT Masterclass series, which aims to improve the production and sourcing knowledge available through our academic institutions.