Can You Call Yourself British Made?

fabric-rollsCan you buy British made fabrics? And can you only honestly label clothing Made in Britain if it is made with British textiles? It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while now.

I don’t have supply chain information for the fabrics I buy since I source end of roll stock supplied by a third party from factories in the Midlands. I think some of it is UK made but I can’t guarantee that and I don’t have any way of finding out.

A search on Google will turn up a range of results for factories making textiles here in the UK. Many of them specialise in furnishings, interior design or reenactment materials – creating fabric types which have largely gone out of fashion or patterns from bygone eras.

Sourcing implications for a small designer like myself are largely dependent on the range of fabrics available and the cost to purchase them. I don’t have the capacity for hundreds of metres. I buy at most 30 metres of any one type and depending on what I am designing that has the potential to last me up to a year. My space and budget are limited and I do not ream out hundreds of matching designs.

The north of England, where I am now based, used to be the centre of UK textile production. So it’s perhaps not surprising that manufacturing regeneration is largely centered in this region from what I have been able to find.

Today’s announcement that Tower Mill in Dukinfield is going to start spinning cotton again for the luxury fashion market is an exciting step in the right direction. The hope is that it will pave the way for more companies to take the step to return to our shores.

SBR_MEN_011215Cotton2_01

Tower Mill after it’s extensive refurbishment

There is also a trap you might fall into when you buy a factory made British product since you would expect our work record to be of a better standard here in the West. But British doesn’t always get you ethical, sound, better quality clothing. Unfortunately business is about profit and fashion labels are unscrupulous no matter where in the world they originate. So even with the UK label you still need to be careful at every level of production. It’s a minefield.

“The culture of buying is the ‘race to the bottom’ – how cheap can I possibly get this?” (source)

And whilst large recognised names such as John Lewis are keen to get manufacturing back into the UK, there has been no discernable change for the better since the 1990s.

One of the major problems is that whilst we all complain about not having enough in our paychecks, and there not being enough jobs, we still want our clothing and accessories cheaper than chips. You won’t get that if you employ British in Britain. This is why we need education.

It’s why it is so hard to get British made materials for the fashion industry. It happens in small refined pockets for couture markets, but not at high street level so everyone can get a taste of it.

And that is a shame. Because I would love to say with all confidence that the fabrics I use were all made on British soil using British hands, putting money back into a British economy. Because that truly would be Made in Britain. And at the moment, only a select few can claim that accolade.

made in britain

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