The Designer Maker – A Rare Breed In A Factory Nation?

Some years ago, when I applied for a 6 month costumier internship at the BBC, I was told I could be a designer or a maker but I couldn’t be both. Because I didn’t want to be one or the other, I failed to get the placement. Well screw them.

These days if you’re taught fashion design in the UK, you are mostly taught design not manufacture. I chose to go to a university which taught both in tandem because the thought of drawing ‘pretty pictures’ and sending them to someone else to be manufactured horrified me.

In this country it’s now almost impossible to find people who want to ‘just make things’. This excerpt from You and Yours on Radio 4 yesterday demonstrates this. The image of the seamstress sweating away on a factory floor day in day out for minimum wage is a far cry from the glitzy world of London Fashion Week. Ironically you may have to do ‘free’ internships for years to get on those first rungs of the London fashion ladder.

If you are a designer maker in the UK today you are in a minority and you will always be a niche market. That is not a bad thing by any means, but it does mean that no matter where you are in the country you may ultimately have to gravitate to wherever the market is. And that usually means the money market since artisan does not come cheap. Sales are not always so easy to come by now that we’ve pretty much trained the average consumer to expect everything for pennies thanks to the import market.

I was reading this piece in the Guardian from 2011 which discussed the rise of the designer maker. This article may be more than 4 years old now. But has the trend changed?

To quote:

‘In a culture with a surfeit of branding and cheap mass-produced goods, we romanticise the handmade because we yearn for quality, not quantity. The irony is that while western consumers aspire to craftsmanship, the majority of the world’s population lives in countries that have local craftsmen but aspire to industrialised products.’

But just who yearns for it? Where are they living and can you start an artisan culture in areas dominated by cheap factory made products? Artisan costs money. Money gathers in certain areas – places of high population, employment and disposable income – preciously rare commodities these days. Of course, there is always the internet.



The ‘Northern Powerhouse’ may still be a pipedream but the tag certainly conjures up images of advancement which are handy when you are based there. There is no doubt that Manchester is an absolute hive of activity for the the creative community and handmade and there’s no reason to turn our backs on it yet.

Even if the powerhouse doesn’t come to fruition, Manchester and the surrounding area is clinging firmly to its textile manufacturing history, and I for one am very glad of that.

For all things Falcieri Designs check out my website at


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