27 May 2016
BRITISH BUSINESS IS BETTER THAN EVER, SO SAY ‘MEET THE MANUFACTURER’ ATTENDEES
‘British business is better than ever’ was the message loud and clear at this year’s Meet the Manufacturer event organised by Make it British, the campaign for the return of UK manufacturing, which took place on 25 and 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.
A poll carried out by Meet the Manufacturer in the run up to the event 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 “stay in the EU”.
Kate Hills, founder and CEO of ‘Make it British’, the campaign for the return of UK manufacturing, enthused: “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. 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.”
Over 100 companies from across the textile and homeware sectors and from all corners of the British Isles came together to exhibit at this year’s trade show.
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. Rosie Wolfenden MBE oozed enthusiasm as she took to the stage to explain the importance of originality and why she runs Tatty Devine. 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, by a narrow margin, with their innovative approach to developing highly technical socks for sports, such as snowboarding, running, walking or cycling. Designer’s Den was won by Dot One, who impressed both the judges and the audience with their DNA personalised design start-up using a customer’s genetic code to create truly unique and fashion pieces. They 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 phenomenally successful with over 900 people attending them over the two days. There were queues around the trade show as people eagerly awaited the next session to find out about ‘developing a brand in 10 easy steps’, ‘how to successfully work with UK manufacturers’ or ‘taking your British brand overseas’.
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.
Plus, 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, explaining: “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”.
Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council, was there to co-host a debate and networking party to bring together key designers and manufacturers to discuss positive fashion and sustainability in the British fashion industry. She remarked: “The atmosphere when you arrive at Meet the Manufacturer is incredible. For the exhibitors here, it’s a great opportunity to hear that our designers want to make in the UK and to talk about the opportunities and how to overcome some of the barriers. The British designers that we promote through London Fashion Week and London Collections Men really wouldn’t be able to start if it wasn’t for the manufacturing on their doorstep.”
Note to editors:
About Kate Hills
Kate Hills is founder and CEO of Make it British. Twenty years of working as a designer and buyer for brands such as Burberry and M&S and multiple product sourcing trips overseas prompted Kate to set up the Make it British website to help promote UK manufacturing and British-made brands. Now in its sixth year, the website has gone from strength to strength and Kate has appeared regularly on television and radio espousing her firm belief that manufacturing in the UK is thriving, cost-effective and sustainable.
About Meet the Manufacturer
Kate Hills launched Meet the Manufacturer in 2014, a trade show and conference for the UK fashion and textiles industry. The event brings together the best of British manufacturers with buyers and designers looking to have their products made in Britain.