By  on March 26, 2012

Last April, when royal bride Catherine Middleton took her wedding vows at Westminster Abbey decked in Alexander McQueen, she became a living advertisement for British textiles and craftsmanship: McQueen’s creative director, Sarah Burton, who created the dress, had worked closely with the Royal School of Needlework, based at Hampton Court Palace, on the hand-appliquéd lace and used hand-cut English and French lace for the bodice, skirt and underskirt trim.

Burton’s move wasn’t simply symbolic, a decorative concession to the tradition-bound royals and the proud British public. She is one of a host of British designers and high-end brands that choose—despite a variety of challenges—to source and produce all or part of their collections in Britain. Although the British textile and clothing industry has been on the wane since its heyday under Queen Victoria, a robust network of high-end specialty manufacturers remains. And they focus on quality rather than quantity: Burberry continues to make trenchcoats at its Castleford factory in Yorkshire, where it has recently launched an apprenticeship program and increased the workforce, while Victoria Beckham turns to the workshops of East London for her clothing collections, and Pringle of Scotland produces its core knitwear range and hand-knitted items for the runway at its factories in Hawick, Scotland.

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