FACTORY FILE: The British Fashion Council has unveiled a U.K. manufacturers database, created in association with the British School of Fashion at Glasgow Caledonian University in London, as designers increasingly seek to source their collections locally due to a variety of factors including the weak pound, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the impact of long-distance shipping on the environment.
“It is a timely moment because we’re triggering article 50 today,” said Caroline Rush, chief executive officer of the BFC, who joined Christopher Moore, director of the British School of Fashion, during a launch event at the university. “The second stage is to look at how we ensure that we have the opportunity to provide the excellence that our designers require — particularly the requirements of their retailers who are driving their businesses as well.”
The British High-End Manufacturers Database is part of the BFC’s Positive Fashion initiative, which aims to promote companies’ sustainable and ethical practices. It is a list of 40 U.K.–based manufacturers, supply chain and production companies. The free, online list will be a part of the BFC Designer Fact File, a business learning platform. London-based companies include Blackhorse Lane Ateliers, which specializes in high-end denim, outerwear and tailoring; Blue I Studio London Limited, which works with complex drapery using fine fabrics and Sourgrape Limited, which focuses on high-end women’s wear.
Bakir, who designs Cmmn Swdn alongside Emma Hedlund, said they produce in Portugal and Poland and the initiative is important for Britain. With their most recent collection, he said, they turned to U.K. factories for knitwear and accessories. “I think it’s something that has been lacking and it’s great to have it especially now, with Brexit. I think a lot of people are looking back to their home markets and seeing what’s available instead of importing the goods because that’s what we probably won’t be doing in the future is a direct import.”
Zhang, who is based between London and China and who works with manufacturers in China, said he found the database interesting. “We want to explore more opportunities,” said Zhang. “Especially as this country offers such good quality of craftsmanship. I believe that one day we could use this database when we have our own factory. And to select the best craftsmanship locally, not only from China but also from U.K. because we’re also a U.K.-based brand. I think it makes much more sense that we kind of source in both places.”
Rachael Bromley, director at Sienna Couture London, believes the system will be a first port of call for members of the industry. Located near Battersea Park in London, the company works with the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Giles Deacon. “So many people now have stopped coming to the U.K. mainly because of cost,” said Bromley. “Not because of Brexit, it’s been going on now, I would say, for five or six years.”
Pearl Zepherin, director at Guava London Ltd., which specializes in pattern-cutting, garment technology and sampling, said the database would be a helpful link for designers. Based in Brixton, Guava’s clients include emerging designers such as Zoë Jordan and House of Hackney as well as Liberty. Both Zepherin and Bromley were among the manufacturers that took part in the interview process for the database, and said they feel that designers can control the quality of items produced in the U.K.
Bromley said he believes the U.K. manufacturing industry will pick up. “If it’s promoted well — which I think they will do — I think it will build up,” said Bromley. “There are so many young designers — Britain is a hotbed of talent. With Brexit, it will be better for them to stay with the U.K..”
The directory is the fruit of the High-end and Designer Manufacturing Report, published in 2015 by the BFC in association with Marks & Spencer, UKFT, Creative Skillset, the Alliance Project and Centre for Fashion Enterprise.