Sunday, 3 February 2013

Made in Britain

Over the past week, I have came across a wealth of information on the growth of local production and on such a large scale that I felt compelled to mention it in my dissertation as a relevant trend, which is very recent and can only be a positive thing for businesses. The main catalyst for this trend is likely to be the legacy left by recent British cultural celebrations, such as the royal wedding, jubilee and the London Olympics, which director of Trend Bible Joanna Feeley states has resulted in 'an interest in British goods and what we stand for, as a nation, what we can sell and export'. The cultural interest along with economic reasons has had a knock-on effect on the manufacturing of our garments, and it is not only the UK which is looking at spending more on local manufacturing - in the US, 'consumers are also showing more interest in buying domestically-made products and proportionally, US-made is increasing' (WGSN - Sourcing in 2013: a look ahead).

Due to the economic crisis, there is also a consumer attitude where more people seem to be buying locally where possible, as many realize that in buying locally, they are supporting the local economy. There is also more transparancy now when it comes to the manufacturing of the products, with recently highlighted factory fires in Bangladesh and a growing awareness of 'sweat shops' and child labour' proving this. Costs are growing for production of apparel in Eastern areas, along with the rising cost of fuel, which J. Rubin states 'we must find nearly 20 million barrels per day of new production over the next five years simply to keep up global production at it's current level', making it more and more expensive to have products made abroad. Although in Britain it is still currently more expensive to have clothing manufactured here, the quality and craftsmanship is something which some consumers are willing to pay into. "We lost the battle for cheap, but we can win the battle of quality, credibility and ideas" states David Hieatt, an owner of just one of the many fashion businesses, along with big companies such as Topshop, ASOS, Debenhams and John Lewis, who is actively seeking out to use more UK manufacturers. The 'Made in Britain' revival is apparant in both these larger companies as well as new designers such as J. W. Anderson and House of Hackney, and also a growing interest in the revival of craft and hand-made bespoke pieces.

There are of course, as Feeley mentioned in her interview, 'some groups of people that will look for price over anything' and that 'there's an appetite for cheap goods', which currently outweigh the minority by a long shot. However she also mentions that with trends in general, the 'very small concept grows and grows and eventually becomes the big theme', so this could be applied to the ways in which we source our manufacturing. Only time will tell whether or not the change in production will continue to grow, as it depends on consumer demand and most people have no option other than to buy the cheapest clothes, but with an emphasis on local production from independent designers, heritage brands and department stores, hopefully demand will reach a 'tipping point' where it is more common for people to be wearing locally produced garments.

So how does local production relate to sustainable fashion? Well it actually relates very little, as the sustainability of the products would depend solely on how they are made and which fabrics are used. There is the argument that British craftsmanship is high-quality and therefore sutainable due to the products life-cycle, although it is likely other countries could also produce garments of the same quality. There is also that  in a lot of countries, this will mean more ethical practice, where people are working for reasonable wages and in reasonable conditions. Along with the huge amounts of fuel which would be saved from taking garments through several countries during different parts of production, a turn towards more locally produced garments can only be a positive thing in a move towards creating a more sustainable fashion cycle.

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