I am rarely stimulated enough to write in with comments, and this is probably as public as I would go… but the below article written about the Kate Middleton/ Reiss dress worn when she met the Obamas last week, sent me on a bit of a mission to air my views as the matter is very much close to my heart.
Manufacturing in Great Britain is something I know a great deal about, being a designer, manufacturer and retailer for Suzannah.com (a label which credits itself on producing wonderfully and immaculately tailored dresses in Great Britain.) It is a matter about something which I have experienced and experience on a daily basis and a matter which I strive to conquer.
The article written by Liz Jones for the daily mail is spot on.
In short the article is about David Reiss, the owner and founder of Reiss, being somewhat accused of producing his garments in a ‘sweat shop’, and Kate Middleton who in wearing a Reiss dress, had therefore been accused of buying into this process.
Neither of them guilty, as David so well explains ,…and in fact – far from!
Firstly, it is SO difficult to produce clothing in the UK these days. Firstly and foremost the UK manufacturing experience is mainly that of coating and heavy traditional tailoring cloths for which Britain used to, and still does, to an extent, produce.
It is extremely difficult to get dresses made here in the UK at a high quality and volume if theretailer is to be able to sell the garment at a anything resembling a commercial price. The factories themselves have extremely high wages to pay here and rents and rates to support. There are exceptions to this of course, but they are limited and reducing and somehow they need to be supported further.
There are a selected few ‘high end’ manufacturers and studios that I have come across through extensive research and experience, ..and a fabulous network of home workers- incidentally most of whom are Eastern European as they have a wonderfully high skill set and an extremely disciplined work ethic. BUT none of which could be tapped into by a high street (even though high-end) fashion chain because of the sheer cost.
I can only have the luxury of using such fabulous UK makers because of the small quantities of units which I produce and my end price point being considerably higher than the high street level of the market. Although because of my personal ethics and motives of my company I want to keep the majority of my production within this country if possible, as I grow. Burberry managed to achieve this through their own factories, and the nature of a large percentage of their product being coating.
Fashion is an uncontrollably fast business. The newness and innovation which is expected these days has to be supported by a huge establishment of researchers, designers, developers and marketeers, which, when coupled with the huge increase in prices of luxury fibres (even cotton prices have risen fourfold in 2 years before tailing off a bit recently), can only then be balanced out with manufacture from overseas for companies such as Reiss and Karen Millen.
If there wasn’t the wonderful and affordable manufacturing expertise in these countries, then what would happen to our wonderful Italian and French cloth manufacturers. These mills who, for me, keep ‘clothing’ alive would go bankrupt. They themselves cannot afford to only sell to the likes of designer brands who buy limited meterage.
So what is my point. I guess most of the designers and fashion companies in this country to my knowledge do their utmost to achieve the best value, worth and aesthetics to their product. The people who are really at fault and should come under such criticism are the large super market chains and ‘price for fashion’ chasers such as the well know high street cut price brands, and the larger retail superstores who really do create an unrealistic market and suspicion about the ethics of the ‘rag trade’ as a whole.
There are many good guys in the industry who have values and principles, and people should look beyond the label and research into the companies they are buying from.
I am clearly continuing in my Made in Britain and Europe campaign as this ethic can work for my company and it was one of my reasons for starting my line in the first place, to provide fabulously finished and produced Italian and French cloth and tailor that cloth in the manner in which it and my customers deserve.
There are few people in this industry for a quick buck! As far as I have learn t in my 16 years to date working in this industry, the fashion industry for most is a labour of love and passion.