My passion for supporting the manufacturing industry in the UK stems from the experience I had when I first met my husband, in the year 2000. Phil had just set up his own fashion design business (high fashion, ladies wear), having recently graduated in Fashion Design from Northumbria University. He secured funding from The Arts Council and The Princes Trust and he had the most amazing creative space and studio to work in, in an old flour mill in the heart of Newcastle Upon Tyne. It was a special time full of memories I hold dear but it was also the worst time my boy could have set up in business.
The manufacturing industry in the UK and particularly in our region back then, was experiencing a very rapid decline and UK designers were looking to cheap, overseas manufacturing. Britain just could not justify it's production and manufacturing costs at the time. Since then, we've seen a colossal rise in the use of off-shore manufacturing, which has aided further towards the deterioration of the resources we have, or at least, once had here in Britain to keep our manufacturing industries thriving…
Quote Source: Mary Portas // Bottom Line
But there is a small sea of change on the horizon. Thanks to the likes of Mary Portas who's heroic efforts to get the 'made in Britain' mantra positioned positively into the psyche of the nation via her brilliant Channel 4 series 'Mary's Bottom Line', consumers have, I truly believe, started to at least think about their spending habits and from my perspective, to consider on what, exactly, their hard earned wedding budget is being spent.
I can honestly say I've noticed a rise in interest within the Love My Dress reader community, into where, and indeed how their wedding dress is manufactured. I have always championed independent designers who manufacture in Britain. I believe very firmly in supporting our home-grown talent. A thriving manufacturing industry means more jobs, more business and creative opportunities and it would mean a huge boost within younger generations to learn new skills, which would further boost the need for education and training resources. According to the British Fashion Council, over 60% of the UK's textile manufacturing workforce is aged over 40, with 'little enthusiasm
from younger people to learn their skills' (source, Just-Style.com). Isn't that sad?
I would love to see some of those old factories re-open
and for new generations of newly trained, educated and highly skilled
machinists, crafts people and manufacturers to have the opportunity of stepping in to secure jobs that
are part of an industry that is proud to be British. My humble opinion might not count for much, but from where I'm standing, I'm truly hoping that the UK wedding industry will be one of the first in line to help turn around the fortune of the UK textile manufacturing workforce. I'm seeing more and more people leaving their safe, secure jobs to follow their dreams and earn a living from designing, from crafting and sewing and beading and manufacturing beautiful, beautiful wedding products made right here in Britain. Isn't it time we got behind these people and did our own part to help boost the prospect of 'made in Britain'? It might mean paying a little more, but costs overall reflect the level of quality of craftsmanship invested in to manufacturing anything, and so, don't you get what you pay for?
One bridal wear designer I hugely admire for her commitment to British craftsmanship is Lucia Silver and her team from The State of Grace. Lucia is entirely committed to only working with British suppliers and supporting artisan crafts people based in the UK. It is something I hugely admire in any independently run small business because to me, it demonstrates passion for the very best, and for supporting an industry at threat.
All imagery below are copyright (c) 2012, The State of Grace
Designer Lucia Silver told me…
"We are committed to British craftsmanship and are keen for our clients to understand the journey through The State of Grace creative process, and understand goes on behind-the-scenes in the creation of our bespoke garments and accessories. A huge deal of time, care and multiple skills are dedicated to fashioning a State of Grace design. Nothing about these inspired activities is derivative, imported or generic.
To ensure we deliver the highest quality possible, we draw on the best of British talent, a talent that is the envy of the world. All of our bridal wear and wedding accessories are made in Britain."
Concept, design and technical precision…
"The beginning of the
journey into having a bespoke wedding dress or garment created, starts
with an illustrated concept inspired by our meetings and conversations
with the client.
Our skilled professional experts create a bespoke toile (a first draft at the design, usually using a material like calico), that then produces your bespoke pattern. We then assist our client in choosing their own luxurious fabric in the perfect colour, texture and print – and if we don't already have that perfect fabric in stock, we will create it especially for the client. Nothing is beyond our design ability.
meticulous measurements taken and the creative vision defined, we hand
over to the flawless work of our highly skilled seamstresses and garment fitters."
"Unique among the burgeoning British fashion field, The State of Grace has become the only couture house in London to offer bespoke garment and accessory design, personalised styling and expert hair and make-up. Our designs are inspired by the style and individuality of each client."
Detailing and Embellishing…
"We can produce anything the client wants, from clean simple, elegant and chic, to lavishly hand-embroidered fabrics featuring exquisitely intricate appliqué and dazzling beadwork. We are passionate about working with British artisan craftspeople to create delicate hand working, embroidery and corsetry."
Behind the Scenes of Styling and Accessorising…
"The State of Grace style team now focus their skills and expertise on your overall styling. Specifically, the creation of your personalised accessories. These include: vintage and bespoke jewellery, shoes and shoe adornment, veils, hats and hair-pieces, boleros, capes, coats and shrugs, belts, bags and broaches, tassels, bustles and trains and more.
We deploy old-fashioned classical techniques with state of the art resources, to give just the right amount of fashion forward edge."
Other designers (bridal wear and accessories) who I know manufacture in Britain, with a little assistance of a Twitter shoutout this morning, include Alan Hannah, Sassi Holford, State of Grace, Stephanie Allin, Heavenly Vintage Brides, Zoe Lem, Cherished Vintage, Oh My Honey, Sally Lacock, HT Headwear, Joanne Fleming, Boo Boo Kitty, Naomi Neoh, Suzanne Neville, Kelly Spence, Victoria Millesime, Monica Hardi and Lynn Ashworth.
If you are a bridal wear designer who manufactures solely in
Britain, do get in touch. I have a little project plan up my sleeves and
would love to hear from you. Email me on email@example.com, with the subject header 'Made In Britain'.
I would really love for this feature to provide my readers with food for
thought about where and how their wedding purchases are manufactured. Does British craftsmanship matter when it comes to your wedding? Does it matter to you whether your wedding dress is made in in Britain, or are you unfussed as to whether your gown is manufactured in a factory overseas where the designer/dress supplier will have to pay much less to have it produced? I'd really love to hear the thoughts of consumers, designers and suppliers.
Thanks so much all,
Articles you might be interested in:-
* Let's Make It Here, via the UK Fashion & Textiles Association
* Mary Portas, The Bottom Line – watch it here on 4oD
* The Ethics of Wedding Dress Manufacture, via Love My Dress
* What is the future for UK apparel manufacturing?
* Made in Britain is good news for the environment