Regular readers of Love My Dress may note a message coming through some of bridal wear focussed posts; I am a huge support of 'Made In Britain'.

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…

Buybritish
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

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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."

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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.


With
meticulous measurements taken and the creative vision defined, we hand
over to the flawless work of our highly skilled seamstresses and garment fitters."

Illustrations 450 by 226

Couture craftsmanship… 

"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."

Bespoke toile

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."

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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 annabel@lovemydress.net, 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,

Annabel

Heart

 

Articles you might be interested in:-

Let's Make It Here, via the UK Fashion & Textiles Association
Mary Portas, The Bottom Linewatch 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

Leave a Comment!

27 thoughts on British Craftsmanship and Your Wedding ~ How Much Does it Matter To You?

  1. Fantastic discussion post! I think if more brides new where and how their dresses were made they might be more inclined to choose a designer who manufactures in Britain.
    ‘Made in Britain’ does not necessarily mean that your dress is going to cost more. There are some fantastic small and independent British designers making incredible bespoke gowns for the same price as the dresses mass-produced by the big names in China (my wedding dress designer Wilden Bride being one of them!).

  2. My dress is being made my Kula Tsurdiu, she makes all her dresses in her studio above the boutique and one of the reasons I chose her (apart from the fact she makes the most incredible dresses) is that my dress will be made in this country, or more specifically in my home town of Nottingham! She even uses Nottingham lace which is unfortunately a declining trade! Can’t wait to see the finished article ;) xxx

  3. Thanks for raising this issue, it’s frightening to think just how much of what we buy is produced cheaply overseas.
    Of course, it’s not just the dress – there’s all the little styling details too. I’ll second Ciara’s point – there’s so many fantastic British designers and craftspeople out there. Your wedding is a fantastic opportunity to support all that creativity and have something unique and beautiful!

  4. I was just going to mention Kula, Tabitha! The Lace Market Bridal Boutique in Nottingham is an excellent example of British manufacturing and innovation.
    Sadly I think that we are too used to buying high street foreign made garments in cheap fabrics to appreciate the true cost of clothes. Each of Kula’s designs is made to order to fit the bride, upstairs in the studio above the boutique using local lace. There are people who don’t value paying these talented craftspeople a fair wage or value quality materials. This is where imported and generic dresses come in I suppose.
    But fortunately, there are increasingly brides who have the passion and resources to support our designers, pattern cutters, seamstresses and independent bridal boutiques. I visited Kula’s the other week and it is a real treasure trove and oh my the dresses and service! Tabitha, I am quite quite jealous! x

  5. I should add that I didn’t have bespoke for my wedding and loved my dress! I suppose it’s a question of budget priorities at the time you’re planning your wedding? I know it was for me.

  6. Totally agree with your post. We used to be a great manufacturing nation producing high quality products. I can remember my Aunt being so proud to be chosen as part of the elite team to make the GOLA track and training shoes for the British Olympic squad in Northamptonshire, sadly that factory closed down many years ago, not only with the loss of many jobs but the talent and skills that those workers also had. I recently purchased an item of clothing from an expensive “British Brand” only to find out when it arrived it was made in china. Sadly the ethos that this company portrays does not go hand in hand with the manufacturing process it subscribes to in China.
    So much talent has been lost from this country and yes we do need to start manufacturing again in the UK, enabling young people to have job opportunties and learn vital new skills and once again with pride see the return of ” MADE IN BRITAIN”
    I am pleased and proud to say that my daughter’s wedding dress is designed and made here in Britain by Alan Hannah. We were quite certain that a British designed and made dress was a priority and Alan Hannah’s beautiful elegant designs fitted the bill to perfection. Her veil will also be custom made in this country, along with her headpiece which has been hand made by a local talented lady. Bridesmaids dresses have proved more difficult most of them are produced by American companies who more than likely have them manufactured in China.
    I personally feel that we do have a lot of talented British wedding goods designers in this country and now many of the dress designers are producing a second line of “off the peg dresses” which are more competivitly priced, hopefully we will see more brides choosing to buy British.

  7. Such an inspiring post Annabel :)
    It’s so uplifting to be informed of how much your readers appreciate what effort goes into making bespoke pieces.
    We really are a great manufacturing nation!
    Just like Lucy my home county’s Nottinghamshire so it was important for me to use Nottingham lace in my pieces @ Penny Brown Bridal
    http://www.etsy.com/shop/pennybrownbridal

  8. I think some people care and some don’t. My only point of frustration for those brides that do, is that there are too many suppliers around presenting designs as handmade in Britain when in actual fact they are pieces sourced from China, India and the US, then tweaked in the UK. This isn’t British made and shouldn’t be represented as such. I’ve no gripes with importing materials or even finished goods, simply with the misrepresentation of the facts.

  9. I actually purchased a Jenny Packham dress, and I’ll be fair, I wasn’t really driven by the notion of made in Britain when I did so! (made the purchase in August 2008 for my March 2009 wedding). But the more time I’ve spent being immersed in a world of weddings and suppliers observing the industry in general, the more I believe I want to do my bit to support.
    I absolutely love your point above Lucy about how there are an increasing number of brides who have the passion and resources to support our our designers, pattern cutters, seamstresses and independent bridal boutiques – if we can keep driving a message towards these consumers to make them think that bit more, and make a more informed consumer purchasing choice, then we’re doing what we can I suppose.
    I massively admire Mary Portas for getting on the government’s case about this, bravo for smart, intelligent and passionate about the cause people like her.
    I know of Kula’s work, it’s beautiful.
    xXx

  10. Thank you so much! I’ve only just started so your approval means a lot Lucy. I’m in Manchester at uni but I’m orginally from a village outside of Mansfield (please don’t judge me aha)
    I’ve always loved the lace market and my auntie was one of the original seamstresses helping Paul Smith in the beginning before he moved all his manufacturing overseas so I’m all for best of british manufactoring!
    All your photos look beautiful, you really capture such happy memories.. It’s even making me smile and I don’t know these people
    x

  11. Awh, thank you Annabel.. I’ll keep a close eye on your beautiful blog (not exactly an excruciating task)in order to keep in touch while I continuously build up my product portfolio and improve my site.
    Wish me luck on my venture! I’ll say it again, amazing post! It means everything to know there are so many people that care about what effort, skill, time and love goes into crafting the pieces.
    xx

  12. My dress was from Blue Bridalwear; who I believe make their dresses in Wales. I purchased it from a second-hand boutique so eco-friendly and British! My bridesmaids dresses were purchased from Vivien of Holloway, so supporting British all round! Definitely reccommend it for the quality!

  13. A very interesting and thought provoking post. My veils are made in Wales. One of my veils was offered for sale on a Chinese website which claimed it as theirs. They had the cheek to contact me to buy it!
    I guess it is all down to budget. Bespoke handmade garments will always be more expensive than ‘cheap’ items manufactured in large quantities in the far East.
    If in doubt ask your designer exactly where fabrics and trimmings are sourced. The garment may be made in the UK but all the components from abroad.

  14. “So much talent has been lost from this country and yes we do need to start manufacturing again in the UK, enabling young people to have job opportunties and learn vital new skills and once again with pride see the return of ” MADE IN BRITAIN”
    That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? It’s just so sad. But it’s going to take so much to reverse the way people think in terms of ‘affordable’, disposable, cheap high street fashion.
    I really do hope and believe that the wedding industry could be an influential player in helping to reverse the fortunes of the apparel manufacturing industry in my life time.
    Sounds like your daughter is a very lucky lady indeed!
    xXx

  15. Thanks for your comment Ann.
    It is indeed a lot to do with budget, but also to do with knowledge – many people I’m sure wouldn’t think twice about the quality issue – they’d just see a veil, rather than have the ability to differentiate between a pure silk hand crafted veil and a much cheaper piece of tulle.
    Same with frocks – not everyone recognises or appreciates garment construction or pattern cutting or the difference between a cheap fabric or a beautiful piece of silk or lace that is completely different in terms of quality.

  16. A really interesting and inspiring discussion. Whatever your little project is, Annabel, I look forward to seeing the results!
    It would be nice to see where our groomswear comes from… the likes of Ted Baker and Paul Smith I would assume manufacture in the UK (although fashion isn’t my area of expertise). Where do Moss Bros get their suits from, for example?
    I’m really keen to promote buying all the other details from suppliers who manufacture in the UK as well. I know it’s been said, but details like stationery and invitations, and accessories, can be sourced from fantastic local suppliers who will hand make to order. It’s a shame to see big companies who import en masse doing better than the devoted craftspeople, silversmiths and designers who work in the UK wedding industry.
    You’ve done it again… another blog post which leaves me grinning and feeling inspired and passionate about UK weddings. Great comments too :)
    Claire

  17. I tried to build our gift list with products hand crafted in Britain such as a new dinner set, cutlery, linen, kitchen utensils etc etc and I failed because some designers don’t have websites or think commercially enough for you to be able to list ‘off the shelf’ items and in almost every case they’re expecting so much money that you just can’t ask people to pay that. In the end our place mats were British designed and made and other items were from the USA via Etsy or hand made in France. The rest was mass-produced from Amazon. I tried really hard to goBritish and it was impossible without millionaire friends and relatives!

  18. Interesting read, its a shame people don’t think about using more British products or even products from thier local areas. It helps businesses massively when customers purchase items from not just British companies BUT local companies to them. They might be harder to find as all the massive non UK companies take over all the advetising, especially on the internet. But your more likely to have a perfect day than a ‘cookie cuttter’ wedding if you buy local.

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