If You Can Make it Anywhere…Make it British
It’s never easy evangelizing about something you truly believe in without coming across as a fanatic. Witness the too-effusive TV interviewee emoting like a gushing fool. I will risk all this and more to implore you to go to this must attend event. And no, it won’t be too red, white or blue. Did it change my life? Yes. Did it kick-start new UK companies attending? Yes. Did it form wonderful partnerships with like-minded business people? Yes. Did it simply make you feel all fluffy and gooey about being part of a UK renaissance in the fashion, garment, textile, accessory and, (and whatever else it wants) industry? Yes. And yes.
Groucho Marx famously said he didn’t want to be part of a club that would have him as a member. This gathering of friends, some of whom you simply haven’t met, is so not a club. No clique-y associations desired or invited. It’s simply one of those perfectly formed ideas that have tapped into the zeitgeist. It’s there ‘cos we want it. And like most eloquent demo rants “When do we want it? Now!” So, full, full marks to founder and organizer, Kate Hills. Polish the O or M, B.E. for this enterprising woman.
There was a genuine buzz in the air last year, combining excited anticipation of all that the event concept promised, merged with its fantastic delivery, speaker by speaker, as proof of concept. I don’t know how many people I’ve told about the ‘Great British Banjo Company’ – a phenomenal brand story, presented last year, as my automatic default brand/ case study example (illustrating perfectly the necessity of a great story, and the professional roll-out of the brand, leveraging all platforms to secure not just crowd funding, but proper grown up six figure investment too.) I also loved seeing the goodwill generously on offer and heartfelt. People who wanted to help people. Professionals who had developed brands, one’s with uber cool stories (Private White VC), people who just reminded you of the ‘great’ in Great Britain without it being remotely jingoistic or snobbish. And so many “here’s how we launched.” stories to share and learn from. I couldn’t imagine the same event taking place in the US, without it being propagandized in some rah-rah way for Uncle Sam. Our thing is we just don’t need to behave that way; we just blithely get on with it, editing out the bunting as we go. ‘Nuff said.
What excites me is that all the brilliant things that were achieved last year, putting this wonderful event on the map and giving it some long-overdue real-estate post the recession, is now about to be eclipsed. Double the numbers of exhibitors, double the floor-space and I hope double the visitors. I already have a sense of nostalgia about this event. (PV 40 years old, had to start some time, right?) it feels that it is such a significant marker for so many businesses, for so many of the right reasons. (I know, I’m effusing again).
But think about it. People like to anchor ideas and business propositions to platforms that connote everything good about them, by association. Referencing ‘British’, aside from the heritage thing, (still hugely influential globally for our export market), just delivers on so many levels. In a recent conversation with Jamie O’Neill, director of a new entrant to the UK market, Albion Knitting, a knitwear company who, (get this), left China, to manufacture hi-end in Haringay (next door to Fashion Enter’s Fashion Technology Academy, by the way) said, “made in Britain can add five times the value in the right hands.” But it’s not about selling off the family silver, tarnishing the rep with over-flogged Union Jack motif driven sales. It’s about flourishing, new relationships with new brands and a new generation of makers that this event is juicily judiciously poised to foster.
Attend any garment trade show in the UK and speak to designers and manufacturers and they will all tell you “they would love to do more in the UK if they could…” In part, ‘Meet The Manufacturer’ is about realizing some of this potential, ironically there for the asking, just by raising awareness in many cases. The challenge as we know is all about price point and skills levels to re-claim some old territories lost primarily to Asian markets and carve out new ones. (Serious re-training shortfall requirement to be able to compete). This is the nitty-gritty that can’t be fudged. And we all have a part to play in taking responsibility for a positive resolution.
There’s another way the event might just trigger for you. It’s about the development or re-generation of a new revenue stream that does have the ‘made in Britain’ stamp on it, authentically so. It is a real business opportunity as quoted, in the right hands. Some of those hands might be older, on wiser-heads or simply made opportune by virtue of the maturity of the business: literally affording the greater investment a made in Britain range probably necessitates. However, combine the de-risking of a UK brand that knows what it is doing, with all its business support elements in place, and a brand reputation to leverage, with the residualand wonderful global currency the UK brand reputation has, and we can stimulate new sales from new customers in new markets. And at the same time, revitalise a UK market for UK design and manufacture – at the right price.
So I’m bullish for all things UK. And a tad biased. But being strong in our own fashion market for example is very attractive for overseas investors and international brands looking to platform and transition via the UK. So we kind of should be ever investing in our own brand ‘UK’. At the moment this seems to be synonymous with innovation.
Speakers at Meet the Manufacturer
But I’m mostly bullish for you, the visitor who will most likely meet new partners, and feel part of something that is refreshingly epic making, on it’s first birthday. Mark the calendar if you haven’t already – your date with destiny: 3rd and 4th June, Tobacco Dock. Oh, nearly forgot. Patrick Grant will be giving a keynote if that helps. Register now: www.meetthemanufacturer.co.uk
‘If you want to make clothing, textiles, leather goods or homeware in the UK then please join me at Tobacco Dock on 3 – 4 June to meet some of the best manufacturers that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have to offer.
As well as the trade show, ‘Meet the Manufacturer’ has a conference with twenty leading industry experts sharing their views on making in the UK and answering your questions on how to make it work for your business.’ (Kate Hills, Founder)
To find out more about the event, and to register to attend, visit www.meetthemanufacturer.co.uk