Introducing the Manufacturers Online Showroom
London is well known as a leader in the fashion industry, a centre of creativity where many new and established designers are based. What many don’t realise is that behind these world-beating designers is an active manufacturing industry producing high quality clothes for the catwalk and for retail. Unfortunately, this vital manufacturing sector does not enjoy the same level of publicity as the more glamorous ‘design’ side of the industry.
There is even a perception that, because of the move to overseas sourcing of high-volume manufacturing, there is no longer a fashion manufacturing industry in London. Nothing could be further from the truth – London’s fashion manufacturing is definitely not a dead or dying industry. There are many success stories to illustrate that this important sector is alive and kicking including FashionCapital’s very own sister company – Fashion Enter, starting out with a small CMT in North London the company has grown to incorporate a Fashion Studio, fast-track quality fashion Factory and learning facility.
Other examples include: Rahmans (London) Ltd have been making clothing in Bethnal Green since the early 1980’s. The nature of the work they do has changed from high volume, low margin work to low volume, high quality work for London-based designers. They often work very closely with the designers at the development stage of a new range. This has enabled them to build up a reputation for delivering high quality, sometimes very complex garments, often with the deadline of a Fashion Show to meet. To be able to work to a very high quality level, working in close cooperation with the designer and under a demanding timescale makes it imperative to be based in London. Being close to a tube station is a definite advantage. Having worked with the client to make the initial samples, they are also best placed to make the subsequent production quantities.
Designers often find it difficult to find the manufacturer that has the particular experience and capabilities they are looking for. So London MAS (Manufacturing Advisory Service) recently teamed up with Fashion Enter to provide an internet-based ‘showcase’ for companies like Rahmans to display their specialisation. The ‘Manufacturers Online Showroom’ can be found on the Fashion Capital website.
Some successful fashion manufacturers combine UK manufacturing with overseas manufacturing. This enables them to offer the close liaison with designers and retailers that is needed at the ‘sampling’ stage for a new range together with fast delivery for Shows or initial order quantities – based on London manufacturing – while at the same time being able to offer larger quantities at competitive prices from their overseas factories. This business model has been successfully operated by London companies such as Excel Apparel and GGS. Excel Apparel, in particular, have benefited from an internal review of systems run by MAS specialists to ensure that production information systems are as efficient as possible.
One successful designer, Lezley George, has been making her own unique style of ladieswear in the UK for years. Lezley runs factories in London and in Wales. UK manufacture gives her complete control of the high level of quality, production flexibility and fast turn-around when needed. Staff at the London factory recently underwent training in ‘lean manufacturing’ with London MAS in order to enhance these strengths even more.
Many of London’s fashion manufacturers meet the needs of the top quality or couture end of the market, where the personal touch and the ability to respond to the whims of the designers is of high importance. Many others service the retail market for quick turn-around, short- or medium- order volumes to meet fluctuating demands. Some manufacturers design their own ranges, others make samples or production quantities (or both) for designers or for retailers. There are specialists in just about any material or sector that you can think of.
If you are looking for a fashion manufacturer in London the first place to look is the ‘Manufacturers Online Showroom’ on www.fashioncapital.co.uk or contact the London MAS on 0845 850 4400. London MAS works with London’s fashion manufacturers to improve competitiveness in partnership with other sector-specific programmes and organisations such as: FashionAble; Fashion Enter; FashionWorks; London Apparel; the City Fringe Partnership and the London College of Fashion. London MAS is funded by the LDA (London Development Agency) and BERR (the Dept. of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform).
Jenny Holloway CEO of Fashion Enter comments: “Our grateful thanks to LMAS for the funding to be able to allow us to create this Manufactuers Online Showroom. We so believe in the resurgence of British Manufacturing and whatever the pundits say it is true. The only way forward is to make locally and reduce the carbon footprint down. With landfill increasing with throwaway fashion there is a duty of care owned by retailers and etailers to reduce buys and sell out rather than have this continuation of discounting. I am already sick to death of seeing Blue Cross Sales littering the high street.
“It has taken months to undertake the mapping exercise and create a production capacity register. I know already that the Sampling Unit in N4 has stated that they have more referrals and business from our online showroom than they do via Yellow Pages. We are pretty impressed with that!
“So thank you again LMAS – this was an inspiring project and it works!”
To find out more about London MAS visit our website www.mas-london.co.uk
Drafted by Nigel Rust, London MAS, April 2008.