The Fashion Enter Story…Blood, Sweat and a Little Help From ASOS.com
Opening up about her company – Fashion Enter Ltd, along with sister divisions – FashionCapital and the FTA, CEO Jenny Holloway explained how it all began from a humble sampling unit in North London to the 10,000 garments per week Factory and learning facility that it is today…
Jenny describes how her company is the result of risk-taking, embracing opportunities and sheer determination. In an interview with the EEF, the voice of UK manufacturing and engineering and a leading provider of business support, she said:
“We started the company in 2006, it started with very little finance. I had £8,000 worth of shares, which I cashed in. Of course we made mistakes at the beginning. I would probably hazard a guess that for the first three to six months I would probably have cried most days. I was completely out of my comfort zone.
“Then very fortuitously I met with the CEO of ASOS.com at that time, a guy called Nick Robertson, and I said a throw-away comment: ‘one day ASOS.com is going to need fast-track production’ because you could just tell that was the way the whole environment was going with retail and he said ‘what a great idea, how much do you think that would cost?’
“What an opportunity! How could anybody not come up with a figure? So I thought about it for a few seconds, and it was a few seconds, and I estimated that it would be about £250,000 that you would need to set up a factory. You think about all the machines that you would need, the workforce. ASOS.com then provided a loan, which was converted into a grant of £230,000. So how lucky were we?”
The factory now produces 10,000 garments a week for the online retailer. Whilst the initial credit for the investment for the Factory is highlighted to Nick Robertson it’s actually Nick Beighton, the current ASOS.com CEO, who really has to take recognition for the phenomenal growth of Fashion Enter.
Jenny continues: “Nick Beighton has been incredibly insightful for the industry as a whole. Fully endorsing the investment for The Factory Nick realised that without investment in technical skills there was no future for a UK Factory especially when the Brexit vote in June 2016 occurred.
“Nick granted the initial £70k to enable us to open the Stitching Academy in September 2013. At this time we had to write the qualifications for a Level 1 and 2 with ABC Awards, as they just did not exist. That was certainly challenging!
“I went back to night school for four years and trained as a teacher, assessor and then an Internal Quality Auditor. I can’t have the highest standards in training if I know nothing about it. I do like to lead by example. The Stitching Academy was an immediate success and ABC Awards confirmed that today the Stitching Award and certificate is their most popular qualification – a good sign for UK manufacturing.
“However, it was clear that Stitching was only one part of the skills shortage. We needed patterns, CAD, Cutting, Quality Control and hence another conversation with Nick Beighton!
“ASOS.com supported our bid for the Fashion Technology Academy (FTA) with Haringey Council and provided match funding by way of a soft loan. Without ASOS we could not have opened the FTA. Now we are offering qualifications from Level 1 -5 and we are about to open the Tailoring Academy too – there is no way I can go back to ASOS here! They have already been so generous so we are looking into ways of making the Tailoring Academy work with a range of partners.
“ASOS have proven that supplier relationships can work when both sides work as one. Nick Beighton has become a friend a mentor and he will always, always have my personal loyalty and gratitude. He is definitely one of the good guys!”
On technical skills within fashion she adds: “We certainly do not give enough reverence to the technical skills of our cutters, machinists the pressers, the packers – it’s a fantastic world to be involved in. Factories only work if there’s flow. Factories only work if there’s a pipeline of talent. We realised there was going to be a skills shortage in about 2010. We had to invest in skills and the way we did that was with our Fashion Technology Academy.”
A grant from Haringey Council, plus a soft loan from ASOS.com, helped to set up the Fashion Technology Academy. Today it works with 33 retailers to offer qualifications from Level 1 all the way through to Level 5, bespoke tailoring.
Jenny plans to expand the ‘Savile Row’ end of the training. “We’re going to be opening up a Tailoring Academy in 2019. This is 100% the right thing to do. We’ve now got to invest in those finite, high-end, bespoke skills and leave a legacy for a future generations.”
It’s thanks to the likes of ASOS.com and Haringey Council that Fashion Enter has been able to evolve into the manufacturing and training machine that it is today. With the potential to train over 1000 learners each year and produce garments in a compliant and ethical factory, this surely is a positive way forward for the industry.