After reading the account of how the town of Cardigan, Wales managed to rejuvenate their manufacturing industry, I felt it was appropriate for me to write about one of my biggest passions: bringing fashion manufacturing back to Europe. With economic conditions, the way they are and unemployment levels at an all-time low, fashion houses across Europe have a very smart commercial opportunity at their fingertips, the chance to use local textiles to produce locally made clothing. Put simply: European design, European manufacturing, European fashion.
Both clever and courageous, David and Clare Hieatt set up a denim label called Hiut Denim. It didn’t take long for the Cardigan community to remind them that for over 30 years the town was a hive of fashion production, with 35,000 pairs of ladies jeans being manufactured each week for M&S. David and Clare realised that whilst the factory may have shut down, the expert skills of its workers were lying dormant until now that is. They have recruited experienced, enthusiastic, highly skilled labour to help them fulfil their goals. They know that part of being successful in business is the recruiting of staff that display a positive hard-working attitude and have the manufacturing skills to produce high-quality clothing. I think David and Clare are very smart to employ this strategy because there is a lot at stake here.
The reason I feel very passionate about bringing manufacturing back into Europe and the UK is that by relocating the fashion production houses to Eastern Europe, Morocco and China a massive fashion blunder has occurred. That blunder has seen us compromise on MATERIAL AND MANUFACTURING QUALITY. The price we pay today for our clothes in correlation to quality and manufacturing expertise have hit an all-time low.
Here are my personal experiences and examples of what I mean. I won’t mention brands but I am confident we can all relate to this. I have consistently bought four brands over the last 10 years across Europe, the UK and Australia. The UK dresses I purchased in the last twelve months compared to ones I bought 10 years ago display a whole different material and manufacturing quality. A silk top that I bought recently, hardly worn, did not last even six weeks before the zip and the stitching came apart. An expensive pair of jeans I purchased 10 years ago and again at the same store in 2011 was hardly worn 3 months down the track when the poor stitching quality saw the seams coming apart. In 2012 I purchased a skirt at one of my favourite labels that I’ve been dedicated to for the last 10 years. You can imagine the attention I got when I sat down in a restaurant and all 6 functional buttons popped off. (Good thing I had nice lingerie on! Here’s a Gracie Opulanza tip for you: Always wear fabulous lingerie, you never know when the clothes have to come off!)
Whilst in Bangkok in December 2011 I was amazed by the fabulous design, low price and high material quality of the clothing, it was refreshing to see. So by the time I arrived in the Melbourne CBD, Australia early in 2012, I was terribly disappointed at (in) what I saw. The vast majority of clothes I saw were expensive and shocking quality, it was nothing short of a fashion rip off and a tragedy. My top Aussie labels, especially surf brands, are not the quality they use to be. The dresses that were being sold, that I know come from Asia’s mass production factories, were price theft and quality trash. Hence why, in my blog, I showcase great Australian labels who’s manufacturing and material quality matches the price you pay and have always remained in Australia.
Whilst in London recently I visited my favourite children’s wear shop that I have bought from for the last four years. I was shocked at the deterioration of material quality, both when it came to the look of the clothing and the feel. I walked out in frustration, yet again confronted by the deterioration of quality and skill in fashion manufacturing.
So my message to David and Clare is this: Take fashion production in the UK by the reigns, show the world that quality materials and manufacturing is essential and worthwhile, and it will pay off. Good luck!