I’m Simon, one of the graduates interning at Bridge & Stitch. During my time here we will be visiting different suppliers and manufacturers to check up on how some of the projects are coming along. Whilst we are there we are using the opportunity to learn more about the business, the fashion industry as a whole, and provide us with valuable information and content to use for our work on Bridge & Stitch’s marketing.
When we visited the factory, it was great to get the opportunity to speak to some members of staff as well as the manager to find out their opinions on the fashion industry. It was interesting what we found out from this alternate perspective.
A bit of a background
The business began in 1992 and grew to around a 100 employees until a lot of what was manufactured moved abroad in 1998/99. The owner’s family had been in the industry generations before and they started straight after school, 35 years ago. Now their workforce may be smaller but what surprised me was the age range of 19 to retirement aged staff members as well as it being a very mixed gender workforce.
The Future of the industry
Though the age range is broad in this company it seems the manufacturing industry as an overall in 2017 will lose around a 1/3 of the staff members due to them retiring, leaving a huge gap in employees, and we heard from the owner of this factory that there are no future generations coming into the manufacturing sector. When we asked why, she believed it was because of technological advances, so much so they’ve pre warned their son who was interested in joining the fashion industry of there concerns and thoughts.
Here is an example of new machinery that has been developed to produce garment’s and will surpass all the little stages in garment manufacturing. The garment manufacturing robot is called Sewbo, this has assembled its own process of creating garments. Although it’s not perfect yet, it could be the start of something new in the fashion industry. This has been attempted before in 2012 by the US military; they payed DARPA $1.25million to develop a machine that could stitch together military uniforms for a quick and fast paced resolution to create more uniform for the growing military and begin the age of the ‘no-sweat shop’.
British Apparel, What is good about keeping your business in the UK?
The owner stated that while it may not be as cost effective as exporting to European or South Asian countries, it’s generally good for our economy and our people as it keeps employment up in the UK, and simple jobs such as contacting and reviewing becomes harder work when manufacturing abroad. It seems now that what was being exported to other countries a decade ago, is now starting to return to UK manufacturers. The factory stated that since the recent Brexit vote it seems they have had a boost in business. Whether this is because of Brexit or a happy coincidence is beyond them. Yet one thing they can state has changed since Brexit is the price increase of materials, trade costs and import tariffs. The falling of the pound hasn’t helped this situation either.
We believe that whilst Brexit may be a problem for larger businesses, as they deal with foreign countries more often, smaller local business have a chance to thrive especially with the increase in popularity of the British Made apparel in the past couple of years.