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Manufacturing Matchmaking for the UK fashion industry at 10 Downing Street

UKFT was pleased to be able to support the Government’s first ever Manufacturing Matchmaking event at No 10 Downing Street on 26 March 2024.

The event was the brainchild of the Board of Trade and at the specific request of Board Members Anya Hindmarch and Libby of Libby London. Anya and Libby both expressed their enthusiasm to support UK garment manufacturing which, in Anya’s case, began when she started to look for onshore production during Covid.

The event was hosted “at home” by Akshata Murty, wife of the Prime Minister and Lord Offord, Minister for Exports at the Department for Business and Trade. The event was organised by the No 10 Cabinet Office.

This was the first event for the fashion and textile manufacturing sector at 10 Downing Street and brought together approximately 35 UK manufacturers, the majority of which were either UKFT members or work closely with UKFT through a wide range of projects and initiatives.

The Prime Minister's wife hosts a manufacturing event

Many of the UK manufacturers have their own brands including Blackhorse LaneHarley of ScotlandJohn SmedleyPeregrine ClothingRobert Mackie Yarmouth Oilskins (Yarmo), Corgi Hosiery, TV personality Patrick Grant’s Community ClothingGolden FashionHiut DenimLondon TraditionOwen Barry and Christi-Anna Lomas. There were an equal number of companies which make predominantly for third parties, including Apparel TaskerBFashion StudioFashion EnterGosia LondonLLUKMAES LondonOlenka AtelierIntimate Apparel SamplesPlus SamplesAlbion KnittingBasic PremierCookson and CleggShahtex LeicesterSourgrapeand Tower Garments. Textiles were represented by The Natural Fibre CompanyMaakeSilk Bureau and Standfast & Barracks, while buttons were represented by Courtney & Co.

To match with these UK manufacturers were buyers from Alice Temperley, Anya Hindmarch, Boden, BurberryCefinn by Samantha Cameron (a previous occupant of 10 Downing Street),  John Lewis, Libby London, Margaret HowellToast and others.

The event was a great opportunity to shine a light on the UK’s potential as a niche sustainable and ethical supply source for more UK brands, especially those which want to work on a flexible just-in-time basis without the hassle of customs procedures. UK manufacturing also can contribute to the production of a lower carbon collection for consumers, with less travel for goods.

This vibrant, diverse and innovative sector produces high-quality products featured on international catwalks through to the high street, as well as in hospitals, cars and even space. It creates jobs and opportunity and is a significant driver of growth to the UK economy, as outlined in UKFT’s recent report ‘The Fashion and Textile Industry’s Footprint in the UK’ by Oxford Economics.

Sustainability and innovation

The event was also a good opportunity for UKFT to remind the manufacturers of the work of its Sustainability Team including its Sustainability 101 series, which explores key issues for manufacturers. Published editions cover sustainability standards and green claims, while further editions will look at supply chain due diligence for manufacturers and chemical compliance, among other topics.

UKFT is also working with the British Fashion Council (BFC) on the Circular Fashion Innovation Network (CFIN) and a wide range of other innovation projects relating to circular fashion, textile recycling and sustainable manufacturing, supported by UK Research and Innovation.

International recognition

A number of the companies at the showcase and many others regularly exbibit with UKFT at key international trade shows and feature in our Discover British Brandscampaign. Corgi Hosiery, Harley of Scotland, John Smedley, Robert Mackie and Yarmo are already recognised international brands.

UKFT’s Let’s Make It Here is a free database to connect designers, brands and retailers with a wide range of UK manufacturers. It is due to be updated shortly to improve functionality and highlight those with sustainable credentials. Many other UK manufacturers of fashion and textiles not included in the showcase have also been included in UKFT’s Member Royal Visits which specifically highlights the importance of supporting UK manufacturing. In the past five years alone, recent visits by UKFT’s Royal President, HRH the Princess Royal, include: Marton Mills, Laxtons, Maes London, GH Hurt, Kalopsia Collective, Eribe Scotland, Macnaughtons, Henry Poole Savile Row, Courtney & Co, John Spencer, ACS Clothing and Try and Lilly.

Skills and training

Supporting UK manufacturers with skills and education led UKFT to be chosen as the industry’s sector skills body for the industry. UKFT works with Government and manufacturers across the four nations of the UK to ensure that the country’s apprenticeships are tailored to the needs of industry and that manufacturers have access to Government funding to support their training and skills for the future.

At the same time, UKFT works with a wide range of education partners to ensure that UK students at colleges, universities and other training facilities have skills they need to support UK businesses and manufacturing. These include Manchester Fashion InstituteDe Montfort UniversityLondon College of FashionTextile Centre of ExcellenceThe Tailoring AcademyUniversity of LeedsBath Spa UniversityUniversity of HuddersfieldBucks New UniversityGlasgow Clyde CollegeHeriot-Watt UniversityIstituto MarangoniKTL (Key Training and Learning),  Nottingham Trent UniversityUniversity of BoltonUniversity of WestminsterWEPT – London Fashion & Textiles Academy and Westminster Kingsway College.

Supporting UK manufacturers

UKFT’s CEO Adam Mansell said: “One of our main priorities at UKFT is to ensure that UK manufacturers get the right skills, education and support to continue to produce quality fashion and textiles sustainably, ethically and competitively here in the UK. This is part of a long term partnership between industry and government. At the same time, we recognise that businesses in the UK are often less supportive of domestic manufacturing than in other countries. This needs to change, from public procurement to making sure our imports have to meet the same standards we set for UK businesses to create a level playing field, to ensuring that UK companies can access the UK’s trade agreements around the world.”

There is no doubt that UK manufacturers can and do produce high quality fashion and textile products in the UK, and that the UK leads the world in its commitment to sustainable and ethical manufacturing. However, supporting manufacturers to get their goods sold in the UK and around the world remains a significant challenge and one which UKFT is committed to working on every day, from campaigning for financial support for UK companies at key international trade events, to lobbying for the right trade deals for UK businesses, to campaigning for a fairer deal for UK manufacturers.

The Prime Minister's wife hosts a manufacturing event

Paul Alger MBE, Director of International Business at UKFT said: “UK manufacturers with some notable exceptions are the unsung heroes of the fashion and textile industry. They have been traditionally neglected by larger UK retailers and brands, even though they are loved and admired in the US, Japan, China, South Korea, the Middle East and the EU. UKFT is delighted to have been involved with this group of companies at 10 Downing Street and hope that this event will mark the beginning of a period of greater help for sustainable and ethical UK manufacturers to help them to grow their businesses.”

The Prime Minister's wife hosts a manufacturing event


Pictures by Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street.