Really cannot believe I’m writing a blog, for somebody who knew that they were not particularly the best at grammar, punctuation and any form of English written work at school – zillion years later I’m writing a piece that is basically published for all to read. My first blog is on ‘Meet the Manufacturer’ – A trade show that I visited last week.

Lets start with my humble beginnings with manufacturers as a student studying in Manchester sorry Salford (by the way I have studied at a few educational establishments now) I wear my life long learner badge with pride. Yay!! I honestly cannot remember the names of the two mills that sponsored part of my menswear collection but I really do have fond memories of venturing up to Halifax to choose and collect the fabric. It’s a pre-requisite as a fashion student that you seek sponsorship for your final collection, the price to produce your collection can be quite scary and just adds to the never – ending debt that you owe the bank once you leave.

It really is true the further north you travel, the friendlier people are. I remember speaking to pretty much everyone in sight from the man at the bus stop, to the lady in the cake shop, whilst walking to my destination, just about everyone. Don’t get me wrong people in Manchester and Salford are friendly (well when you have convinced them your from the Midlands and not the south they are- ha ha ha!), I could choose whatever I wanted from a large selection of wools and wool mixes and honestly thought this is pretty good. On my return to college with goodies in tow, I followed my work schedule made my pieces, thanked my sponsors and had my show.

It’s been a long time since I visited my first factories but I have visited many others since. The UK textile industry has changed a lot since that visit, due to many things such as the rise in manufacturing overseas, recession etc. etc. but I was so happy and excited to attend – Meet the Manufacturer organised by ‘ Make it British ‘for a few reasons really.

I’ve been passionate about British Manufacturing since studying at art college from the age of 16, I guess visiting museums, second hand clothes shops, antique shops, various shows and factories you get a sense of craftsmanship, history and heritage and it becomes part of your DNA as a design student. Maybe not everyone, but it certainly did for me. Many years later as a designer maker I’ve been test marketing an idea, that I now want to move forward and embrace UK production. Am I sourcing, I guess I am.

It was really great walking around the stands chatting to a diverse set of companies who are proudly waving the flag for British manufacturing. These companies ranged from garment, accessory, home ware, fabric and yarn manufacturers through to trims, labels, packaging and printing suppliers as well as a variety of other service providers. In addition to visiting the stands I also attended two seminars – the first one was by Charlotte Meek from The Stitch Society on “ Why all British brands need a clear vision of the future to succeed’ and ‘Building a great partnership with your manufacturer’ by Harriet Wallace – Jones and Emma Sewell of Wallace Sewell. What I found interesting from both seminars was that all speakers talked about education and why its important for industry to liaise/ link with schools, colleges and universities to get students involved with textiles and manufacturing through projects, internships and work experience. I absolutely agree with my teacher hat on that young people want to see how things are made; they want to experience machinery working and ask questions about processes.

Lets hope that education and industry can form better links with or without government intervention. I would like to think that in 10 years time more positive relationships have been formed and that British manufacturing is even stronger with a more varied aged work force behind it. I have a feeling things are about to change.

So was it a successful show for me, it certainly was in many ways. I met great people passionate about what they do. It was really positive to see that the UK textile industry is strong and growing, the complete opposite of what is happening in schools with the demise of creative subjects in particular Design and Technology. I met some great contacts that I’m sure I will be speaking to very soon. My last words are support British made products, whatever they may be as you are contributing to the wider economy and making a difference to local communities.