The Integrity of Fluffy Things

The UK retail sector is looking for UK manufactured textiles, both apparel and home textiles, that have integrity.  Big retail brands don’t like being associated with sweatshops and poor quality raw materials.  Consumers are demanding to know more about where things come from.  Retailers want speed, quality and service.  The government wants to create employment…

Currently only 20% of the textile home ware goods on sale in the UK are manufactured in the UK.

This all means that there is growing opportunity for UK textile mills.  And there lies the problem.   The UK is no longer the powerhouse of textiles that it once was.

Over recent decades two things happened.  UK business people sent manufacturing to Asia and Eastern Europe and synthetic fibres crept into people’s lives.

Short-term profitability undermined the integrity of the products themselves, which reduced the experience of the products and subsequently the value.  It seems short-term low cost ends up as long-term high-cost.

Now we have textile resurgence.  There are little green shoots appearing with the remaining mills reinventing themselves.  I know of several UK companies working on new luxury brands and filling their goods with natural fibres.

There is nothing wrong with imported goods, so long as those goods have integrity and you have the exported goods to make up the trade balance.  (80% imports is not balance)

The government, the retail sector and now the manufacturing sector are all gearing up to create textiles in the UK and to create jobs.  Great!   Will the people respect quality, service and pay a fair price, or will the people buy the cheapest sweat shop produced, or plastic filled jersey or carpet and continue to wonder where all their jobs went?

Of course unless a product has added value, innovation, a point of difference and fluffy integrity, why should they buy it?

dye house

Part of a new dye house helping to fill retail stores with lovely fluffy things.

3 thoughts on “The Integrity of Fluffy Things

  1. And it is not just the fiber but the structure. Sadly, with the offshoring of so many manufacturers – all in an effort to make the stockholders a big profit as they increasing compete with other offshore manufacturing – the quality keeps declining. Clark’s, for instance, a UK-shoe company, now makes their shoes in China. Because the quality seems to have decreased (at least, the exact same named shoes no longer feels comfortable), I no longer buy Clark’s. Consumers want to pay the least possible so, in order to be competitive with emerging markets with much lower labor costs, manufacturing is moved to these countries.

    • Sad but true. But I hope there is time left for new market leaders in textiles. People happily pay £500 for a fancy phone, but wont pay for comfortable shoes!
      Or does the phone offer a better experience? Maybe we are not marketing the benefits of textiles to consumers lifestyles?

  2. There has to be room for both luxury British sourced/made textiles and also foreign cheaper imports. I think the days of producing everything onshore have long gone and a return is unrealistic. Certainly there is scope for more REshoring and that is happening – Clarkes are manufacturing some products in the UK again I think and there are others.
    Besides, you can turn the argument round and say every upmarket UK jumper bought here deprives maybe 10+ people in a developing economy of their income. Sounds daft I know but it depends on your view point!
    So, steady growth of ethically, responsibly sourced UK grown/made textiles for a market prepared to pay more for that provenance is sustainable, desirable and already happening. But we have to accept it must sit alongside the cheap and cheerful end.

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