On a glorious sunny morning Emma, Rachael, Julia and I headed over to Brick Lane in east London to Meet the Manufacturer, a trade fair bringing together the UK’s ‘hard to pin down’ manufacturers. Focusing on textiles, the fair mounted by Kate Hills of Make it British, was in the perfect area, from the Huguenot silk weavers to the wonderful designer of Spitalfield Silks Anna Maria Garthwaite (1609 – 1763) this was ever the place to cut your cloth. Today, as part of the drive to promote British manufacturing Kate has gathered under one roof, some incredible businesses. Don’t hold back people, you can have samples made up and launch your own UK fashion line, safe in the knowledge that the skills are all here, from pattern cutting, sampling, weaving, clothing and bag manufacturing, pleating, labels, tools and leather tanning – right under our noses.
We started with our hero Mo Azam, who, along with his dad, have saved the day for Grenfell and are making them at their factory a few blocks away. Grenfell jackets use such tightly woven cloth they are waterproof. My own dad, his Grenfell jacket being immortal, feared they would never make them like that again – I’ve already told him the good news.
Two women in the next stand were hard at it making ties. The attention to detail by Mustard Ties was impressive, we saw how the lining was folded and finished – they seem to cherish what they make, it’s an art form. We learnt some interesting tie fibs put about by men! The ‘dishevelled’ look or man ‘letting his bow tie down’ is, in reality, a second bow tie, artfully unslung about the neck, replacing the one that was knotted earlier…. no rakish sauciness in the bedchamber after all. Mustard Ties provide ‘unslung bows’ to facilitate this deception.
Despite the raging heat Emma was persuaded to slip into a beautifully made jacket by the gentleman at Oxford Blue, who then joined in with a military ‘Heart of Darkness’ look to provide Emma with much needed bodyguards. We managed to get two cards – both say Mark Cruddos, my guess Mark is the one on the right. The jackets were all fantastic and you can order them to suit your taste and the taste of your market, we would love to make a Blue Patch woman’s jacket with upcycled buttons. More photos of Mark modelling on our FB page – move over David Beckham.
I asked young fashion designer Sinikiwe Moyo to model her own coat, it looked like an amazing exotic creature on the hanger – once on it was even more amazing. Sinikiwe is launching her own women’s wear label, meanwhile she’s also working at Double Stitches who will again make samples and produce finished garments to order. Go Sinikiwe!
Socks by ‘SockMine’ in wonderful sparkling colours with the even more sparkly Martin Lowe are all made in Nottingham, a family business. Leather tanners Clayton of Chesterfield have a sideline in tool belts and other leather goods, which would last around 1000 years by the look if the workmanship. They make tool belts for scaffolders and craftsmen: I would love an adapted tool belt, like an office on a belt, for computer, iphone etc the belts are light as a feather too. They provide red leather for cricket balls, strong waxed leather for saddlery and even leather for dog leads. Check out Clayton’s history.
Jen Bigg-Wither was a tremendous find, she’s from Eastman Staples who manufacture the tools for the trade from scissors to machines. Jen teaches on the fashion course at Central St Martins so she was just the person to solve the team’s perennial problem – a very delicate issue of under pit perspiration + fear and loathing of dry cleaning chemicals – our aim, the revival of the arm pit sweat pad. Jen and her new Blue Patch focus group will try to invent a modern, sustainable, washable and removable alternative to cleaning bills and dodgy deodorants – more soon…
Finally we had an enlightening chat to Judie Thomas from Project WD in Swansea, Wales. A word of mouth business, Judie employs top pattern cutters and machinists and is very busy indeed. Judie is hoping that someone starts to realise these skilled workers need trainees to bring up. She wants to see more training courses made available because they way things are going there will be a demand in the very near future. The idea of making clothes from Uk fabrics such as the fine silks woven by Vanners (factory trip for us soon) and constructing garments to last – this must be the future. The better the quality the more sustainable, and made in the UK, the carbon footprint shrinks along with the postage. So three cheers Kate and Make it British for bringing all this talent under one roof – after all the excitement we went off for a nice cup of tea.