Textiles Begin Weaving Their Way Home
Leftly, Mark, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
Using the long silky hairs from the belly of the Arctic musk ox and fine wool from a rare South American camelid, Yorkshire-based textiles firms helped create the world's most expensive suit. With 5,000 individual stitches and nine 18-carat gold and diamond buttons, the 70,000 garment meant that entrepreneur Alexander Amosu cut quite the dash as he strutted around London.
Pennine Weaving, located just outside Bradford, and Huddersfield's WT Johnson & Sons respectively wove and dyed the suit in 2009, in what now looks like an early sign of a textiles boom that has breathed life into an industry that had been stumbling for decades.
This winter, JD Williams, a plus-size clothing group that is owned by the FTSE 250 group N Brown, will have more than 100 of its clothing lines, be they trousers or suits, made in the UK. Although still a small percentage of the 4,000-strong range, this is still 10 times the number that was produced in Britain just two years ago.
JD Williams's director of buying and merchandising, Paul Short, says that a near trebling of cotton prices meant the company "started sourcing closer to home", which in N Brown's case is Manchester. Costs in textile hotbeds, particularly China, which were once so cheap, soared with commodity and utility price rises, so the firm asked UK weavers and dyers to come directly to it with alternative suggestions.
Mr Short says: "We were quite surprised that there turned out to be a small but quite active supply base in the UK, particularly in London, Leicester and the North-west.
"Where we do think we benefit is that the country is fantastic at street design, and by making the lines here we can get them out quickly to the market to test them, saving four to six weeks in the supply chain when the clothes are being shipped over."
Bill Macbeth, managing director at the Textile Centre of Excellence which represents around 80 firms, says: "We're seeing a higher desire for repatriating high-quality work, such as the best wool in the world or technology like fire retardant fabric, particularly as the finance gap with China is narrowing. …