Business Profile: Put Your Shirt on Textile Trade Revival; Business Correspondent David Jones Talks to a Man Determined to Help the Wealth of Talent in Our Clothing Industry Get Its Just Desserts
Byline: Business correspondent David Jones
HUW Williams chuckles as he recalls how he was given an early introduction to fashion in North Wales.
His father had made him a suit from an old overcoat and he wore it for primary school in Llanberis. Not stylish chic, by any means, and sophisticates might scoff.
But it was the sort of thing many Welsh families resorted to in the last century to make the household budget stretch a little further and Williams clearly remembers those days with affection.
The ability to transform one garment into another may well have left its mark on an impressionable young mind.
It's from such inauspicious beginnings that Williams has gone on to launch a successful business and play a leading role in recent years in the reinvention of the clothing and textile industry in North Wales.
Most recently he has spearheaded the development of a centre of excellence for the industry in a complex of buildings around a courtyard on the Glynllifon estate, near Caernarfon.
And he has forged links with both the London fashion trade and overseas countries in a bid to increase the opportunities open to Welsh designers and manufacturers.
The Textile Support Centre has been set up with funding of pounds 880, 000 -- the bulk of it from the EU Objective One programme and the Welsh Assembly's Pathways to Prosperity scheme, but with support also from other sources in the public and private sectors.
It aims to become self-financing within three years.
Williams says the Welsh garment manufacturing industry has stopped shrinking and is on the up and up again after years of being slashed to ribbons as business was lost to cheaper overseas manufacturers, particularly in China and India.
The centre at Glynllifon, with small production-run manufacturing facilities, a computer-aided design studio, indoor and outdoor exhibition space, training room and support for product branding, marketing and trade missions, is set to help drive that process apace over the next few years.
``The industry in North Wales is evolving into a small output, quick turnout, high value, niche market supplier and is poised to create more employment, '' says Williams, the centre's marketing director.
``That is what this centre is all about -- helping SMEs in the four Objective One counties in North West Wales who may have orders for garments but who, because they do not have the staff or the production capacity in-house, cannot meet the customer's deadline.
``We can also help them with branding and marketing by giving assistance in attending trade shows which they might otherwise not be able to afford to get to.
``There is an amazing amount of talent in North Wales -- people who have not yet been able to develop to their full potential.
``There are some very promising designers coming through, '' says Williams.
While many of the smaller businesses in the sector seek out a niche market, there are also some larger, very successful clothing businesses in the region. Williams points to the example of Balabased character merchandise manufacturer Aykroyd and Sons as showing what can be achieved in a different segment of the market.
The Textile Support Centre is, if nothing else, outward looking. A partnership has been established with the London Fashion Forum which will help young Welsh designers showcase their work in boutiques off Carnaby Street. That will be one of the main conduits through which companies from North Wales get their products recognised in the global fashion capital that is London. …