Is it me or is it nearly impossible to make clothes in England?

I am looking to manufacture a small range of extremely well made, hard wearing surf shorts in England at the moment.
Being an ethical British brand trying to keep as much of the process at arms reach is proving extremely tuff to say the least, however should it be this way?

Having been in the garment industry 10 years I am fully aware of why people make abroad, yet I am trying to find out exactly what our shores have to offer and whether there are small outfits suited to small specialised needs.

In an era where craftsmanship, service, understanding and honesty are needed more and more in a diluted, me-too world, wouldn't it be great to know that your free range boardies were locally sewn and locally sold, just like your tatties!

Idealism aside , there are many factories that have been shut down recently, including the Burberry one, where I am guessing there are a lot of skilled machinists with a fantastic yet dying skill base going to waste.
With all the young start up brands, struggling to get going, and not knowing how to source, let alone being able to meet the huge far east minimums, maybe a local more reactive co-operative could exist to boost and enable our huge talents to grow?

Any help on this would be great..


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Hi John,

I agree, it would be great to promote more U.K manufacturing and suppliers as this boosts local economy, trade and is in itself a more efficient and environmental way to produce.

I have a feeling that local manufacturers are a secret well kept.

The search continues..
These are some links. I don't know much about them - some more detail on these at

City Fringe Partnership, which organised Fashion Expo, no longer exists but apparently some of the money has been diverted to the Manufacturing Advisory Service for London.,com_sobi2/catid,50...

You could try Freedom of Information Act requests to find out where the army does its clothes shopping via

Hi Riz
Tried and this is the first thing that came-up. It seems slightly funny.

"Another matter very important to the good people of Lancashire is textiles. The procurement of Army uniforms is very important for the textile industry. In time of need, our armed forces were well served by the textiles produced in Lancashire's factories, but we now discover that a bridal wear company in China has tendered to provide battledress. That is unacceptable. How can a company specialising in wedding dresses produce battledress? The sample produced for tender purposes did not come from the factory in China, but from somewhere else. The battledress order has been given to a state-owned factory in China, which will produce specialist camouflage for our armed forces, and that is unacceptable.

People may say that anybody can make camouflage clothing, but that is not true. The print involved is very specialised, as is the chemical treatment given to the material to ensure that personnel are better protected at night. They cannot be seen through night-vision goggles, as the chemical treatment prevents heat being released, and good camouflage helps soldiers to blend in with their surroundings. We are putting all that at risk by giving the battledress order to a state-owned factory in China. That is not on. Why should a subsidised factory in China be given such a contract? We would not supply China's army, because of that country's human rights record, but somehow we find it acceptable for China to supply uniforms for our armed forces. That is not good. The matter needs to be examined immediately and the contract brought back to the UK. Every other European country ensures that uniforms for their armed forces are provided by domestic manufacturers. I hope that my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House will take that on board, as I know that he also has a constituency interest in this matter."

That was in 2004. Quaint how they do boycotts by banning exports rather than imports isn't it?

I just cut-and-pasted the first paragraphs but it goes on to say that Mr Ingram MP does not know where the Chinese supplier got the shorts; it could have been the Iraqi ministry of defence for example. Neither side asks about exchange rates fixed by bankers.
Street full of clothes factories found by accident: and . I guess these all have a minimum order, probably a fairly standard one.
Hi Riz

The Workshop are part of Fashion Capital. They are based in Harrngey, North London. They offer a complete solution from pattern making, grading to production of samples and small runs. The team there are super friendly and work with many small and large designers. The FC website says it all:

The Workshop is FashionCapital’s factory based at Unit 5, Mavros House, 95 Vale Road, Haringey N4 1TG. Tel 020 8800 9979 The factory was set up in 2008 to provide designers and retailers with a quality based unit to supply patterns, grades, toiles, first fit samples, sealing samples and small run production. The unit has some of the finest machinists in the UK operating on a wide cross section of machinery. There is also a digitiser and a plotter for CAD CAM pattern making using the Vetigraph system. In addition there is a full training suite equipped with 14 computers offering courses for designers, students, teachers and any one with an interest in fashion. These courses can be either tailored made to individual requirements or can be in accordance with OCR 1 and 2 in Art and Design. Current clients of the factory include and Jaeger plus approximately 80 designer collections.

Best wishes Cath
I suspect to start up a venture like this to support good quality manufacturing for small runs and larger runs would be of interest?

Riz, being an ex surfie down under am interested in your board shorts....

Best wishes

Thanks for the reply. The trick is to get the great quality and the small run teaming up. I am slowly finding more
and more leads, as you delve deeper in.

It is also becoming more apparent how many people are actually wanting to manufacture back in the U.K.

It's great.

British Boardshorts, made in Britain.. fingers crossed..

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Hi Cath,

They do seem to be a name that keeps cropping up, other people have mentioned them too. Have you used them yourself?

Thanks for the info, I'll adventure further into it.

Best wishes,
Hey Cath, I am really interested in knowing more but couldn't google the "The Workshop". Do you have the website? Thanks!
Hi Riz

DGS in Wood Green are good. Your minimum production quantities per style need to be 100-200 to work with them.

There are also a couple of factories in this place 'Florentina Clothing Village' in Manor House, London. I can't find the contact info for the one I used to use...

Thanks Olivia,

Will look into them. Although our minimums are a little below this at the moment. Maybe they will be better for next season when we grow... fingers crossed.

We are really looking for hard machinery, capable of tough wovens, triple stitching, lap seams, eyelets, etc..
Do they have all this?

Good luck in your stuff too!


Yeah - they've done heavy overcoats for me. Although they can't do felled seams (as in jeans' yokes) but they seem to have a network of friends they outsource stuff to if they haven't got the machinery themselves.

Another idea - you should maybe look at leather factories if you're going for really tough wovens..
There are still loads around East London. You could try Forma Leather (Shoreditch) 0207 359 4350 or Crossbow (Stratford) 020 8522 1652.

Good luck!



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