The whole of 2012 has been a hive of patriotism, with the Queens jubilee and the Olympics sending everyone into the party spirit. The Jubilee was the biggest event for retail in our lifetime, with retail houses taking advantage of the feel good factor that had been spreading round like a wild-fire. On the lead up to the important date for the Queen and country alike, the retail scope had been seeking out any products or money-making schemes to make the most out of the positivity, as for the first time since the recession people were deciding to treat themselves to a weekend of food, alcohol and merriment. Britton spent in excess of 823 million pounds celebrating the 60 year anniversary, and the competition was at large with the big retailers.
The fashion industry has possibly been the most avid supporter of the “Made in Britain” stance, with Mary Portas being a well-known ambassador for the idea, spending time and money on creating more jobs for British people with her Kinky Knickers campaign. Her collection of clothing sold in House of Fraser is now entirely Made in Britain, another huge step in the British textile and clothing manufacturing industries. Topshop has recently announced the release of their Made in Britain collection in readiness for Autumn Winter 2012, composed of eight pieces of outerwear juxtaposing tweed, herringbone and Prince of Wales check. The range launches mid-July and will be available online and in the Oxford St flagship. Topshop is one of the most popular high street stores within the younger generation of Britain, and it will be interesting to see how the collection takes off and whether Made in Britain becomes an interest amongst the teenagers of the country.
Every retail outlet we step into this year has products emblazoned with the Union Jack, aisles filled with red white and blue are becoming more and more frequent, and with the beginning of the Olympics later this month I’m sure there will only be more and more on its way. Britain was once a hive for manufacturing, but in the past 30 years the industry has shrunk by two-thirds, leaving empty factories and many people jobless. When Margaret Thatcher first came to power, manufacturing accounted for 30% of Britain’s national income, employing 6.8 million people. When Gordan Brown left Downing Street it was down to just over 11% of the economy, with a workforce of just 2.5 million. Last year, Britain bought £97bn more in goods from other countries than we sold to them – the biggest shortfall since 1980.
Of course, the answer to the problem is money. It is always cheaper to produce goods in China or India than in Britain, but the quality of the end product is arguably much less when using the manufacturing systems favourable to these countries. Britain is well-known for their hand finished products, relentlessly finished by specialist craftsmen and women. This manufacturing style is known as Job Production, in which an item is completed before moving onto the next item. The hand finished touches are what makes British garments such as the Barbour jacket more time-consuming and expensive to produce. Saville Row tailoring is still popular within Britain, and is well-known around the world for its high quality. This famous service is being seen recently to becoming more popular again , with Marks & Spencer planning on providing their own personal Saville Row-esque service.
The processes used in manufacturing giants like China are very different, usually using a conveyor belt like system known as Flow or Mass production. This system produces high numbers of the same product in a continual process, with each unit moving from one process to the next without stopping. This is an incredibly cheap form of manufacturing and enables massive amounts of the same product to be made on a continual basis, hence the far cheaper price tag.
Britain was always well-known for its impressive textile manufacturing industry, with its textiles being the biggest economic interest after grain in 18th century Britain. By the middle of the 19th century, Britain was producing half of the world’s cotton cloth in large mills dotted around the English landscape, the biggest being Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire, which provided 0.6 of the worlds demand for this ever popular fabric. Britain had manufactured for a long time before this, the damp climate being perfect for grazing sheep and growing Flax leaving the country renowned for its fine woolens and Linen popular in the Renaissance period. The Silk industry was also booming in Britain, mainly being produced in London.
Thomas Highs, James Hargreaves, Richard Arkwright and Samuel Crompton are well-known names for the revolution of textile manufacturing, all coming from Lancashire inventing ways to make the manufacturing process quicker and easier. This showed the first steps the textile industry took towards the Industrial Revolution, with inventions such as the Spinning Jenny rolling out to almost 20,000 homes in Britain alone.
During the Great Depression the UK textile industry spiralled downwards, and during the Second World War things went from bad to worse as we struggled to keep up with the growing Indian textile industry. Some textile mills are still in operation today, however the majority have been converted into flats, offices or National Trust sites such as Quarry Bank Mill.