We are growing at 50% a year
Article 10 is a clothing manufacturer based in England specialising in premium quality t-shirts, sweatshirts, polo shirts and many other garments manufactured from high quality organic cotton to Star Supima cotton, and other types of premium fabrics. The first factory was established in UK in 1972, and the business is being run by the third generation now. In an interview with Fibre2Fashion, Karandeep Mattu, owner of Article-10, discusses about how the garment manufacturing business has evolved through the years, the latest trends the company is experimenting with and their plans for the future.
As a third-generation garment manufacturer, what are your learnings through the years? How has the scene of garment manufacturing evolved in UK?
After graduating with a degree from UCL in project management for construction I thought the textile industry would be very similar in terms of suppliers and skilled workers, how wrong I was! The years when the UK garment industry had thousands of suppliers and skilled workers are long gone, the infrastructure does not exist in the UK anymore. When the big retailers started to source from overseas, the vast majority of suppliers either closed or diversified into another sub textile market, leaving the garment industry laid bare. Skilled workers used to be skilled due to the training they gained from college, and then straight onto an apprenticeship at a local factory, however, colleges no longer teach sewing, so all training is now done by the manufacturer at great cost with no guarantee the individual will stay on with the factory in the long term.
The industry is unrecognisable from that of my grandad's and dad's generation, Article 10 has to fill a lot of the gap itself in order to be able to offer the service we do. There are no cotton wholesalers in the UK, so Article 10 has to carefully select and invest and hold stock in large quantities of fabrics and colours, to be able to offer small quantity production, this is what sets Article 10 apart from our competitors.
What percentage of your orders ask for a full factored service and what for CMT?
98 per cent of orders are fully factored; Article 10 works with brands direct and is positioned to be able to offer the 'whole package'. We are also fortunate enough to have a large customer base which means we don't have much down time.
What is the minimum order you take with a minimum lead time?
a) Our MOQ's are 100 units per style, which can be split over 2 colours and sizes, using stock fabric and colours. If we have to knit fabric to a customer specification and dye to pantone, MOQ increases to 250 units per colour, which can be split over 2 styles and sizes.
b) Lead time depends on time of the year and what the customer is ordering, however, we aim to deliver all bespoke orders within 4-5 weeks using our stock fabrics and colours, or 8 weeks if we need to knit and dye to customers pantones.
You created the highest quality t-shirt with the ideal fit at the tenth attempt thus naming it Article 10. What are the special characteristics of this t-shirt/garment category?
It actually took us 10 attempts and 10 months to perfect our t-shirt offering, thus calling the company Article 10.
Where do you source your fabrics from?
We do not source fabric, we source the finest yarns from around the world, US for Supima, New Zealand for Merino wool jersey, etc and then knit and dye in England. We do however, source finished fabric from Italy, mainly for the finishing aspect… it isn't possible for gassed, mercerised, or carbon brushed finishes in UK.
To which markets do you supply your products to? Please give us bifurcation in terms of exports and domestic markets.
We supply high end brands from around the world, including US, Japan and of course the UK, as well as luxury boutique independent stores. Our biggest markets are UK, Japan, and US, although, we are getting a lot of enquiries from China as the market is maturing and opening its eye to a world of luxury beyond Louise Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, etc.
What are your strong points in terms of a fabric manufacturing company?
How has the growth been year-on-year?
We are growing at 50 per cent a year, however, we are held back by lack of skilled employee, if this wasn't an issue we could have seen growth over 200 per cent year on year.
Your aim is to give people a fashion experience with high quality clothing sold at exceptional prices. How do you fulfil such criteria?
We don't, our aim is to supply premium garments, manufactured within weeks and in a sustainable manner. We all know about the Rana Plaza disaster, its unacceptable in today's world, workers are subjected to such conditions all in the name of cheap fast fashion. It is not sustainable in the long term. Everything we do, we sit and think how long can this last for and how can we make it to last longer. Our speed and flexibility allows our customer to order the right amount of garments, lowering the amount they have to discount to clear the warehouse, leading to high margins for our customers and a better brand image.
List few names of your customers who belong to start-up fashion brands, music merchandisers and recognisable names on the high street.
We cater to high end brands and boutiques. Few examples are Gloverall, Parka London, Turnball and Asser, Belstaff.
What are the options you provide for your customised product solutions?
We stock a range of fabrics from Ringspun Combed cotton, organic cotton, organic Supima cotton, Supima cotton and knit to order, Sea Island cotton, Egyptian Giza 45 cotton, etc.
What are the latest trends you are experimenting with in terms of blends, colours, prints, and textures, etc in fabrics?
We don't really see much change as we produce essential garments, however, we are dyeing a lot of pastel colours this year, as well as textured fabrics for sweatshirts, bomber jackets, and hoodies.
Please share details of your last fiscal and the factors affecting your performance.
I won't disclose financials; however, Covid-19 has not helped. We expect overall sales to be down this year.
How strong is your focus on sustainability? Please elaborate.
Very, we are all about sustainability, not only because its good business in the long term but it also lets your customers stand out from the crowd, I think the end user is definitely more aware of where and what their garments are made from. We would love one day to be exclusively organic cottons, and regenerated cotton, but we know this is still some time away yet.
What lies on the cards next?
We will be launching a stock product service for our start up and smaller customers, with no minimum order quantity, which will allow us to take on more menswear customers, as well as expand into ladies and kidswear markets. (PC)