CEO UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT)
What are the challenges that the industry faces?
UK manufacturing is enjoying a great renaissance, helped by the growth in the cost benefits of reshoring, the sustainability agenda and the latest government statistics show that last year manufacturing employment in the UK rose for the first time in decades. But there are some key issues regarding the continued growth of the manufacturing sector and they can't and shouldn't be ignored-skills, ethics, retailer behaviour and the consumer's limited understanding about how and where clothes are made are all areas we need to address.
The skills and training landscape are key to our sector. Spinners, weavers and menders are all in short supply and designers, brands and retailers all desperately need a vibrant and growing manufacturing sector to help them meet the demands of today's consumer. In the UK, it is estimated that some 20,000 new jobs will be needed in textiles and clothing manufacturing to keep up with growing demand and we need to ensure we have a talent pool of people with the right technical skills.
The UKFT is doing some pioneering work on skills and training to address this shortfall, uniting industry and education to ensure the skills and productivity of the people who work in the fashion and textile industry are of the highest level, ensuring the sector remains competitive against global competition. There is also a lack of knowledge within the retail sector on how to deal with UK manufacturing. Our manufacturers are not huge, but they are highly skilled. In order to work effectively retailers need to commit to long-term partnerships with manufacturers. In the past there have been too many stories of retailers promising production, only to pull it a month later, resulting in devastating impact to the manufacturers. Again, the UKFT recently delivered a series of masterclasses at five universities across the UK, with the aim of promoting a better understanding of sourcing, production and the business benefits of selecting a UK-based manufacturing strategy.
It's a time of great change in the industry and in society. The huge importance of the internet and e-commerce, the emergence of new fast paced retailers, the difficulties facing traditional retailers and Brexit, are all converging but it is also a time of great opportunity.
Are British apparel retailers and brands embracing global movements like circular economy and blockchain?
Leading retailers and brands are constantly looking at ways in which to improve sustainability. The circular economy is a key part of that. And the use of big data and block chain technology will help retailers get better visibility on all aspects of their supply chain.
What is the agenda for 2019 at UKFT? What initiatives, topics, activities will gather focus next year?
The UKFT has very ambitious plans around creating an environment for manufacturing to grow, particularly in London where we have a significant concentration of businesses, as well as developing the skills and talent that our industry needs. We will also be working to raise the profile of our industry to encourage a new pipeline of people to enter the workforce. From school visits, to pop-up factories to working with colleges and training providers, the UKFT is constantly promoting the wealth of careers available in the sector and this is an area we will be building on more as we enter 2019 and beyond. (HO)
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