Top Tips for UK Made Fashion Start Up Success

Are you looking to make your clothing range in the UK? If you are new to the fashion business here’s a few tips for organisations who may be able to help.

In the last couple of years the volume of businesses we are working with who are looking to make their product in the UK has dramatically increased. We have been working with fashion and creative industry SME’s for many years but the ‘make it here’ approach is definitely growing!

We think this is due to a combination of factors, the economic signs of recovery however tentative, the increased flexibility that is available here and the lack of complexity involved when compared to importing goods for start ups. (No exchange rates to consider, at least not in the supply chain part of the business). Naturally the cost is higher than it is from the Far East, but the minimums are smaller, quality can be more tightly controlled and most importantly a strong working relationship and sometimes partnership can be built more quickly to underpin the growth of small businesses.

There are many routes to gaining support in business growth within the fashion industry and more and more of these are looking to support British made and British designed goods. All of which is great news for SME’s and in particular British SME’s!

Over the coming months we will be posting about some of the British made goods we have come across within the fashion and creative sectors and more about start ups and SME strategic tips. Here we give you some of the organisations who can help you access the best UK manufacturers and provide help with funding and business growth, we work with these organisations.

UK Fashion Manufacturing

The fashion business is worth £26 billion to the UK economy according to the British Fashion Council and they say this has grown 22% since 2009. Much of this is made overseas due to lack of expertise and choice here and the demise in the passing on of traditional skills. This is a recurring theme in the educational and national press. The jobs supported in the UK fashion industry are down 2.3% on four years ago according to the Daily Telegraph from research by Oxford Economics. However we feel there is a chink of light at the end of the tunnel starting to appear and a trend for new and growing businesses developing in the UK to manufacture here as well as a move within the education sector to transfer these skills to new generations.

The fashion business is worth £26 billion to the UK economy

When we attended the first two ‘Meet The Manufacturer’ exhibitions in Shoreditch and at Tobacco Dock, we met lots of businesses who were resurrecting the businesses their grand parents owned and ran and some who are building fantastic existing businesses. Some of the better known ones included the TV acclaimed ‘Kinky Knickers’ brand Headon and Quarmby, Vanners silks and Stephen Walters silks and luxury woven fabrics, but there were plenty of others offering great products and services for fashion start ups.

Organisations Helping to Make & Grow Fashion in the UK

Make It British

‘Make it British’ is the organiser of the ‘Meet The Manufacturer – Make it British’ exhibition. The first event last year was so over subscribed that the organisers had to close the access to the show several days before it opened. The exhibition show cased some of the new breed of British manufacturing businesses. These included the new generations within old manufacturing businesses bringing a new energy to fashion made in the UK. The second show this summer was held at a larger venue to cope with the growing demand for UK fashion goods.

Some of the best features of these manufacturers are that they offer great service, energy and a fast turnaround, combined with flexibility of small order quantities – but most of all high quality which is often steeped in tradition and has ready made marketing stories which can be endorsed by those who buy from them. All assets new start ups and small fashion, textiles and creative businesses need!

We spoke to Kate Hills at Make it British after the first show, she said “We have been very encouraged by the fantastic response to our show and the subsequent interest in our website and directory, many of our members have been inundated with interest and we are starting to see the re emergence in real terms, with business and orders, of the British made fashion industry”

The make it British site has a directory of British manufacturers of all kinds including those outside the fashion, textiles and clothing sectors. .


UKFT (UK Fashion and Textile Association) is a private trade association representing all aspects of the industry. The UKFT has a ‘Lets Make It Here” directory this lists fashion manufacturers in the UK. Membership is by subscription related to turnover. UKFT supports and represents the fashion industry providing meeting space, practical support and export advice to members. The Register of Designers, which is part of UKFT, offers help and advice to freelance designers and new designer businesses.

We spoke to Laurian Davies who is UKFT expert on business development and she said “We are helping more and more UK based businesses to find manufacturing here and to grow their businesses, whilst also contributing to a stronger and growing UK fashion industry”.

We are big fans of UKFT as it has helped hundreds of new fashion businesses get off the ground over the years and works closely with Government to ensure the fashion industry is recognised for it’s valuable contribution to the UK economy. UKFT also advises on the best trade shows to attend depending on your product type and target markets, and administers the TAP scheme which offers financial help to enable you to attend the best international trade shows, e-mail:

The British Fashion Council

Not-for-profit organisation supporting the fashion industry by sharing knowledge and expertise.

Funds are from Government, ERDF (European Regional Development Fund), and commercial sponsorship. They also organise London Fashion Week and London Collections:Mens and the British Fashion Awards

Creative Skillset

Supports skills and training to ensure the UK Creative industries maintain their world class position.

Funding For Fashion

Centre For Fashion Enterprise

Provides advise and funding for fashion businesses in the London area who have been trading for 2 seasons. There are two programmes open for applications since August 2015. The new market entry programme and the Pioneer programme.

The Business Growth Service

Offers help to British based businesses through a variety of services. Strategic planning help can be accessed with part funding if the entry conditions are right. Assistance for manufacturing businesses can also be accessed with match funded services using registered, specialist and approved expertise from MAS which is now part of the service. Specialist fashion advisors are available.


UKTI (UK Trade and Investment) works with UK based businesses to ensure their success in International markets through exports. UKTI can also provide funding for communication and sales related activities for British businesses looking to grow overseas markets and runs a scheme called ‘open to export’ to offer advice on export.

Look out for our next post on things to consider when starting up business.

Picture:Illustration ©COUTTS Consultancy July 2015