Top Tips for UK Made Fashion Start Up Success

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_dropcap color=”” boxed=”no” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]A[/fusion_dropcap]re 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. This has now escalated since Covid 19 and many brands are looking to make locally to allow for increased flexibility and lower stocks and risk. Of course the bonus in this is the great quality which can be achieved in working with crafts people who have practised their skills for many years and in some cases a life time.  We have been working with fashion | beauty | interiors and consumer gift industries 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 increased flexibility that is available here and the lack of complexity involved when compared to importing goods for start ups, especially since Brexit with changes to import duties for many countries who may be buying your goods. (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. You can also go easily to visit the factory and check your goods are being made correctly and to meet new suppliers easily in order to decide whether you will work with them.

There are many routes to gaining support in business growth within the fashion and other creatively led sectors we work with 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 some updates 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. It was forecast to be down in 2020 compared to 2019 when it was worth £35 billion due to the economic situation, now post Covid 19 it is less still, but the shoots of growth are still there in many SME’s especially when they can control their manufacturing close to home and buy in smaller batches. 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. Although this has been a very uncertain time for many businesses, 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. There are many apprenticeship schemes alive and well now to avoid the old skills dying out within the industry.

The fashion business was estimated to be worth £26 billion to the UK economy in 2020

When we attended  ‘Meet The Manufacturer’ exhibitions in Shoreditch and at Tobacco Dock, before Covid-19, 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.

Since Covid- Make it British has been keeping in touch digitally and offering virtual events for those who want to make their goods or accessories in the UK.

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.  Their events do tend to be very over subscribed and manufacturers report they have found it a great way to connect with new customers. The exhibitions show case some of the new breed of British manufacturing businesses. These include the new generations within old manufacturing businesses bringing a new energy to fashion made in the UK. This movement is now gaining momentum in the UK to make here.

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 ever show a number of years ago now and 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. They recently launched a celebration of Make it British with ‘MadeinUKday’ they had a great response with reach of 38.5 Million. .


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 at the end of 2020, 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 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.

The 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

As a not-for-profit organisation, they rely on the generosity and commitment of Partners, Suppliers and Supporters. British Fashion Council works with its stakeholders to develop and maintain both London Fashion Week’s pivotal position in the industry, as well as providing a global platform for its Partners. They share knowledge and expertise about the industry.

Funds are from Government and commercial sponsorship. They also organise London Fashion Week and the British Fashion Awards

Creative Cultural Skills

Supports skills and training to ensure the UK Creative industries maintain their world class position.They work with the the Arts Council.

Funding For Fashion

Centre For Fashion Enterprise

Provides advise and funding for fashion and creative arts businesses in the London area. They are currently a fashion tech incubator as well. They describe their work as ‘work with the next generation of iconic design innovators’. They help to fast track designers to businesses through funding. They say their successes include Erdem, Peter Pilotto, Mary Katrantzou, Marques Almeida and Craig Green

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.

Government Exporting Help

The Department for International Trade works with UK based businesses to ensure their success in International markets through exports. They do also provide funding for communication and sales related activities for British businesses looking to grow overseas markets.

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

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Rebecca Coutts

Rebecca Coutts

Rebecca Coutts is a Business Growth, Management, Design and Marketing Consultant and Co owner of COUTTS Consultancy. With over 30 years experience, COUTTS Consultancy provides expertise, design, marketing and business growth advisory services to textiles, fashion, corporate clothing, uniform and publishing businesses.