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NESTA to unite UK manufacturers and fashion designers

London — As the country prepares for London Fashion Week, collaborations between high-end UK fashion designers and manufacturers will take centre stage thanks to a new programme being launched today by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA).

The high-end fashion sector is responsible for the production of exclusive, high value products typically marketed through international fashion shows. However, recent research (details below) shows that four in ten UK designers are going abroad to fulfil their manufacturing needs due to a lack of collaboration between manufacturers and designers.

Designers are concerned about unreliable delivery times, poor credit terms, lack of specialist skills and poor quality manufacturing whilst manufacturers struggle with demands for small order sizes, unrealistic delivery times, along with unclear instructions and overall lack of knowledge from designers about the requirements of the manufacturing process. NESTA’s programme will bring the two sectors together to work more effectively and boost productivity.

Further research from the Centre for Fashion Enterprise says that the UK suffers from a lack of a co-ordinated approach which means that high-end fashion manufacturers lag behind countries such as France and Italy in offering the high quality services needed by luxury fashion designers. Manufacturers and designers in these countries enjoy the co-ordinated support of trade associations such as Chambre Syndicale in France and Systema Moda in Italy, which are designed to bring the two disciplines together.

NESTA’s programme will tackle these issues through three initiatives:

  • The development of a free on-line database of all UK fashion production manufacturers which will enable UK designers to source relevant UK manufacturers.
  • A series of pilot workshops with designers and manufacturers which will focus on innovation and business practises to foster understanding. The findings will contribute to a toolkit detailing how designers and manufacturers can work together to support innovation in the UK fashion industry.
  • Look to support the development of a pan-UK trade association with responsibility for co-ordinating and promoting manufacturer-designer collaborations.

Jon Kingsbury, Creative Economy Director for NESTA says: ‘As high-end fashion design becomes more technologically advanced, there is a risk that UK manufacturers become irrelevant to the innovation process altogether, threatening the fashion manufacturing base in the UK. By helping UK manufacturers and designers in the high-end fashion sector understand each other and work together more effectively we can open up new opportunities for both sectors which will help them thrive.’

Between 2009 and 2013 it is estimated that the UK creative industries – which includes fashion – will grow on average at 4% (NESTA), more than double the rate of the rest of the economy. The UK fashion industry is valued at £1.6bn in retail terms and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) estimated in 2007 that the UK designer fashion industry employed 130,700 people in 2,800 businesses.

Culture Minister Barbara Follett says: ‘The UK’s fashion industry continues to earn its position on the world stage. The creativity and hard work of the people in this important sector mean that its contribution to the country’s economy continues to grow. This programme will help to provide valuable design and manufacturing support for our innovative high-end fashion sector and I welcome it.’

NESTA / Expatica

(Report from NESTA: UK designer fashion economy)