Innovation and authenticity will be the key drivers of growth in UK manufacturing post Brexit – that was the overarching message of over 100 leading British manufacturers, producers and brands at this year’s Make it British Forum on November 2 at the Textile Centre of Excellence, Huddersfield.
They met to debate how to be uniquely British and capitalise on customers’ desire to buy British-made products, with demand for British-made goods up 36% in the last five years.
Mark Jarvis, managing director, World Textile Information Network, gave delegates an inspiring glimpse of the impact of digitisation, describing the capabilities of microprocessors woven into fabrics, connecting garments to the internet in a new and innovative way. “Our opportunities for growth in materials and manufacturing lie in digitisation,” he urged.
“Collaboration is vital and mass personalisation is the key to meet the needs of the consumer. By 2025 the power will shift to the consumer. Every manufacturer in the UK has the opportunity to be the most innovative and leading manufacturer in the UK. The opportunity is there to put us at the forefront of agile manufacturing. But we mustn’t be lulled into inaction.”
His rallying call certainly inspired delegates at the forum – business owners and operators – to tell their personal journeys, enjoying the opportunity to share ideas and learn from each other. But how do businesses tell their own compelling ‘made in Britain’ stories in order to get noticed in an overcrowded market?
Kate Hills, founder of Make it British, explained: “It’s not enough to simply stick a Union Jack on your product in order to translate desire into sales. It’s all about adding value.”
The inspiring line-up of speakers included Stephen Bent, international sourcing/production manager, Dr Martens, who helped to demystify social media as a means to help promote your British brand, sharing details of the Dr Martens’ project to engage their apprentices with social media, claiming: “Their passion for our brand and confidence in using social media enables them to share the message in their own individual ways. We’ve found three out of four of our apprentices through Instagram.”
“We need to bang the drum about the good ethical practices of British producers,” added Oliver Platts, managing director, Joshua Ellis & Co. Andy Ogden, director & general manager, English Fine Cottons, urged delegates: “have the courage to be authentic and tell your story!”