Senior Officials

The Review | Published September 04 2017

2018 Parliamentary Review Foreword

By Adam Mansell

Despite the views of many, the UK’s fashion and textile industry is alive and well. British 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. Designers, retailers and, most importantly, consumers are increasingly looking for high-quality, design-led products; clothes with authenticity and heritage, that haven’t travelled half way round the world; fabrics and clothes that have been made with expert craftsmanship. 
With this vibrant industry also comes diversity in skills and employment. The UK has a worldwide reputation for design and innovation and is considered a world leader in this field. It is therefore essential we maintain our position and continue to seek additional growth and increase employment in our sector. 
There are over 18,000 wholesale or manufacturing fashion and textile businesses operating here and 82% of those are micro businesses employing fewer than nine people. Fantastic woollen and worsted fabrics come out of Yorkshire. Luxurious cashmere for the top fashion houses is produced in Scotland. Lesser known though, is that companies in Leicester supply all the leading high street retailers, as well as e-commerce businesses like ASOS and Missguided. London has a fantastic cluster of high-end manufacturers, where an estimated 13,500 skilled workers make for some of the top British fashion designers. Beyond fashion, we also make interior textiles, medical textiles and technical textiles used in a vast range of applications from the International Space Station to Formula One cars. 

As an industry, we export £8.5 billion – up 30% since 2010 – and the EU accounts for over 70% of all exports. The UK imports £23.5 billion worth of clothing and textiles – 45% of our textiles are imported from the EU and 25% of our clothing. The industry has an enormous global supply chain and we must remain fully engaged with EU and non-EU export markets. 

The UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) has been working closely with the Government to ensure that the needs of the industry are considered in the negotiations over leaving the EU – these include worldwide trade, the movement of talent, intellectual property rights and the regulatory framework. Helping fashion and textile businesses navigate the rapidly-evolving environment surrounding Brexit is a vital part of what UKFT is doing. 

It is certainly a time of change, both in the fashion and textile sector and in society but within this convergence of change, is also a time of great opportunity.