I was thrilled to be featured in a Make it British podcast interview Kate Hills last week. We are proud members of Make it British and huge fans of Kate's work to champion UK manufacturing.
You can listen to the podcast via the link below and hear my background story to setting up the Scottish Textiles Showcase, and how my time working in Italy and walking in the Scottish Borders inspired me to open the Edinburgh shop I have today. Kate and I share our thoughts about our common passion to champion UK manufacturing, Made in the UK and Made in Scotland.
Alternatively there’s also a video version of this interview on the Make it British YouTube channel.
Who are Make It British?
Founded by Kate Hills in 2011, Make it British are a small team promoting British-made brands and helping businesses get their products manufactured in the UK. Just as Kitty is passionate about making in Scotland, Kate is passionate about making in the UK and she has devoted the last ten years to shining a light on British brands and local manufacturing, helping thousands of businesses to find and successfully work with UK manufacturers and supporting many more.
What inspired Kate to set up Make it British?
"It all started when I was working as an accessories buyer for Marks & Spencer in the 1990’s. I was there at the time when they moved nearly all of their production overseas. In fairness to M&S, they were one of the last to jump ship, but as their manufacturing base in the UK was so vast, it had a huge impact on much of the UK’s manufacturing industry. The closing of UK factories never sat comfortably with me.
Maybe it was because throughout the early part of my career manufacturing in the UK was a given. When I left fashion college I started my own brand, firstly making all the clothes myself, and then setting up my own workshop with a team of machinists. I would never have thought of outsourcing the work abroad to get the clothes made.
Then I went to work as a designer for a high street chain called Tammy Girl (remember them?). Nearly all of the manufacturing was done in the UK, and trips to CMT factories in North London and knitwear factories in Leicester were a big part of the job. We had great relationships with the factories and they were seen as part of the team.
When I worked at Burberry the head office and design department were in the same building as the factory in Hackney. It was fantastic to have buying, design and manufacturing all in one building because not only did it help everyone understand the product lifecycle, but if there was a problem it was very easy to sort it out.
Then by the time I worked in my last role, as a buying manager for Debenhams, everything was made overseas. It meant that lead-times were long, and supplier negotiations were based on nothing but price.
To me the offshoring of production seems very short-sighted.
Britain was a successful industrial nation for centuries – the industrial revolution started here after all – so why would we want to lose all that skill and the ability to make things on our doorstep? Worried about the skills we were losing, I started to do some research on the brands and manufacturers that were left in the UK, and I found that despite what the majority of people thought, there were still lots of businesses who manufacture in the UK. .
Yes, we’ve lost the mass-manufacturing that has gone to China, but what is left is some of the best craftsmanship in the world!
What did surprise me was how few people knew about the manufacturers that were left here. They’d been quietly getting on with their own thing. Selling by word of mouth. Many of them without a website. I knew I had to do something to give these companies a voice. Since then I’ve helped hundreds of UK manufacturers and British-made brands to find more customers through the platform of Make it British."
The Scottish Textiles Showcase is a proud member of Make It British. If you'd like to know more about what Kate and her team do click on their logo below: