Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Not made in China

Meanwhile, as the Olympic torch makes its way to Beijing (is it there yet?) the sight of the Tibetan protesters may make some of us think twice about buying Chinese-made clothes. the US has a made in America label, we have no such thing. One journalist set out to kit herself out in British clothes, and discovered it can only be done at the high end:

But how to buy non-Chinese sourced products when labelling regulations have become so lax? The answer is, you can't - not if you're shopping the high street. I set myself the task of researching the radical, hard-to-find alternative: a top-to-toe shopping list of fashion products made in a little country with a democratic political system, a minimum wage and iron employment laws. I speak, of course, of the exotic UK. And as it turns out, pockets of high-end, great quality, brilliantly designed manufacture still exist here.

A shining example is Margaret Howell, whose Wigmore Street shop (a haven of civilised English aesthetics) sells British-made white shirts which are the closest to the ideal that I've discovered. For fine summer sweaters, there's John Smedley, whose Sea Island cotton knits are made in Matlock, Derbyshire. Meanwhile, 65 per cent of Mulberry's bags are handmade in its Somerset factory.

Young British designers are also finding ways to craft at least part of their collections in Britain. Johnston's of Elgin makes all of Christopher Kane's cashmeres, including this summer's smash-hit biker jacket. The original Mackintosh (also Scottish) produces Erdem's raincoats, and Marios Schwab achieves the architecture of his sculptural designs in London factories.

For shoes, there's Georgina Goodman's Made in Mayfair collection. To complete a 100 per cent British-made wardrobe, it's even possible to find underwear. Buttress & Snatch, a vintage-haberdashery-trimmed collection swings a tag that reads "Handmade in Hackney by Honest, Hardworking Girls".


Anonymous said...

Shirin Guild is another designer who only works with British manufacturers.

Toby Wollin said...

A very difficult task, indeed. We won't get into the tussle regarding where the fabrics and materials come from. Are there still weaving mills in the UK? I am thinking that there are none left in the US.

Cal said...

There's also Frank&Faith a newish knitwear brand (and some jersey) whose designer/owner is passionate about using UK factories.

Sarah Wyatt said...

Living in China as I do , I think the voices concerning essentially boycotting Chinese goods are getting a little shrill. China is what we made it. We asked for cheap goods we got them. Chinese manufacturing, is some of the best anywhere. We just have to ask for it, and pay for it.
Until we change our habits all that will happen is that the shoddy clothes will be made in Romania or Turkey instead of China.

Anonymous said...

Following up Toby Wollin's comment, Shirin Guild she has her fabrics woven for her to order in Italy or knitted in Leicester. And anyway weaving has progressed since the 19th century - not much room for exploited children in that sector as it is all computerised.

I think designers who work as ethically as possible should be encouraged and applauded. It is a difficult task and at times it must be very tempting to throw in the towel for a quick profit.

Anonymous said...

In response to Sarah Wyatt, of course Chinese manufacturing standards are high, as are their standards in everything they want us to see. It is the regime behind the facade that needs to be questioned. History has taught us that in the long run politics cannot be separated from everyday life and it is up to us, the little people, to give support in the only way we can.

With regard to China being what we the Western consumers have made it, that could be said of so many tyrannical governments. It doesn't mean we have to accept or live with the monster that has emerged.