Fashionworks London helps startups start. We make patterns, prototypes and samples to enable you to start a fashion business. I personally mentor and consult young people at my office in Moorgate, to make sure they have the right formula and to guide them with choice of fabrics from reputable mills, prints, finishing and lots more besides.
I don’t take on new clients without a prior consultation and I charge for this. Why? Because many young people starting out need expert guidance and hand holding. They may have great ideas, funding and have carried out a lot of research. But most of them have no industry experience.
Paying for my consultation should be the first port of call.
Before I take on a new designer, I ask a very simple question. What are your retail price points? The answer to this question answers most of my other questions. If an aspiring fashion entrepreneur has done their homework, they will know that producing in the UK isn’t cheap and you cannot sell a dress for “£20-£30” and make any profit. In fact you’d be subsidising every dress you sold. Let me explain. We don’t use slave labour in the UK. I’ll do a few sums to explain. Our sample machinists earn £15 per hour. Some earn £20-£25 per hour. A good pattern cutter earns the same. A reasonably complicated dress pattern will take about 7-8 hours to create and the same dress, fully lined will take the fabric cutter and sample machinist the same to cut and sew. Add on your fabric costs, your haberdashery, any fabric finishes, embroidery, pleating, logos etc. Any good at maths? These are ballpark figures. It’s usually quite a bit more.
If your business plan is well researched you will know that to produce a collection in the UK will be high end and high quality and that every dress you sell online will have a price point of around “£350-£500” as a rough guide. Your fabrics will be good quality and sourced from reputable mills, whether silk, cotton or polyester.
You cannot produce garments in the UK and compete with high street prices!
Please don’t contact me if you haven’t done your research. Let me explain why it’s possible to buy a dress in a high street store for between “£30-£100” (and let’s leave Primark out of the equation for now).
The high street stores produce tens of thousands of one design. That means tens of thousands of metres of fabric too. Cheap fabric. Much cheaper because they’re able to buy tens of thousands of metres. So even if the mill is only making 20 pence per metre, he can still make a profit due to the large volumes. It’s easy money. It doesn’t take much more effort to produce tens of thousands of metres than it does to produce a few hundred metres. These factories are highly automated and they have state of the art looms, cutting machines, dyeing facilities, embroidery machines etc. You cannot buy this same fabric at these low prices. They won’t sell you 10 metres. It’s not worth their while. So you have to select from a mill that carries stock and who will sell you 10 metres – at a premium. Very often the factory that sews also produces the fabric.
The company I worked for in Mauritius has factories that produce the fabric and factories that produce the garments. They don’t even spin the yarn until the orders come through. They are fully automated and the process takes weeks from start to finished garment. It’s fascinating to see inside these huge factories – if a little noisy! They are geared up to produce huge volumes for Top Shop, Next, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Sainsbury’s TU, Florence and Fred and many more high street names.
They also, sadly, use slave labour from developing countries. This is how you can buy a dress in the high street for “£20-£30”. At what cost? Labour is sourced from Sri Lanka, China, India and they’re shipped out on 3 year contracts, put into large dormitories, fenced in within the factory boundaries, barbed wired and have to work 6 days a week for a minimum of 12 hours per day. 30% of their pay is withheld until they finish the 3 years. They do this because they have no choice. They do this to send all their pay home to feed their families.
People like ‘Sir’ Philip Green get rich from the exploitation of human labour like this. I used to train designers and pattern cutters in these factories. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I was well paid and given a house by the beach and a nice car. However, every day when I went to the factory to do my job, it pained me to know that my fellow workers were being treated so badly….. so that people in the UK could buy a cheap dress for £20. There was an organisation called ‘No Sweat’ and when I returned to the UK, I joined up. Whatever I could do to highlight this appalling use of human labour I would do.
Fashionworks London would never exploit human labour in order to give you cheaper prices. We pay all our people above average wages and we treat everyone with respect. Every garment we produce for our clients is made by happy people. Isn’t that good to know?
Startups seem to think that just because they’re starting up and not yet known, they have to keep their prices low. They’re afraid to charge what the garment is really worth. Even they have been brainwashed into thinking that if they charge the correct price, they won’t sell. This is not true at all. If your designs are good and your collection is amazing and you’ve found a niche and a following, your clothes will sell.
Social media has opened up endless possibilities for aspiring fashion entrepreneurs. But you have to do it right… right from the start.
My consultations are a very small price to pay for a lot of invaluable advice and expertise. I’ll know if you’re serious and I’ll know if your collection has a chance of success.. how? Because you’ll take that first step and book a consultation with me.
To end my rant, I’ll say this. More and more consumers are looking for sustainable and ethically produced collections. They don’t want to wear cheap clothes produced by slave labour these days – they couldn’t bear to feel that ‘sweat shop’ on their backs. Me neither!
Made in the UK – is the way to go. Let’s create value and end exploitation together!