On the factory floor at Pittards in Yeovil, Marta, Gabbie and Gabriella are working together on a new product. They fasten strengthening layers to the leather base of a cylindrical handbag, attach a shiny brass zip, and handpaint seams so that the raw edges of the hide match the lipstick-red surface.
Pittards employs more than 150 people and does brisk business in baseball gloves, dog leads and walking boots, but the bag being made today comes with a waiting list and a £350 price tag. The Somerset Love bag, designed by Alice Temperley and named for the county where it is made, represents a new movement in the British fashion industry. Designers and models are beginning to share the spotlight with the people who actually make the clothes, bags and shoes.
As consumer awareness grows around the environmental impact of fashion and the welfare of the world’s garment workers – the awareness that clothes do not appear in a puff of smoke, direct from a sketchpad and on to Kate Moss – scrutiny is shifting away from the designing of clothes and on to the making of them. Meanwhile, the benefits of shorter supply chains are challenging the centrifugal forces of globalisation, encouraging more fashion designers to switch to local manufacturing. The catwalk is so last season; the new era of British fashion is all about the factory. Find more.