Its harder than you’d think to make jeans in the UK. I remember the issues I had back in 2002 and why it took me 2 years before I gave up in favour of Japan. No decent wash houses, a chronic lack of knowledge and a palpable feeling of apathy when you walked into a factory. (the exception being Barrys factory in Hackney, what a talented man) After 10 years I’m trying again and over the last 6 months I’ve met nearly every jeans factory in the UK. I have been UNsurprised by what I’ve seen. Lack of skills, lack of equipement, lack of knowledge and poor workmanship.
There have been a couple of diamonds in the rough but while these factories can make good jeans they can’t make my perfect jean and their volume levels are so low that any success I had in sales would be instantly hit by a failure in manufacturing.
The most irritating thing about the fashion business (And this happens all over the world is the sheer number of fibbers who can’t make product at all waste your time and money convincing you that they can do things then not delivering:
A London Based factory who claimed to have cut many jeans patterns. Took them three weeks to cut London Denim Jean 1 because he was busy then gave me a pattern more akin to a pair of trousers than a pair of jeans.
An Italian based factory who I tried to work with about 5 years ago. They had all the right machinery and great references. The samples of their production were perfect. I’d even flown out there a couple of times and met with the directors. Turned out they were only just starting to think about making jeans and I was their experiment. They actually had no experience of making or washing and out and out lied to my face. Giving them my production for the season about £60k of work and lost due to their incompetence.
A Japanese production agency who outsourced the production of 2000 units of black denim skinny jeans to a wash house who had never worked with stretch denim before. They boiled it killing the stretch and the jeans at the same time. Did not stop them from shipping the useless pieces to me and trying to get me to pay for them.
The London Based Factory who claimed to have a great deal of experience with Denim and made promises to get sampling complete within 4 weeks and after calls each week decided they did not know the fabric at all and could not make the samples. That was 6 weeks later!
There are a couple of good factories but they all employing less than 5 people and all surviving on serving one customer and all are run by men who are working their final years prior to retirement.
My road to finding the small unit in Leicester I am working with has been a long one and I’m going to make some good jeans with them. There will not be many of them as they can’t produce many when the factory only has a handful of staff however I get a good feeling from the owner and the initial proto-sample was near perfect.
Looking forward to the next one. Its due next week!