The House of Edgar
Highlandwear, Kilts, Tartan Fabric, Apparel Fabric, Wool, Design Service, Jacquard Weaving, Kilt, Jackets & Vests Sets, Plaids, Ties, Flashes, Velvets, Throws, Scarves, Light, Medium, Heavy & Regimental Weight Tartans.https://letsmakeithere.org/manufacturers-directory/the-house-of-edgar/
The Isle Mill
Domestic Fabric, Contract Fabric, Customer Specific Design Service, Wool, Silk, Velos, Boucle, Sateens, Jacquard, Paisley Design, Throwshttps://letsmakeithere.org/manufacturers-directory/the-isle-mill/
Christopher De Gabriele limited
I’ve been working as a designer and creative pattern cutter since 2006, offering design and technical solutions for a wide range of International brands.https://letsmakeithere.org/manufacturers-directory/christopher-de-gabriele-limited/
Colourways Textiles Limited
Specialise in manufacturing jersey wear, such as T-Shirts, Polo Shirts, Sweatshirt for luxury & lifestyle brands, and high end boutiques .https://letsmakeithere.org/manufacturers-directory/colourways-textiles-limited/
The Pattern Etica
We are an ethical pattern cutting and sampling studio, we focus on slow fashion with special consideration towards sustainability.https://letsmakeithere.org/manufacturers-directory/the-pattern-etica/
Backed by more than 30 years sewing experience, Mancmade LTD is a supplier and manufacturer of clothing, accessories & soft furnishings based in Trafford, Manchester. Our company was founded based on lots of factors, such as ; Transparency(where are your clothes made?) helping the local community, by providing a service as well as job opportunities which in turn will boost our local economy! We are massive believers in shopping local, supporting small, businesses and manufacturers in the UK. In addition to providing traditional, refashioned and unique clothing and accessories. We also work alongside a small local business, who can offer bespoke sewing alterations and repairs, as well as personalised printing and embroidery services.https://letsmakeithere.org/manufacturers-directory/manc-made/
Fashion Formula is an on-demand digital textile and wallpaper printer and manufacturer of homewares. We hold over 100 base fabrics ( Cotton, Linen, Lycra, Jersey, Man-made, Organic, Recycled). Whether you are a small designers or large retailer, we offer 1-5 days turnaround on any order up to 1000m.https://letsmakeithere.org/manufacturers-directory/fashion-formula/
Our sewing factory is based in West Sussex, United Kingdom. Most of our work is with stretch fabric and Lycra. We specialise in working with stretch fabrics. Garments we make on a regular basis include: Simple adult and child swimwear, T-Shirts, dancewear, leggings, gym tops, lycra shorts and dresseshttps://letsmakeithere.org/manufacturers-directory/halcyon-blue/
Manufacturers of premium Irish Linen since 1912.
For over 100 years we have been creating fabrics for the most discerning individuals. In the beginning producing and supplying handkerchiefs for the US trade. Despite the economic climate we prospered during the depression of the 1930’s.
Constantly adapting- as fashion changed we decided to focus on apparel. In the late 1960’s the firm acquired the leading world specialist in linen suiting- John Hanna of Kells dyeing and finishing works. Transforming it into the leading finishing works in the country.
At this time the company was offered the design services of the McNutt Family in Donegal. Combining together our two families to make the now globally recognized brand Baird McNutt Irish Linen.
Our linen is known throughout the global design community. To this day still produced using the traditional methods. Ensuring only the best quality fabrics and weaves.https://letsmakeithere.org/manufacturers-directory/baird-mcnutt/
Samuel Lamont & Sons Ltd is a family business which has been manufacturing and supplying a wide range of house-hold textiles for almost 200 years.
Founded in 1830 by the man whose name it bears, Samuel Lamont & Sons Ltd. became one of Northern Ireland’s foremost linen weavers.
Diversifying during the 1950’s into textile printing and terry towel manufacturing Samuel Lamonts soon had an enviable range of top quality household textile items. It gained the Royal Warrant both for retailing and for the supply of bed linen. Samuel Lamont deals in a wide range of bed linen, table linen, bath items, Irish souvenirs, tea towels, and kitchen items; including oven-gloves, aprons, kitchen towels, tea cosies etc.https://letsmakeithere.org/manufacturers-directory/samuel-lamont/
Manufacturing Heroes: Jackie Dean
raw materials technician at
JOHNSTONS OF ELGIN
Jackie Dean is a raw materials technician in quality assurance at Johnstons of Elgin, in charge of fibre testing of all the company’s cashmere and wool. She is known in the industry for being extremely precise and well respected for testing, which is largely done by hand and eye.
Jackie was born and bred in Elgin, Scotland, and joined Johnstons as a 16-year-old straight from school, 44 years ago. The company was founded in 1797 in her local town and has two sites: a cashmere and wool weaving mill in Elgin and a knitwear mill in Hawick in the Scottish Borders.
She started her career in spinning before moving into testing in the yarn lab and around 30 years ago she moved into the testing of raw materials. Here, she worked with John Boyd, who she describes as
“the best mentor I could have – he passed on a lot of valuable knowledge”.
She tests the raw fibres for colour, length, diameter and contamination, and although technology has advanced, not a lot has changed in her role over the years.
“Traditional skills are the best,” she says. “I do a lot of the testing by hand and eye. You can get a machine that does it but we feel that a manual test has a better result.”
A typical day for Jackie will see a new batch of raw material get delivered to the mill and she will then perform a series of tests at the mill, then send it away for further testing. She says:
“If the batch hasn’t come in with a chemical certificate, we will arrange for that and we also have secondary testing for the composition. I can easily identify that the fibre is wool or cashmere or rabbit, testing by hand and eye, but customers require independent certification to ensure that the fibre is pure and what it says it is.”
The biggest challenge she faces is working to tight timescales and lead times.
“Sometimes batches are late being delivered and we need to get it tested as quickly as possible without cutting corners,” she explains.
“It’s all about getting stuck into it and getting it done to enable the dyehouse to start their process. It can be quite stressful if everyone is shouting for it but you can’t pass it if you don’t know if it’s correct. We always get there in the end. The quality is the most important thing so if it takes longer than normal, they will just have to wait.”
It is the quality of the final product and working as part of a team that keeps her motivated.
“I like seeing good results, and beautiful product at the end. If you see a nice product at the end it motivates you to keep going,” she says.
She believes patience is a key skill in her role, explaining:
“You can’t rush it because the quality comes first. You need to listen and communicate, ask questions but don’t rush it as quality is the most important thing.
Over the years, I’ve developed the ability to tell before I start testing if it is going to be a good lot. Suppliers know what I do so they know they won’t pull the wool over my eyes. They know we’ll go back to them if anything is wrong. Sometimes it can just be a minor fault but if it is anything even slightly more significant we then have to send it back and the whole process takes even longer.”
She also likes being part of the Johnstons team.
“It’s a family-run business and you feel as though you are one of the family working here,” she explains. “I’ve made a lot of friends and it’s a happy place to work.”
“I can actually see the mill from my house,” she laughs. “I’ve recently been training one of my nieces to do the lab work. There’s a real sense of community.”
Jackie takes great pride in working for a company with a global reputation for producing beautiful quality products that has been in business for more than 220 years. She also loves seeing the end product and knowing her role in making it happen.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into making one product,” she says. “It’s great to be part of the process. We have a design showroom and store on site here in Elgin so you get to see the products a lot. We also have customers who come to visit. When they have a mill tour, they come in to see what I do – they take pictures, which I dread – but they also ask a lot of questions and are interested in the raw materials, which is satisfying.”
Simon Cotton, CEO of Johnstons of Elgin, says Jackie plays a key role in ensuring the company’s products are of the highest quality. He says:
“Jackie is known for her unflinching commitment to quality and has built a reputation right around the world for always insisting on the very best with no compromise. Her complete commitment to ensuring that we have the very best fibre right at the start of the process enables everyone else to build from those excellent foundations.”
Manufacturing Heroes: Euan Dalgliesh
assistant manager at
Technically trained to a high level, Euan has worked his way up in the Scottish textile industry and now is helping to ensure employees at Macnaughton Holdings’ weaving factory in Keith have a broad range of skills fit for the future.
Euan Dalgliesh is the assistant manager at the weaving mill of Macnaughton Holdings, a family-owned company founded 1783 and based in the small town of Keith in the Scottish Highlands. He was born into the textile industry and gained a wealth of experience at firms including Gardiners of Selkirk (where he served his apprenticeship), Bridgehaugh Dyers, DC Dalgliesh and Locharron of Scotland before joining Macnaughton in 2014.
Today Macnaughtons operates from three sites: the head office in Perth, kilt manufacturing in Paisley and weaving in Keith, where Euan works. The company specialises in Highlandwear with an in-house brand called the House of Edgar, and furnishing fabrics, with an in-house label called Isle Mill. In January this year, the firm relaunched a Paisley heritage brand called Whitehill and Wilsons, for the manufacture and sale of accessories.
Euan is a trained tuner, a technical role which involves setting up the weaving looms and adjusting tolerances to meet exacting requirements, but always wanted to move into management.
“As a tuner, it lets you see an awful lot of a company and you can learn as much as possible, which sets you up well for management,” he says.
One of the things that attracted Euan to Macnaughtons is the company’s forward-thinking approach, explains Euan. Kilting tartans used to be made on old shuttle looms but they could be noisy, dirty and sometimes dangerous.
“Macnaughtons had the foresight to convert modern looms to give the same selvedge that the shuttle looms do naturally – it took a lot of time and money to do but it has paid off. As a company, they’re are not stuck in the old way of doing things – they’re looking to progress and develop, which appealed to me.”
He was also attracted to the firm as he liked the working environment and the company culture, which is committed to passing on skills and developing new markets.
“I came up here to see the facilities and I really liked what I saw,” he explains.
“Sometimes factories can be dark and dingy but here it is a bright open environment. I spent time with the production director Struan Paterson and the manager Kevin Stewart and they knew the industry inside out. It was great to speak to people who knew what they were talking about.”
“Kevin has been here since he left school and he knows every part of the process – feeding off his knowledge has been a massive benefit. In this industry, you are always learning something new.”
“My role now is making sure everything is run properly and a big part of that is training. It is great passing on that knowledge and experience so you can see others flourish.”
Euan works with a team of around 20 people in production in the Keith factory, working in various roles from the yarn store to warping, drawing in and darning.
“It’s a lot harder now than it was in the past as in the you used to get people come in with experience,” he says. “Now nine times out of ten they don’t have experience. All of our training is done in house and is very specific.”
“When I started here, I made sure we had written notes on what the training procedures are – bullet points they must meet to make sure all the procedures are met. We let new workers shadow experienced workers and one of my jobs is to make sure that they are getting the right support and training they need. We hold quarterly meetings to see how they are progressing. Some skills need a year to learn and others take longer. It’s up to me to see how long they need and I then give the final say that they’re fully competent. In this job, experience is a great asset.”
One of the biggest challenges he faces is maintaining a skilled workforce and trying to attract new people into the business.
“The industry hasn’t got a good reputation – people still look at it as dark old factories and dangerous machines,” he says. “Nowadays the machinery are a lot more modern and while you still need the old skills, it is a much better working environment.”
Another big change that Euan has noticed working in the industry is that for companies to be successful, they need multi-skilled staff. In days gone by, textile workers were typically proficient in one specific role but now companies tend to have a smaller workforce but workers can do many different things.
“I like working in this industry because there is always something different: you can be working with different qualities or working with different designs and challenges. You have to come in here and know that you can’t know everything. I have been in this industry for 30-odd years and I’m still learning and picking up new things. If you come in with an open mind, it’s great.”
Macnaughtons has regular lines, which are the mainstay of the company, but also works with designers with new materials and new designs.
“It is up to us to say yes we can do that and find a way to do it efficiently, or no we can’t do it – but here is what we can do instead,” he says. “It is great to have a speciality but also good to progress and diversify into new markets.”
One of the biggest changes for the company most recently is the move into accessories such as scarves and shawls. Euan says:
“We did a lot of trials and samples and now we’re seeing it pay off with bigger beams and bigger orders coming through. We’re always seeing different tartans and new variations, and it is good because we see things from design, through to sampling and production.”
As the company is split across different sites, sometimes it can be difficult for the team to visualise the end product or know where they end up. Goods are finished in the Scottish Borders and can change dramatically at the finishing stage. To counter this, Macnaughtons has recently introduced a newsletter to showcase some of the finished products and let everyone who has been involved in the production know where the materials are sold.
“The workforce seems to really appreciate that,” says Euan. “It’s something we are starting to see a lot more on social media too.”
He takes great pride in the products he is part of producing, as well as passing that sense of pride onto the workforce and people in training.
“We are always looking for things that can be improved on. I’m a great believer in learning being a two-way street. We impart our knowledge to the workforce but we also listen to what they have to say – it’s great to get other ideas. They might not work but if you never hear them you’ll never know.”
One of the other things he likes is recognising his role as part of a full process.
“It’s about trying to do your job as best as you can so that when the next person gets it they have no issues. It’s satisfying seeing something come in as a thread and going out as a piece of material.”
“The other thing is we’re Scottish and we’re weaving tartan – it’s our national fabric and national dress,” says Euan. “If you can’t take pride in that then there’s something wrong.”
Macnaughton’s managing director James Dracup describes Euan as a role model for others:
“Other than being technically trained as a tuner to a high level, Euan is an exemplary employee and member of our team. A hard worker, he works closely with Kevin Stewart our manager in ensuring that we train and multi-skill all our employees at our Keith factory. He is heavily involved in succession planning, people development and training and also the day to day running of our factory.”
“We are very proud to have him as a valued member of our team and he is a wonderful example of a technician who is rising through the ranks of our company,” he concludes.
Manufacturing Heroes: Zack Sartor
Sustainability and ethics are huge buzzwords in the fashion industry but the manufacturing stage can often be overlooked. One person trying to change all that is Zack Sartor, with his garment development, sampling and production unit in east London, who believes that a few small changes to processes can make a big difference.
Zack Sartor never thought he’d be running a garment factory but he’s gaining a growing reputation for his fresh approach to responsible manufacturing in London’s east end. The 27-year-old Canadian has been running his growing business in Bow for the past five years, specialising in bespoke manufacturing for small start-ups and medium-sized brands, as well as larger labels looking for UK production with greater transparency and flexibility.
It certainly wasn’t what he imagined when he started his career in Paris studying Fashion Design at Istituto Marangoni, then moved to London looking for a position as a designer.
“After dozens of interviews, I realised that the market was flooded with designers, but there was big demand for sample makers, technical services and production,” he says.
“During one of these interviews, I was asked to do some freelance garment tech and sample work for a brand called HotSquash, which eventually became ApparelTASKER’s first contract.”
The company has grown gradually as demand increased and ApparelTASKER now has approximately 40 machinists with a capacity in the region of 750-1000 per week, depending on styles. Today he describes ApparelTASKER as a fashion services company, offering garment development, sampling and manufacturing from a conveniently-located London base.
The factory has been gradually expanding its floor space, in an area that is undergoing massive change. It is close to the new fashion hub Poplar Works, a cluster of other manufacturers and designers and is becoming known as the new home for fashion in London.
In addition to providing CMT services, Zack’s team can work with brands to convert ideas and sketches of designs into technical drawings. They can then offer pattern making, fabric and trim sourcing, as well as sampling charged on an hourly basis.
Production pricing is calculated on the complexity and quantities with a general minimum order of fifty per style. The company can offer smaller production runs, as Zack wants to remain accessible to newer brands starting out to hopefully grow together.
Like many of the brands he works with, Zack is focused on the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry. He champions a holistic view of responsible manufacturing, which he sees as taking responsibility for the products he produces, the environment, employees and customers, while continually looking for ways to improve the overall process and business.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to use resources in a smarter, more efficient way, and use technology effectively to improve our processes,” says Zack.
“We have a tracking system that means we can monitor every step of the production process in real-time for full traceability but also to see where improvements can be made.”
“We carry out checks on the fabric and suppliers providing raw materials and trim to us via a client or third party supplier so we can optimise our processes and make recommendations if required, and we use state-of-the-art equipment to ensure the safety of our employees, as well as great garment quality.”
Recently the company has added a new band cutting machine for swim and technical garments and an automated Rouleau sewing machine for swimwear. They have also switched from halogen to LED lights along with other energy saving systems, which has reduced energy consumption by more than 85%, and are using biodegradable poly bags, recycled paper tape and natural rubber glue for the packaging they send out.
“To me there is no one single action you can take to be more sustainable,” says Zack.
“It is about continual improvement in every direction. We have zero waste in our production processes, which is something I’m really proud of,” he explains.
“The fabric arrives and we cut it in the most efficient way possible. We try to use offcuts within our supply chain first and foremost and what we can’t is collected by a company located close by, which then burns it for electricity.”
“It’s also about company culture and how everyone has a responsibility – but also the authority – to cut down on waste and ensure great quality. If there is damage, then we’ll take that piece back and repair it. I want our products to last and be loved.”
Zack says he’s proud of making in London and championing UK manufacturing.
“Having a ‘made in London’ label means something in terms of quality but also the flexibility and efficiency it offers for designers,” he says.
However, despite increasing demand, he says he has no ambitions of running a huge factory.
“I don’t want to be big. I want to stay small and nimble but keep diversifying in every direction so we can build a community where we are. It’s an exciting time because new brands are constantly emerging that want to be better for our planet. We’re trying to be part of that change too,” he concludes.
Manufacturing Heroes: Maxine Wells
INTIMATE APPAREL SAMPLES
Offering a wide range of technical services alongside the practical experience gained developing her own brand, Maxine Wells has created a thriving business helping lingerie and swimwear designers turn their dreams into reality.
Lingerie and swimwear needs a personal touch. And that’s just what Maxine Wells offers with Intimate Apparel Samples, combining the technical skills of lingerie development and production with a wealth of experience in helping start-up brands and independent labels overcome the hurdles that many small fashion businesses face.
Maxine graduated from the renowned BA (Hons) Fashion and Contour course at De Montfort University in 2008 and then started her own lingerie brand Maxine’s of London, but quickly found greater demand for technical skills and sampling.
She is now celebrating a decade of running Intimate Apparel Samples, a technical design and development unit specialising in lingerie and swimwear based in London, employing a small team to work with a wide variety of UK and international lingerie and swimwear brands.
She leads a close-knit, supportive team of six who have built up strong relationships with an impressive client base of new and established swimwear and lingerie brands, offering the development of tech pack, pattern cutting, sampling and toiles, grading, spec sheets and small production runs from a warm and welcoming studio in Wembley Park, West London.
“Our team is in the very privileged position of building great relationships with contour brands catering for various markets including mastectomy bras, nursing underwear, plus size lingerie, men’s undies, haute couture, plus size swimwear, sports bras, and running tights, pole dancing costumes, to name a few,” she says.
A lot of the company’s work is confidential but Maxine and her team have designed, pattern cut and sampled beautiful high end collections that have gained local and international stockists, including luxury boutiques such as Coco de Mer, Lulu and Lush, Glamorous Amorous and Dar Gitane. One career highlight which she can talk about is when her own Maxine’s of London Bounded Belle lingerie set was photographed by the world famous Mario Testino.
Another is when the team produced a range of lingerie costumes for 2016 feature film Pride and Prejudice and worked with swimwear designer Sian Gabbidon to produce a reversible bikini that saw her crowned winner of the BBC’s The Apprentice 2018 by Lord Sugar.
Aliza Reger, the owner of luxury lingerie brand Janet Reger, has worked with Maxine and Intimate Apparel Samples for some time. She says:
“Not only is Maxine a delight to work with, but the team’s attention to detail, excellent quality and reliability make them a very impressive resource. They have an outstanding knowledge of cut, fit, make up and understand individual brand requirements. I look forward to working with them for many more years to come.”
In February 2020, Intimate Apparel Samples doubled the size of its studio, which was a big step but a testament to the demand for technical development and small scale production in the UK. The company has also increased its offering to athleisure for sportswear designers and expanded its capacity for small-run production.
“I really believe that small businesses should support each other so we are committed to working with new designers and we love seeing our clients’ brands grow as we do,” she says.
“What I’m really passionate about is seeing independent designers and small niche labels, who put their heart and soul into their business, turn their dreams into a reality. I also – unsurprisingly – really love making things and flying the flag for ‘made in the UK’.”
One sticking point for brands just starting out can be large factory minimums, which is why Intimate Apparel Samples has no minimum order quantities (MOQs) for tech pack development and production runs start as low as 10 units per style (mixed sizes).
Over the years, Maxine has been asked pretty much everything you could think to ask about starting a new lingerie or swimwear brand, which makes her a great source of practical advice. During the lockdown period, she decided to create a series of blogs, resources and video guides to share some of this insight with the next generation of designers and brands. Topics range from how many pieces to include in a new swimwear collection, how to source fabrics and how to choose a model through to creating your own business, staying true to your values while building a brand and overcoming self doubt.
“Many of my clients are starting out on their journey in a way that I did when I founded Intimate Apparel Samples, which means I have a lot of relatable experience I can share.”
“I started my brand but developed a good understanding of pattern cutting, design development and small-scale manufacturing and discovered there was limited availability for those kind of services here in the UK.”
“In the decade that followed, I have continued to learn and develop, building a strong team around me with an approachable company culture I’m proud of. I never thought this is how the business would have evolved but I’m so pleased it did.”
Manufacturing Heroes: Cliff Johnson
knitting machine operator at
Cliff Johnson is a knitting machine operator at British knitwear brand and manufacturer John Smedley. Over almost 20 years, he has worked his way up to being one of the company’s most skilled knitters and values the company’s long heritage, its export prowess and the feeling of community spirit.
Cliff Johnson joined John Smedley in March 2001, attracted by the company’s dedication to craftsmanship built up over generations. The British knitwear brand and manufacturer was founded in 1784 and is the oldest factory still in operation, a fact which Cliff relishes.
John Smedley is one of the last of its kind to manufacture 100% of its products in the UK and one of the few remaining vertical manufacturers, buying yarn and knitting it into garments on site. Cliff is a central part of the company’s production team in a specialised role, with responsibility for producing collars, pockets and anything that doesn’t form the main part of the garment.
He spent a couple of years working in the yarn room before moving into the rib and trim section, undertaking some structured training as well as picking up skills passed down from colleagues on the company’s Shima Seiki knitting machines. He says the most important things in his role are a commitment to quality and working well under pressure.
In this part of the factory, there are thirteen Shima machines producing ribs and trims with each one programmed to create a particular piece, such as a V-neck or crew neck for sweaters or cardigans.
During his time at John Smedley, Cliff has developed a keen interest in the mechanics of the machines as
“there’s always something to learn”.
His interest comes in very handy as the machines are some of the hardest working on the factory floor.
The machines run from 6am on a Monday right the way through to 6am on a Saturday, stopping only for essential maintenance such as “blowing out” which requires an air line to blow away any collected lint. They are however, rather sensitive to the room temperature and need to be turned off if it gets too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer.
It is a delicate balance, explains Cliff.
“If the steel in the machine retracts or expands by even a 1000th of an inch, it can cause havoc with the yarn,” he says.
Cliff believes that one of the largest challenges yet most rewarding aspects of his role is that no two days are the same.
“The nature of the machines means that new challenges arise daily and we are constantly learning, which is an environment our team really enjoys,” he says.
He also really enjoys being part of a close-knit team, which works together to support each other.
“Whenever we have a new starter at any level, we pass our joint knowledge onto them. This is also the case when any issues arise with the machines – everyone shares their own ideas on their approach and we pride ourselves in sharing our joint knowledge. We have a strong community mindset in the team, and all help each other where we can,” he explains.
Cliff’s initial feelings for the continuation of craftsmanship skills at John Smedley haven’t changed and the fact that all the garments are made in Derbyshire in the UK is also extremely important to him. He is proud that to be part of a company that is flying the flag for British manufacturing around the world – international sales make up more than half of John Smedley’s revenues, with Japan, Italy, US, France, Germany and Scandinavia as the biggest export markets.
“I’m very patriotic by nature” he says, “plus the amount of export involved gives me an enormous sense of pride”.
Manufacturing Heroes: Diana Kakkar
Approachable, inviting and creative aren’t always the things you’d associate with a garment manufacturer in east London but Diana is trying to overcome any preconceptions about this part of the industry with her high-end manufacturing studio MAES London.
Using experience gained during an extensive career that spans across India, Australia, the US and culminating in the UK where she had worked as a garment tech and product developer at Erdem, she took the plunge in 2018 and set up her own premium garment manufacturing unit specialising in high-end womenswear. She’s passionate about creating closer links between designers and manufacturers, whilst finding a growing demand for sampling and small-scale production here in the UK.
London’s East End used to be the heart of the UK rag trade, with fashion manufacturers, factories and dye houses found on every street corner but today you are more likely to find a coffee shop or tech start-up in this changing area of the city. But a short walk from Bethnal Green tube station, you’ll find MAES London – a high-end garment manufacturing unit offering CMT (cut, make and trim) services to a growing roster of both new and established luxury fashion designers.
It’s a light and contemporary space, with exposed brickwork and plants, and the hum of sewing machines fills the air. It feels like a place, designers would want to visit and they do, regularly, explains Diana. Born and educated in India, she studied economics and before graduating with a degree in fashion from a top university in Delhi. After working in Sydney and New York, she made London her home and she believes it is the most exciting city in the world for fashion.
Her interest in garment construction grew and she shifted her focus from design through to production with her role running the atelier for luxury womenswear designer Erdem, which caters to members of the Royal family and many A-list celebrities around the world.
It was here, as the team was working towards London Fashion Week once again, that she had her lightbulb moment and decided to start her own business.
“The days were long and there was always more to do,” she says.
“In a state of delirium, I woke up my partner at 5am and pitched him the idea for MAES London. To my surprise, he thought it was a brilliant idea and wanted to be a part of it. He handed in his notice that day! I followed him and handed in my notice two weeks later.”
Her idea was simple. She wanted to create a high-end garment manufacturing studio that put samples at the heart of the business, helping fashion designers create beautiful garments and turn their dreams into reality.
“A number of people close to me including friends, colleagues and relatives thought I was crazy to leave a stable and secure job that I loved,” she explains.
“I was also conscious that my partner, who had never worked in fashion, had put a lot of trust in me. But I found the more I talked about MAES London, the more convinced I was that this was the right move for me.”
MAES London, which is “seam” backwards, launched in January 2018 and in less than three years the company has quadrupled its studio space and its output, expanding from the two directors, Diana and her partner Joshua Rosario, to a team of fourteen people.
Although her career path may not be the obvious one, it is thanks to her years spent in the industry that Diana understands the quality required by high-end womenswear designers. She also has a firm grasp on the commercial side of the business, insisting that the intention should always be to sell collections to fund the next one.
“I have always looked at fashion as a kind of art, but art that you need to sell,” she says.
“With my economics background, my approach to fashion is beyond just creativity. It also has to make good business sense.”
She also counts planning, organising and problem-solving as some of her key attributes, as well as a great eye for detail.
“Our clients rely on my team to give them the best, and it is my job to train my team to understand my client’s needs.”
MAES London specialises in sampling, CMT production, development and pattern cutting, with the skilled team adept at a range of techniques including lock stitching, overlocking, buttonholes, binding and cover stitching. The team can work with all woven fabrics including silk, satin, chiffon, velvet, embroidery, organza and print placement.
Diana is on her feet for most of the day and is very hands-on in each and every project.
“I love the engineering of clothes,” she says. “Quite often you’ll see me working with a machinist looking for the best way to approach a garment, technical solutions are one of the core values of our business.”
She explains: “We have an incredibly talented team here that I trust implicitly to maintain our high standards and to respect my brand vision. As we’ve grown I’ve been able to delegate more so I can focus on business development and planning the future of the company while ensuring delivering quality in a timely manner is the topmost priority.”
As part of her UKFT Manufacturing Membership, Diana has a mentor and business coach from the industry who she says provides her with invaluable support as the continues to grow.
Looking to the future, she plans to extend operations to include a production unit that caters to the needs of early-stage luxury designers, which may not be showing at events like London Fashion Week yet but have a good wholesale order book. She also recently launched a new company, Greige Prints. Aimed at textile designers, it offers six fully factored loungewear designs where she manages the whole process of printing the artwork on a luxurious fabric and produces the final garments in her manufacturing studio.
“We are on a mission to make luxury fashion manufacturing more approachable and easier,” she says.
Diana’s passion for the creative production process is infectious. She has been invited to speak to students at a number of London’s fashion schools about the opportunities in manufacturing and this is something she’d like to pursue further.
“There are so many fantastic jobs that the industry has to offer outside of traditional buying and designing roles, and I want to demonstrate how exciting and glamorous manufacturing can be,” she says.
UKFT's British Textile Week
UKFT launched British Textile Week from 9-15 September 2020 to provide a digital showcase of the craftsmanship, creativity and technical skills of the UK textile industry.
UK fabrics are highly sought after by the world’s most prestigious designers, tailors and fashion brands as the starting point for their collections, while our homegrown flair for printed, woven, knitted and embroidered textile design blends creativity with commerciality.
During the week, we told the stories of some of the British textile companies that would normally be at international apparel fabric trade shows during the month of September, as well as putting the spotlight on some of the pioneers and leaders in our field.
The week featured a series of online articles, images, interviews, case studies, videos, seasonal trends and more, with a focus on one area of the industry each day:
UKFT co-ordinated the British Textile Week project with the generous support of The Clothworkers’ Company and the Campaign for Wool.
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