STORY: the truth about 'local made' and factories

On the outskirts of northern London, I literally began my career inside a factory.  In the wake of the highly publicized and desirable title of "MADE IN BRITAIN" they were so to say 'bringing the industry back' which meant hiring Chinese and Polish workers to sew garments. The industry has disappeared in places like UK and USA - for the few people who retain this expertise and are keeping the industry alive, the labor is too expensive for what the average person wants to spend on a garment.

"Made in Britain" also included initiatives to teach a new generation about garment construction. I learnt on the factory floor, in the specialized garment area. With my infatuation for Victorian jackets, I had naively brought a Victorian jacket I wanted to replicate. Jackets are so difficult! I didn't realize at the time. But I gained great insight into the manufacturing process, and was taken through the entire life cycle from design to execution.

The truth is, creating garments is 100% physical labor. I didn't realize nor appreciate the intricacy of this until I was physically there.

From an initial garment idea, these are the steps broken down as well as the job :

sketch/idea designer/creative director

drape/pattern make(this is the initial idea) designer/assistant - this depends on the method of the designer, how they work ideas out. some people prefer pattern making (more tailoring-based) and some prefer draping (more fabric/body based)

pattern make essentially drafting (engineering) the shapes of garments that come together to make a well-fitted jacket pattern maker

first sample/prototype made - seamstress

tested, fitted creative team/fit model

changes made to sample, edit pattern pattern maker

second sample made seamstress

changes made/edit pattern pattern maker

third sample or sample made in final fabric seamstress/factory


you take this to a factory - it is costed studio/floor manager

pattern is DIGITIZED and GRADED for different sizes grader/digitizer

CUT cutter

SEWN and FINISHED seamstress

LABELLED labeller

QUALITY CONTROLLED quality controller

PACKAGED + DISTRIBUTED packaging/shipping team

how many steps is that? it didn't even reach the consumer yet.

I remember when I started two things fascinated me - the amount of hands that must have touched the garment before it reached me- and the patterns that make up our garments. Pattern making is essentially 2d shades sewn together to make 3d. Expertise in this ensures a good fit and hang of the garment. It's truly mind-boggling and incredible.

For the sake of ease and explanation, i left out the entire research and inspiration process which includes textiles samples and manipulations that take up an entire other chain of activities.

it's a huge process! 

treasure your clothes - choose and buy well. 

below are some photos from inside the factory, that I captured during my time there. Although a grueling experience - the sound and dust are very intense, as well as being in a working environment with no windows - I am glad to have had the experience, as it shaped my understanding of manufacturing and pushed me to seek alternatives to large scale factories.


Benedicte WilhelmsenComment