Open and Clothes
Fashion designer Patrick Grant has launched an exciting initiative that promises to put Blackburn at the heart of a textile revival.
The Lancashire town that used to export vast quantities of textiles and machinery all over the world is the hub for Community Clothing, a social clothing initiative dedicated to making clothes, creating jobs and restoring pride in the UK textile working community.
Patrick started small with the initial goal of raising £100,000 on the crowd funding platform Kickstarter, determined to make exceptional quality British clothing more affordable.
Community Clothing was born out of Grant’s thinking about the big structural issues that face UK clothing and textile businesses – namely huge seasonality of demand and the creation of long slack periods in the production schedules.
“In Britain we have a proud tradition of making the very finest textiles and the very best clothes,” he says. “But the British clothing industry faces all sorts of serious challenges. For several months every year even the best British factories are nowhere near full. This can lead to seasonal hiring and firing, zero hours contracts, or worse – factory closures.’’
Community Clothing’s plan is to the spare capacity in slack periods to make good quality clothes and sell directly to the consumer, cutting out the usual wholesale and retail markups.
“By designing with simple manufacturing in mind, these products can be sewn in the same premium fabrics and with the same quality as the best high-end designer clothes,” he says. “With our profits we will invest in programmes in those same communities where the factories are located. We will support skills training, personal development programmes and apprenticeships that help get people into skilled work in the textile and garment industry.” Community Clothing has established links with a network of factories across England, Scotland and Wales in traditional clothing and textile making communities. The initial production run of jeans and outerwear will be manufactured at the Cookson and Clegg clothing factory in Blackburn.
Established in 1860 Cookson and Clegg originally manufactured leather work-wear for coal deliverymen, quickly moving on to produce uniforms for the British Army but following the loss of military contracts to overseas manufacturers it was announced in February 2015 that the business was to be shut.
Patrick Grant intervened, buying the business and stopping its closure. Community Clothing will offer a range of quality, staple everyday garments. The first range will include men’s and women’s jeans at £49, a classic Harrington jacket (£79) and a cotton twill raincoat at £119. Production has begun and delivery to customers is expected in July, starting as an online store, and Grant is hoping to open the first Community Clothing shop this summer.
“I believe that everyone in Britain should be able to afford to buy exceptional quality British-made clothes, and to play their own part in sustaining and creating British jobs. Community Clothing will support great employers and great workers in communities across Britain.”
As the Kickstarter crowd-funding initiative reached its target, Grant said: “I could not be happier that we’ve beaten our target and that Community Clothing will now become a reality. I want to thank everyone who has supported our campaign. I have been quite overwhelmed by the messages of support, some incredibly moving and personal, from people across the UK and abroad who have connected with this very simple idea, have understood the importance of it, and have pledged their support”.
While people can no longer pledge their support through Kickstarter, they are still able to order products through www.communityclothing.co.uk.