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How Leicester keeps its spot as UK hotbed for textiles and fashion while improving the sector’s image


Some 30 dozen fashion and textiles businesses joined forces to showcase Leicester’s place as a hotbed for clothes design and technology.

Social enterprise Fashion-Enter brought together 30 businesses for an expo at Leicester’s Athena venue, highlighting the quantity and quality of products being manufactured in and around the city.

It comes a few months after the organisation opened a training and skills centre called the Fashion Technology Academy (Leicester) backed by £300,000 of Leicester City Council funding, and offering apprenticeships and accredited training for people working in, or want to work in, the textiles industry.

The Athena event included displays by garment factories and textile businesses as well as seven local designers, demonstrating the standards, craftsmanship and quality of their work.

Fashion teams from brands including Asos, I Saw it First, Quiz, Solander, the Very group, Missy Empire and Boohoo attended, building links and networking with Leicester suppliers.

It was also attended by fashion start-ups, independents and entrepreneurs and culminated in a fashion show, celebrating the vibrancy of talent in Leicester.

Fashion-Enter worked closely with local fashion designer Millie and the Mode Collective to co-ordinate, choreograph and stage the show, which featured garments from eight local businesses and seven designers.

Fashion-Enter chief executive Jenny Holloway said: “It’s time to be proud of Leicester manufacturers.

“Proximity sourcing is the only way forward for transparency and speed of response and thanks to the council’s successful bid to the Government’s Community Renewal Fund, we were able to host this factory exhibition and showcase the factories’ work in our fashion show.

“We want to engage with schools too in the community to encourage pupils to consider how great manufacturing is, and educate the next generation about the different jobs there are in the sector.

“Over the past five months we have been working with a wide range of factories and undertaken business diagnostics to ensure they are fit for purpose to supply retail chains and retailers.

“There really are some excellent highly skilled manufacturers in Leicester and we’re proud to be working with them.

“We’ve also recently launched Leicester Made, a fantastic resource promoting our local garment businesses. It’s a free online directory for anyone, UK or overseas, who would like to source and make clothing in Leicester.”

Since opening in November, the new academy has welcomed more than 140 students, achieving 99 qualifications to date.

Courses cover skills such as sewing, tailoring and pattern cutting, as well as workers’ rights and labour exploitation, and are free for unemployed people. Apprenticeships are available to employers.

Based in Stonebridge Street, at the heart of Leicester’s garment industry, the academy shares a building with clothing company Ethically Sourced Products Ltd, which has made the second floor of its premises available for the project.

Deputy city mayor Coun Adam Clarke said: “Our engagement with Fashion-Enter is part of our strategic approach to redefining Leicester’s garment industry.

“We’re determined to promote what the sector does well and to raise standards through this partnership whilst working partners with enforcement powers to drive out exploitation and maladministration as we await more decisive Government action to be taken nationally to tackle these problems.

“The fashion academy is doing great work, not only in training local people to enter the industry, but also in making links between local suppliers and industry buyers, ensuring that factories and brands are operating at the high standards we want to see.

“Shorter supply chains are surely the way forward in making the garment industry more sustainable, ethical and accountable.”



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