Why Did I Choose to Manufacture in The UK?

I hope you’re all well and staying strong during this time of great uncertainty, wherever you are in the world. If you’re in self-isolation and / or in lockdown then hopefully you will find this blog post a great distraction. Unlike my usual posts this one probably isn’t going to be funny; I know; a total shame. I get a lot of messages and support from the readers of this blog who find the little posts comical and entertaining even if I’m only complaining about a recent photoshoot. If you haven’t taken a look at some of my earliest posts then please do, especially if you’re interested in growing a fashion start-up. Ok, so what’s today’s post all about? Well, I thought considering we’re all confined to barracks (homes) I thought I’d answer a question I seem to have been getting a lot recently.

Why do I (the brand) manufacture in the UK?

If I wanted to start a fast-fashion brand then yes, I would outsource all manufacturing to the Far East and get everything made dirt cheap. I’m not kidding, the labour cost for a tote bag can be as little as £0.50. But, despite the lure of large margins, I had no desire to create a fast fashion brand.

But I could still manufacture in the Far East so why didn’t I?

Yes, I could manufacture products in the Far East, like many other designers do, but personally, as a consumer, I like to avoid products manufactured abroad - where possible. I find price tags hard to stomach when I know how cheap a product really costs to make. In essence, I don’t mind paying more for a product as long as the quality and provenance is there. A big perk of manufacturing in the UK is that I can quality control every bag. I have a great relationship with my manufacturer in London; no language barriers, no time zone differences and no geographical barriers. If there’s a problem I simply pick up the phone.

Production runs are normally six to eight weeks depending on the design’s complexity and quantities. Currently, that means that I can have products in my stock room and ready to go live on the website within ten weeks. If I manufactured in China, whilst the factories work twenty-four hours a day and run production quicker (at an expense of quality), to ship to the UK via a container ship could take anywhere from thirty to forty-five days. That’s an extra month before I can even start selling. As all my products are handcrafted in London, I can be reactive to trends and don’t have lengthy periods without any stock.

But what else?

I was in Selfridges, oh darling Selfridges, the other day, doing a bit competitor analysis; taking a look at the other designers, checking stitching tension, edge staining and so on, as one does! There was a bag which I really liked; it was bold, stylish but practical and the leather quality was simply scrumptious. The price tag was five figures but that is to be expected from a titan of luxury, British fashion. I won’t name the brand but you will have heard of it. They like to market themselves as a ‘heritage brand’ and love to sell the British kudos. This is great if not hypocritical. In my eyes, you can’t call yourself a ‘Made in Britain’ brand when your products are not manufactured in the British Isles. This particular handbag, I found out was manufactured in Italy. Many designers have their leather goods manufactured in Italy and source their leather from there too, such as Victoria Beckham, Chloe, Givenchy and Stella McCartney.

In the hierarchy of manufacturing, Italy is better than China however, personally, this brand was ripping customers off for selling this particular product for five figures. Perhaps it’s because I’m in the industry that I see things differently but, of course, if you agree or disagree then let me know. Kudos is what sells designer products, unfortunately, in most cases, not quality.

When I founded the brand in 2016 there were a lot of hurdles; I couldn’t have picked a worse time to start a fashion brand. The current climate isn’t wholly dire but it’s not great. Every week a brand goes into administration - the old titans of the high street have collapsed. To keep a start-up afloat, land stockists and get past the three-year mark is pretty bloody difficult but I’ve managed it. At the beginning I never thought my biggest markets would be the United States and Australia; the ‘made in London’ kudos is incredibly appealing to them and that’s great! ‘Made in China’ and ‘made in Italy’ are probably less so.

One of the best things about manufacturing in London is our ability to minimise our carbon footprint. Compared to other brands, because we source all our leather and materials from within England too, we are far more sustainable.

The desire behind TAMARA HARVEY is to sell sustainable luxury at a reasonable price. If that sounds like your thing and you want to support a young, emerging British designer then please take a look at our current product range, give us a follow on social media and stay up to date with all our news.