In western Wales, a small town charmingly called Cardigan with a population of 4000 once churned out 35,000 pairs of jeans every week for 30 years. Before the days of outsourcing, the last existing denim factory in Britain crafted the world’s finest dungarees. With the closure of the last denim factory in Britain, these craftsmen have nowhere to practice their skills. Some of them have spent close to 30,000 hours honing these techniques of denim making.
David Heiatt is making moves to change all this in this centuries-old town. He wants Cardigan’s ‘Grandmasters’ of denim to make jeans locally again. He is still raising money to bring his label HIUT into fruition. He has the full support and enthusiasm of all the denim workers in the town.
Hieatt reckons that the recession has made the British consumer reassess consumerism. Many people are becoming uncomfortable with manufacturing being outsourced and still others are despairing the slow loss of British craftsmanship. He says that:
“Our love affair with cheap and throwaway is not over, but it is showing signs of being on the wane. A new mantra seems to have been adopted: buy less, but better.”
Hieatt acknowledges the difficult task he is embarking on – not only does he want to revive the town’s economy by maing jeans, he also wants to ensure that it is the opposite of the throwaway fashion that has become so prevalent. It will also prove to other towns that factories can reopen, old skills can be revived and local industry can thrive even in the face of overseas labour.
To ensure that HIUT Denim Co stays on rack, Hieatt has drawn up a ‘user manual‘ that is inspiring and the basis of any sustainable business model. Even without trying, the company has a strong vision of CSR and ethical business practices. Made in Britain products have found vociferous support in the recent years. A Made in Britain logo was launched in July after research showed that 67% of consumers want to know what brands are made in Britain.
This revival of home-made products is certainly heartening because it shows that people are beginning to take more pride in the products produced in their local communities. This is also a positive step for sustainability because locally manufactured products have a lower footprint, particularly because there is les transportation of goods involved. For many manufacturers, shorter distances also mean better control of their supply chains. The manufacturing sector in the UK has been on a steady decline for several decades. In the 70s, over 20% of the British economy was based on manufacturing but today it is down to 12%.
The only way to turn around the trend is for entrepreneurs to revive dead or dying industries or forge new avenues that encourage the local workforce. It may be a brave new path to embark on, but the future belongs to those brands that are sustainable and local production is a key component of sustainability.
Image Credit: Top – Wonderweg, Wiki Media Commons. Bottom – Made in Britain, Logo