Patrick Grant – of The Great British Sewing Bee and Savile Row – is on a mission. And truth be told, here at Croft Mill, we have fallen even more in love with him even more because of it.
One of the moments that define Patrick, in the fashion industry he has come to rule, is when he decided to sell his house and buy a defunct tailoring business on Savile Row. Risky? Yes, but it seems even more so when you consider that he (rumour has it) has had no formal training in tailoring or indeed sewing.
So next time you are struggling with a pattern or a fabric, presevere; it worked for Patrick.
From the tailoring business came Patrick Grants’ own label with a dedicated following, E Tautz – which sources most of its fabric from mills and manufacturers in the UK. It was this E Tautz label that has spurred him into action.
Most of the cottons used in his collections, came from a mill in Blackburn (a mere 30 minutes away from us.) After receiving an email stating that the Mill would fulfil this one last order, but then close down, he knew he had to help.
And so, Community Clothing was born.
The fashion industry, which impacts many a mill works on two calendars – with pushes to complete the Spring/Summer collections and Autumn/Winter collections. However this means that there are often periods in between where mills, and their workers, are quieter. This can often lead to seasonal hiring and firing, or the dreaded zero-hour contract, with many mills only able to keep 20% of their workforce on a permanent basis. Due to the uncertainty of who will be working when and how long they will be busy for, mill owners are often reluctant to invest in training and machinery. The lack of training, and as such skilled workers, is the reason for the often spiralling prices of British-made garments.
Feeling for the workers, who may not know from one month to the next how their employment may be affected, Patrick Grant wanted to not only save the mill but keep it open, and paying workers, all year round.
As such, he used money from his E Tautz brand to buy the mill and has started this Kickstarter campaign to raise the additional £75,000 needed. For those who are new to crowd funding, the basic idea of a kickstarter campaign is that members of the public can ‘pledge’ money to the idea – but it will only be taken, and given to the person who created the campaign if the target is reached within its deadline.
The basic idea behind Community Clothing is that, as well as suppling designers, during the quieter periods the factory will supply tote bags, men’s and women’s jeans, jackets and waterproof coats to the general public, all made in Blackburn with prices ranging from £15.00 – £119.00
The Community Clothing project has already created 30 new jobs, which is no small feat. Patrick believes the project has made him more political telling The Standard “The more you do this, the more you realise how many political decisions take no account of the wider consequences.” Referring to the Blackburn mill he notes “the business was largely sustained by making army uniforms. But back in 2009, central government tried to save a few million from the defence budget by procuring uniforms and equipment overseas. The consequence is that a whole series of factories have closed down, hundreds of people go on the dole and while towns lose their purpose… The source of pride in communities lay I their work. It was the factories that bound their society together. When we lost those manufacturing jobs we replaced them with a welfare system that provided the basics of food, water, heat – but what it didn’t do was provide anything to support pride, values, emotional well-being.”
Bringing business back to the mill is not just about the finances, it’s about giving a sense of hope to communities. It’s about telling them that we, the rest of the UK, value their skills, their time, their livelihoods.
Community Clothing currently has an e-shop where you can view the products, and in time will also branch out into selling on Ebay. If you buy a pair of jeans and they don’t fit, don’t worry you can still exchange them for another size as you would any other high-street store.
Patrick Grant, who is often seen as the darling of menswear designer labels, chooses his words carefully – sure to avoid naming any brands in particular – but notes that many big labels who are owned by very rich individuals, will often outsource production to cheaper factories in developing countries. Patrick Grant, ever the gentlemen asks, do they really need the extra profit? He calls it “pure greed” and leaves us with a message we could all get behind:
“Take less, do something better.”