Many of the brands using MADE IN BRITAIN labelling are actively supporting communities, offering opportunities for employment and skills development in a sector of the UK economy which has declined rapidly in recent years.
There is a pioneering recycled fashion movement which is looking at innovative ways of addressing issues of landfill and overconsumption in the UK and beyond.
A number of brands are leading the way in supporting traditional culture, skills, and ethical production of woollen clothing in the UK from field to final product.
By manufacturing in the UK, fashion brands can reduce the amount of shipping and transport involved in the supply chains for their products, reducing the carbon footprint of this part of their work.
However it is important to note that MADE IN BRITAIN labelling alone does not equate to ethical practices.
MADE IN BRITAIN labelling does not mean that a product is “Fairtrade” , which by definition does not include products made in the UK.
Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their lot and have more control over their lives. (Definition by The Fairtrade Foundation)
Many key raw materials for fashion products cannot or are not produced in the UK.
This includes cotton as well as many synthetic and eco-fabrics primarily produced in Asia. The majority of fashion components from zips to buttons, interfacings and fixings are also produced in Asia, primarily China. Therefore apart from clothing made entirely from recycled product or wool, any fashion collection Made in Britain will include components grown and assembled elsewhere. Made in Britain labelling is not relevant to sustainability standards for these components.
Carbon footprint and transport
To put things in context, a recent study by the University of Cambridge on the sustainability footprint of a range of fashion supply models found that the carbon footprint of the transport component of products is a small fraction of the overall carbon footprint of fashion products. By far the largest carbon contribution is derived from the use phase, and therefore a consumer issue (washing and drying clothes , which are very energy intensive)
Production of clothing or components of clothing in different parts of the world has been a part of the garment industry for centuries. In fact the garment industry cannot exist without being global, thanks to some environments being more suited to growing crops such as cotton.
This trade in garments and textiles has created a springboard for industrial development all over the world- with Britain and America being amongst the first to benefit followed by the “Asian Tiger” economies of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, and more recently, China and India. Producing garments or components of garments outside of the UK to sustainable standards can assist development in some of the poorest communities in the world, create sustainable livelihoods and reduce poverty for thousands of people.
It is only by raising standards and wages outside of the UK that the UK garment production sector will again be in a position to compete on equal terms with production in what are currently low wage economies.
Made in Britain
MADE IN BRITAIN labelling is more and more being associated with high sustainability standards by fashion designers and brands based in the UK.