British craftsmanship: the national unsung hero

4 min read

British craftsmanship with Awling


‘Made in Britain’ and British craftsmanship are having a moment, with an increasing number of brands championing locally-made and hand-made quality goods.

British craftsmanship is a subject that is dear to me. Though not British myself, it is the talent and skills that can be found within my adopted country that has inspired me to start Jeya Narrative.

Makers are our past and our future. The passion and skills of makers, and talent in general, is at the core of Jeya Narrative’s vision. As a brand, we want to better understand the world around us and share that knowledge, helping each of us  become our best selves through education, and hopefully inspiring our customers and readers to find out even more, get involved and perhaps start something creative themselves.

With Brexit looming firmly over us, we are in a wonderful time of introspection as a country, and the leaving of the European Union is giving us food for thought, making us all reflect on our country and ponder about its history, heritage and what its future could be. But the recent rise in brands championing the ‘made in Britain’ movement and the ensuing revival of locally-manufactured goods can not simply be attributed to the impending restrictions on imports and exports.

Britain has a great history of craftsmanship and is historically rich when it comes to manufacturing. Unfortunately, ever since the Second Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century, the country has gradually lost its mighty appeal as the factory of the world to more innovative nations and countries with cheaper labour costs, leaving employment behind and great skills at risk of being forgotten.

Not all is lost though and to this day, ‘made in Britain’ retains its cachet, especially when it comes to meticulous and horned crafts of garment-making and footwear, capitalising on the country’s traditional heritage fabrics, a tremendous know-how and impeccable quality. From footwear to hosiery, knitwear and tailoring of course, Britain is renowned for making things and making them well.

 
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"It is about creating awareness not just of a brand’s product but ensuring there is understanding of the passion and processes behind it. Many new customers are drawn to the history, prestige and standards that British firms hold themselves to.” […]. Openness and education will again be of prime importance to ensure new custom respects any changes and continues to understand that British craftsmanship continues to be worth the investment; that they are buying into an ethos, artisan and manufacturing rigour and innovation that is not available anywhere else."

Rupert Watkins for The Riddle

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British craftsmanship - Made in Britain

The society we live in is changing and so are our knowledge, concerns and beliefs about the way we use resources, with our focus on sustainability directly impacting how we assess and value the things we own, wear and use every day. More than ever before, we like to understand how the things we take for granted are made.

This is backed by a proliferation of ‘how to’ videos, as we ponder about how jeans are made, how long it takes to hand-make a tie, how a cotton t-shirt if produced from scratch, how a leather pattern is created, or even what viscose is made from. We take a closer look at the machinery involved, the sewing machines hard at work, the mind of the crafter so focused, and we freely embrace the beauty of the handiwork. We watch, in awe and in true admiration, hungry for more, as we celebrate the skilled makers of our world.

As well as minimise the environmental impact of transport, buying locally also helps to support local talent and the sharing of skills, which ultimately boosts the local economy economically and socially, in turn, helping to advance our society as a whole.

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“I work with techniques and processes to make the collections as sustainable as possible. One of the yarn mills I source my yarn from is completely run by solar power and the excess fibres created from the spinning are turned into paper. The dye house uses low-impact dyes and feeds good bacteria to the wastewater to “eat” the dye – after the process is finished the water is clean again to use for agriculture.”

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Dalgado belts - craftsmanship


Whilst sustainability is one of the reasons for people to actively support British craftsmanship, it is certainly not the only one. In a Brexit climate, there is pride in promoting British skills and craftsmanship once more and a greater desire to tap into our country’s own skilled resources and knowledge for fear of losing Britain’s extensive heritage. There is a growing trend to consciously purchase lesser, better quality goods that will last the test of time. Buying ‘Made in Britain’ certainly helps to indulge in this, especially when it builds on historical handiwork and craftsmanship. Each piece becomes an homage to our past to cherish in the future.

We are lucky enough to be in a position to be able to adapt our behaviours and make more informed decisions for the wellbeing of our world, and ours too. Let’s cherish British craftsmanship and support the makers of our world, before it’s too late.

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“British manufacturers offer short lead times, cost savings on both transportation and production minimums, proximity to manufacturing facilities and quality control for the designer from beginning to end. There is, however, a challenge there. Today, only 8% of the clothes we wear are made in the UK, for the simple reason that there are not many factories left in the UK to begin with.” 

Stacey Wood, King & Tuckfield

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Alice Made This British cufflinks

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To find out more about our brands and the craft behind the products, visit The Craft on the Notebook. 
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Interested in further reading? Here are a few links, promoting different voices and opinions:

> The true costs of returns: https://vimeo.com/306634065

> Really great read from Rupert Watkins for The Riddle Magazine: https://riddlemagazine.com/british-craft/

> Podcast from the Make It British event, debating UK-made fast and slow fashion: https://makeitbritish.co.uk/podcast/063-live-fast-or-slow-fashion-which-does-the-uk-do-best/

> Genevieve Sweeney’s recent newsletter - an honest voice challenging fast fashion: https://mailchi.mp/genevievesweeney.com/june-edition-the-true-costs-of-slow-fashion-what-you-can-get-for-1?e=7d8eb19836

 


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