Is UK manufacturing important? Launching a new, Made in London luxury nightwear brand

Is UK manufacturing important? Launching a new, Made in London luxury nightwear brand

Probably a more common first question; is anything manufactured in the UK any more?

This is a very valid ask. If you look inside the garment labels of your clothing, it is still very unusual to see the ‘Made in Britain’ or ‘Made in UK’ mark, unless you are looking at vintage garments. 

I should know, having had a very stylish grandmother with a very enviable wardrobe full of beautiful British, French and Italian made dresses and knits. All stunning, but sadly tiny. I may have inherited the fashion gene, but most certainly not the 23-inch waist. Anyway, I digress. 

As a Made in Britain brand owner, this is obviously an area of interest. It’s a complex picture which needs some context before diving into whether it is important, and the experience of starting a Made in London brand. 

So, why is it the case that many things which used to be manufactured on our shores aren’t any longer?  


The cost implications 

Well, a big factor is cost. For cost saving exercises, many brands have outsourced their manufacturing overseas to save money on manufacturing. For larger brands, who may be creating thousands of units of the same style to cater for a large market, it makes sense financially. Many overseas factories are well equipped to deal with very high volumes of orders. 

This is still less common in the UK, where, from my experience, there is a greater focus on smaller, specialised production for a lesser number of items; particularly at the upper end of the market. Of course, these are generalisations, there are factories in the UK that can handle larger orders and small-scale factories overseas will manage smaller quantities. 

Another reason that this reduces costs is wages. The UK has strong labour laws and requirements for wages which, when followed, drives up the cost of manufacturing significantly. The reason I have put ‘when followed’ is because of the numerous news articles that have come out about some appalling wages in a section of both UK and overseas factories. Naming no names, it is a mere Google search away.  


Quantity and savings 

With the above comes another consideration. If you buy more of anything, you tend to pay less per piece. A trap you can easily fall into at Boots when you come out with three of the same cleanser when you only needed one, only to discover it brings you out in a rash. Not saying everything you buy more of will bring you out in a rash, but it’s a lesson well learnt. When buying in larger quantities, factories benefit from economies of scale and so your price goes down. But, are all of those dresses realistically going to sell? 

Fashion is known as one of the most polluting industries on the planet, and overproduction is one, of many, facets of the issue. I’ll do another post on material choices as this is a whole other ball game. It, therefore, makes sense to consider as a fashion brand how much is actually going to sell. The issue is, as much as you can predict trends, look at past sales and give the most accurate forecast, sometimes it just nearly impossible for a brand to know what will and won’t resonate. With this comes the risk that the item that has been produced in many hundreds of units is simply not going to be as popular. Then, what happens with all this excess? Typically, not very good things – think landfill. 



It is worth noting that factories or manufacturing studios each have specialisms and equipment that allow them to handle different types of clothing or techniques. Many countries have areas of specialism, such as India which is famed for gorgeous hand embroidery. So, typically, if a brand needs a certain technique done, they will be more limited geographically as to where they can get this done to the standard required. It may, therefore, make perfect sense to manufacture abroad.  


The ethical angle 

To be completely transparent, there are very good, and very bad, factories all around the world. The Made in UK badge is not one which is a guarantee of ethical practices. As I mentioned above, there have been some very poor practices that have come to light in the UK. It is easy to point the finger at a factory, but you have to ask the question; would they be paying such a low wage if there was no pressure from the retailer? During the pandemic, particularly, a lot of brands were forced to rethink their supply chains to get hold of stock to sell, meaning that some chose to manufacture in the UK. 

If you are moving your manufacturing from overseas to the UK, there is of course going to be a wage difference. However, if you still want to sell the dress for £40 and the fabric cost remains static; how is this going to work? I’ll let you take a guess. With a Living Wage in the UK being £9.50 per hour at the current rate, the sums do not add up. Of course, here I am talking about fast fashion, the polar end of the spectrum to ISSOIR, but it illustrates a point. 



So, where does ISSOIR sit in all of this? 

I hope I’ve provided a balanced view so far, as I’ve said, there is never a one size fits all rule to manufacturing and the best place to do this. 

As you may have noticed, as I have mentioned it once or twice, I decided to make ISSOIR in the UK. Why? Let me tell you my thought process, how I went about it and how this fits with the brand’s aims. 


The thought process 
  • I wanted to set up a brand which produced the highest quality pieces possible. These are pieces that are designed to last and be treasured for many years to come. This was a major focus in finding a suitable manufacturing partner. 


  • I use pure silk, with a satin weave. If anyone reading this has ever tried sewing with silk, you will know that it really is not easy to work with. When done well, the end garment is simply unparalleled. It was of upmost importance that ISSOIR pieces were handled by high end silk specialists. 


  • It was non-negotiable that my manufacturing partner operated ethically. Here I am talking wages, health and safety and generally workers being happy and looked after. 


  • Having previously worked in the luxury sector, at Burberry, in client facing roles, I saw an unmatched prestige for UK, or Italian made products. I wanted to continue the heritage of British made products, support local manufacturing and establish ISSOIR as a truly British brand. 


  • The true essence of luxury is craftsmanship and care. It was paramount that my manufacturing partner catered to the luxury market, and were able to offer the level of finish required by you. 


  • Being based in the UK myself, it made sense to shorten the supply chain and be able to regularly pop over to the studio to check in on samples, production, form a great relationship and reduce air miles. 



Starting a Luxury, Made in London Fashion Brand 

With all this in mind, having worked on my designs, pattern and toiles, initial samples, fabric sourcing and tech packs (I’ll explain what all these are in a separate post), it was time to find a studio that met all of these criteria. A tall order!  

Well, actually the search began earlier, but let us not confuse things. I began working with the wonderful Clare Alexander, a true expert on manufacturing and supply chains. Together we ‘interviewed’ a select number of pre-vetted London based studios, all of whom offer the very highest quality work and settled on our wonderful partner. 


The all-female studio take my designs, patterns, toiles and something not so glamorously called a tech pack, then create samples which are then perfected prior to production. This process is done in person to make sure that we are all on the same page, something which wouldn’t be feasible to do abroad. Once I am happy with the samples, have made any edits to finishes (this can be really tiny details!), we sign them off and small-scale production begins. 


This is why being a Made in London nightwear brand is beneficial to you as a client: 


  • Each piece is cut by hand individually, with a very small team of highly skilled seamstresses who imbue care and luxury into each piece. If they are ever unsure of anything, I get a call so no detail is missed. You can rest assured that the finish is unparalleled.  


  • Being in London, the beating heart of the revered UK fashion industry, our manufacturing partner work with a number of well-known British and European luxury brands. I can’t name them here, but be assured that your ISSOIR pieces are made in the same studio that creates many of the beautiful, complex creations you see only in their runway collections. Each piece simply oozes luxury. 


  • I can afford to not overproduce and to offer an exclusive service to clients. As my studio have capabilities to be more flexible when a piece becomes unavailable, if you want something that is no longer available, and we have the fabric left, another one can be made in a few weeks rather than months. This reduces wastage significantly and means that I can offer an individual service to you as a client.  


  • As pieces are created on small scale, they truly are exclusive and limited in number. So, you can have your own slice of luxury that not many people are able to say they own. Being small batch, everything incredibly carefully made. Each piece is triple quality checked at the studio before I do a further check prior to it reaching you as a client. 


Yes, manufacturing in London is very expensive and certainly not suitable for every level of the market. However, as a client buying a piece that you will treasure for years to come, you can be safe in the knowledge that the quality and attention to detail is unparalleled, and that each seamstress is paid a true living wage for their immense skill. 


At ISSOIR, I care deeply about you as a customer, providing you with only the best products and being honest and open about my practices. The fashion industry is a place which is rather shrouded in secrecy, and whilst a brand will unlikely tell you the exact place that their pieces are made (there are good reasons not to, more due to competitors than being deliberately naughty). However, as a tip when shopping, if a brand is happy to show off about their manufacturing practices, it is typically a good sign! 


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and if you haven’t done already, sign up to the ISSOIR Insider newsletter to get more of my musings directly to your inbox! 


With love, 

 Isobel signature

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