We are just over half way through a very challenging year for people all over the world. There is absolutely no doubt that the 2020 pandemic has wreaked havoc for so many businesses, big and small. Let's also not forget how fortunate we are here in the UK unlike so many throughout the globe - in that we have some form of safety net and provision. It's very humbling.
Due to challenges caused by this pandemic and the ongoing lockdown, our UK manufacturing was brought to a standstill. But if a business is to survive, these challenges should always be met 'head on' with a view to turning them into opportunities.
The slower pace and 'think time' provided by the lockdown and its proceeding weeks gave myself and my fantastic team the space to consider and investigate how we could turn this tricky situation into an opportunity. It has always been a dream of mine to have our own 'onsite' manufacturing unit but it didn't feel like it was the right time to change how we worked. Now, many things had changed and this 'great pause' was the ideal opportunity to move forward.
Our area of West Yorkshire in the North of England has a deep rooted history in textiles and there are still pockets of people with experience, ability and talent that thrive in a 'making' environment. So another nudge for me was when I recently rediscovered my history book on the Textile Mills of West Yorkshire (#historybuff #geek). Whilst browsing, I came across an old image of our Mill: 'Wellington Mills' in Elland (see above). The image shows one of the floors in work (we think it might be our floor) from the early 1930s.
Although our mill was involved mainly in spinning - this image really demonstrates the manufacturing history of this building. Since most mills in the area have been converted to flats or demolished, it really is fantastic to be in this great place. I was completely inspired by this image.
The third and final push for myself personally to move forward with our manufacturing unit, was when i was involved in making scrubs during the height of the lockdown. I started a local Scrub Hub and ran the hub from our somewhat deserted offices. Our hub was inundated with volunteers and I met some amazing people. Working with these volunteer home sewers - we made 154 sets for a mix of GPs, Volunteer Dentists and even delivered an order to our local A & E. Whilst being a little stressy at times, i really enjoyed getting back onto a sewing machine (will admit breaking a needle or two) and also hand cutting again. It was like returning to my roots.
As a result of the pandemic, things are changing and more people are becoming interested and concerned about product origins. The House of Foxy would never fit into the 'fast fashion' category - our focus being to produce high quality items to be treasured. Our intention is to be able to create more and more special products at our on-site factory. Already, we are earmarking production for winter coats, special occasion wear, suits and our menswear....
Our first set of machines...
It's now the end of July and we have just received our first batch of machines, interviews for staff are in progress and we are slowly converting the space into our little manufacturing unit. We hope to fully open in early September depending on pandemic guidance as it is essential we ensure our machinists are social distanced and protected. It will certainly feel great to have created jobs and to be manufacturing here in Yorkshire again.
Simply put - good things can come from difficult times....
Watch this space!