Sitting in the large conference room at the Mercure St Paul’s hotel in Sheffield, I feel more like I am about to sit down to a Wedding Breakfast. 20 round tables are scattered across the room, each seating 10 people and holding a selection of chilled mineral and sparkling water bottles. The room has a quiet bustle about it as old friends and colleagues catch up over a cup of complimentary tea and coffee, and newcomers find somewhere to sit. Out of the hundreds of people here, it seems only one stony faced lady has decided to raid the upper level champagne bar buying a large glass of chardonnay – hard day at work maybe?
The room is filled with a mixed bunch of people, from suited and booted business types to a laid back generation of students in faux ripped cardigans, the latest offering from All Saints. One lady walks into the room and it is clear who she is playing the part of – severely cut brown bob, tight lipped expression, large black shades – ah, the Miss Wintour of Sheffield must have arrived! Now dear reader, you may be wondering where on Earth I am? I am in fact attending a Business Link event to listen to a talk for Sheffield Fashion Week and so far, the event is running late. The invitation time stated 6pm, but true to fashion form, the event is running a ‘respectable on the catwalk’ 18 minutes late. Eventually, after what seems like hours of sipping my glass of orange juice and making strained conversation with the couple beside me, the lights are dimmed and the man I am waiting to see steps up onto the stage…Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the floor, Mr Eric Musgrave!
Now, some of you may not be aware of who the delighful Mr Musgrave is but fear not as I shall provide you with the details! Mr Eric Musgrave has worked in the fashion industry for more than 31 years – so he knows a thing or two about this fast paced, highly competitive market. After a long career in business magazines, Eric is now concentrating on writing on menswear fashion. Eric’s career has seen him work for the likes of the Financial Times, Scabal’s Bespoken Magazine and the men’s historical tailoring pictorial, Sharp Suits. It may also interest you to know that Eric was the former editor of both FHM and the fashion industry bible, Drapers.
As Eric speaks, it is hard not to like his easy going nature. His talk consists of just the right amount of serious business talk mixed with a sprinkling of light hearted humour that has the crowd softly rippling in laughter right the way to the back of the room. Eric has clearly enjoyed a fruitful career in fashion, it is clear that Eric has come to Sheffield Fashion Week with one aim – to make us all aware of the textiles industry and how it is still extremely important in the UK.
We are currently living in a time where it is not uncommon for us to use suppliers abroad – even my own family business based in the UK uses suppliers in Italy simply down to both the excellent cost and quality of the goods that they can produce compared to the UK. However, Eric wants us to realise that within the textiles industry, we have some great suppliers right here in the UK. Eric speaks of the ‘best of British’ fashion brand Duchamp, who pride themselves on manufacturing their garments in Great Britain. As their website states, “The same craftsman in Birmingham has produced the cufflinks since the company was founded, while all of the ties are handmade in England. The fabric is woven in England by a Suffolk based company that dates back to the early 1700s and is one of the oldest still designing and weaving silk in the UK.”
Throughout the duration of the short talk, Eric also drew our attention to the website Make it British who aim to list a number of UK suppliers as they believe a product’s provenance is of the utmost importance. Buying authentic British clothing and accessories produced by skilled craftsmen will help to keep both the skills and industry alive in the UK contributing to the wealth of our country.
After an inspirational talk, the charming Mr Musgrave stepped aside, later answering questions from the crowd who were happy for the opportunity to discuss UK stockists and the problems they come up against whilst sourcing the companies and the solutions we might want to consider to overcome the hurdles. Wrapping up the talk, Mr Musgrave uttered the poinient closing words: “Textiles is not a sunset industry. It is viable. British manufacturing – use it or lose it.”
Images courtesy of Eric Musgrave