but launch of new co-operative brings UK manufacturing back into fashion

By Claire West

With recent signs that Britain's manufacturing sector is seeing an upturn, one innovative co-operative is bringing the good times back to a former manufacturing hub.

Midshires Clothing, a worker owned business that provides garment manufacturing, embellishment and alteration services, has set up shop in Kettering.

The market town's economy was built on industries such as clothing and shoemaking, but figures suggest that across the UK 180 jobs in textiles disappeared EVERY WEEK between 2005 and 2009 as much sourcing moved overseas. Midshires Clothing has identified this as a market opportunity.

"We believe the time is right for us," says Alison Holland, one of the directors and owners of Midshires Clothing. "People are becoming more interested in where their clothes come from as well as the ethical and environmental desire to 'buy local'.

"Our job centre had to search hard to find the right job code to create an advert for a sewing machinist for us - it has been that long since the town has needed one" comments Alison. "There has been a steady decline in the British garment manufacturing industry over many years with much business lost to the Far East.

"We resolved to change this - we want to preserve people's skills and we intend to pass them on to future generations through apprenticeships. We also want to show that buying local isn't necessarily more expensive."

Alison adds: "We think that every business has a responsibility to the people and area that it is from. The co-operative ethos and principles match our own business principles and it was an easy decision to become a co-operative."

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK www.uk.coop , the national trade body for co operative enterprises, said:

"Manufacturing is an important part of our economy and in a co-operative all the workers can have a real stake in the success of the business.

There is no real need for clothes to be made halfway across the world.

Midshires Clothing provides a local, ethical and innovative solution that can only be of benefit to the local area and the country as a whole."

The UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) welcomes Midshires Clothing's initiative. Eric Musgrave, chief executive officer of UKFT said: "We know that more and more companies are looking to source clothing in the UK because of the convenience and the expertise on offer here. It is good to see a new addition to the still-long list of manufacturers that have retained a presence in Britain."

To find out more about Midshires Clothing please visit www.midshiresclothing.co.uk . Or to find out more about Co-operatives UK please visit www.uk.coop .