Transparency In The Supply Chain

Pouring a glass of clean drinkable water from our taps is something many of us take for granted, yet few contemplate that this simple commodity is not readily available to all.

In many countries there is little control on effluent material entering water courses, rivers and the water table all of which directly supply communities who rely on it for drinking, supporting their animals and crops, affecting human health both at source and through the food chain.

The continual drive for cheaper manufacture and low cost production has created jobs for many, but at what cost?

There is something terribly wrong if we support the unregulated use and production of chemicals during a process that sees cheap clothing and goods on our shelves, whilst ironically putting both the workforce and wider population at risk of using their meagre wages to pay for health care.

Transparency through the manufacturing chain has started to take root and is used by ethical companies who feel the responsibility of the business they run.

What is difficult for the consumer to comprehend is that every item in a garment used in its manufacture can come from all corners of the globe and have passed through many hands, before it hits the high street or luxury store. Tracking all aspects of the supply chain and ensuring that the stringent and transparent processes are adhered to, must become the responsibility of all from producer, to retailer and consumer.

Education is indeed key, if the consumer is willing to listen. Much work is already being done on this behind the scenes and I expect there are not many who can categorically say all their suppliers are fully compliant.

Linking the parts to make a product can be compared to a chain and as a consumer I want to know how many links there are and where they all come from.

Those brands who successfully manufacture all their products and can trace the ingredients back are in a strong position. Documenting the journey of the product manufacture and being able to tell it’s story has already become a regular selling tool and has huge potential for the future as consumers become more conscious of the products they purchase and use.

Buy Better Buy Local

Passionate about making product in the UK, I have become more aware of the range of talented makers who manufacture in the British Isles and Ireland. Many sell directly to the public, but would benefit from more exposure in bringing their product to market through wider distribution.

What disappoints me as I travel around the UK, is the lack of local-made product in key tourist locations. Instead we find a melee of cheap tat that reflects the country, but brought in from the Far East. Whilst price points are important, there are many skilled craftspeople who make a range of affordable authentic goods with a story to tell. We need to see more of these on sale in public places. Collaborations are key here, as small voices can be lost in a competitive world.

I start to imagine Utopia, a time when we can all experience more spaces which encompass the best of what we can make on these islands. Last November we stayed on Skye, in a hotel where, much of the product was locally sourced. From the interior fabrics woven by Skye Weavers on pedal looms in the west of the island to the taste of Skye beers and Gin, we felt engaged in having the full Skye experience, which I can totally recommend, especially out of season.
Many premium consumers seek out these genuine experiences, but often they are hard to find. This is why my Utopia would be to travel the country and find totally authentic local product in many public locations.

John Lewis have the right concept, when they opened their Leeds store last October offering over 200 products made from within a 30mile radius. Direct feedback indicates that the concept was well received and is currently under consideration for other stores.

Retailers I ask that you review your product offering and consider the benefit of bringing in the best of local talent. Curated quality product made locally and telling a great story is what so many people seek.

How do consumers value premium textiles made in Britain (findings available to purchase).

How do consumers value Premium textiles ( click on to see short video) made in Britain and what are the attributes they engage with. This 107 page document is a downloadable dissertation bringing together recent research into the subject title.

The content covers Provenance, Craftsmanship, Trust, Engagement, Emotional Connection, Communication, Sustainability, Transparency and the Conscious Consumers.

Looking at new business models and emerging brands unencumbered by traditional methods, these newbies are successfully engaging with the consumer resulting in sales on a digital platform.

After carrying out primary and secondary research with access to Mintel, Bain and Co. The Global Luxury Report, The Repatriation of UK Texiles,  Walpole Luxury Summit and Barclays CEBR report , this document was finished at the end of 2016.

If you would like to receive a copy, please email

London Craft Week May 2017

London Craft Week continues to celebrate the best of British craftsmanship and with open access to all, it is an opportunity for brands to engage with consumers in an open dialogue around the making of their products.

I only had a few hours on Wednesday 3rd May, but managed to get around a couple of events which was well worth the dash across town.

Harrison, an apprentice Mulberry bag maker, was whisked up from the Somerset factory into the Bond Street store, explained how he and his brother have worked for Mulberry since they left school. He skilfully demonstrated how a bag is made with simple tools laid out on a table, beside an array of different leathers used to make their iconic bags. In reality there is much more of a production line in Somerset, but for the consumer to get up close and personal with a maker, really seals the understanding of the care and skill required to create these products.

Moving swiftly on to Saville Row to catch a taster of the Jimmy Beaumont capsule collection provided by many of the great tailors, including Anderson and Shepherd and newest to the Street, (or rather round the corner) Dashing Tweed. Guy kindly provided the photos taken at the Beaumont Hotel.

From there I headed across to the Hussein Chalayan Store only to find out that his event had been cancelled. Fortunately, I managed at the last minute to gain entry to the Anya Hindmarch talk, led by Caroline Issa of Tank Magazine during which Anya spoke with passion about her life’s work and how she has built her business based in London. The focus was on her “Bespoke” offering with great anecdotes around how customers embody such personal messages within her bespoke leather products. There will be more on this in the next post.

As part of a small audience of 30 in the store, it was wonderful to have direct access to such creative individuals who are masters in design and who speak with such passion about their journey and the skills required to manufacture within the UK.

Provenance-Meet the Manufacturer, The Old Truman Brewery, London 24th May, 10am.

In today’s increasingly competitive market the provenance of a product is more important than ever in order to attract the conscious consumer who seeks out a genuine and compelling story, when they look for the detail around the product they seek.

Provenance is only part of the picture and a Made in Britain label on its own is not enough to guarantee sales. The communication between the brand and the consumer starts by building trust. Trust is the fundamental basis of relationships and yet often brands miss this simple step when choosing traditional forms of “sell sell” communication to their prospective consumer. Savvy consumers see through this old style of marketing and instead are connecting with new content rich and relevant brands who have clear identities and genuinely stand for something.

Other than essentials, when given a choice most purchases are made through an emotional connection, whether based on recommendation, association or some other link that signals a positive message to the brain. Creating an emotional connection with your customer should therefore be a driver in your business.

Where you manufacture and the ingredients you use, becomes applicable to this discussion. Telling your story well through great visuals and focused relevant content will help connect and thus retain the consumer in the long term.

During the seminar at Meet the Manufacturer, London 24th May, I will explore this subject in more detail. Joan Johnston


Inspirational Colour