Emma Willis featured in The Economist ‘Traditional businesses are thriving’

‘SOMETIMES THE BEST WAY FORWARD IS BACKWARDS’ The Economist June 2014

This week we took on two new skilled machinists at our Gloucester factory as we need to increase our production, and plan to continue adding to the the team over the year.

I have been interviewing Fashion College students over the last few months and despite being impressed with several have not been able to offer them jobs as the colleges, including top London fashion colleges, are not training to sew either at all, or to a competent level on an industrial rather than the much slower domestic machine, to enable employment.

Unfortunately as a small business with a tight production and budget plan we cannot slow ourselves down significantly by training from scratch. In order to give work experience or placements in the past I have had to give students jobs in less skilled or interesting areas of the business, whereas cutting or sewing would help them either set up their own businesses, or give them a good chance of employment either with us or elsewhere.

Rebecca (as pictured) is an encouraging exception and has relocated from Scotland to take up her paid placement with us before graduating in July.

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She has been taught to sew on an industrial to a high level, as well as pattern make and cut, at Gray’s University in Aberdeen, and when I asked her in her interview if she would relocate from Scotland to Gloucester if offered a job she replied, “ Of course, wherever the work is. I would like to learn to sew to the highest level in a specialised area and I could do that here.”

In order to be sure of new talent in the future I have collaborated with Gloucester College, our neighbour in the docks. From September, as part of the fashion design course, they will be training those students interested to sew on an industrial machine to a high level, with regular visits to our factory for experience or advice, with the potential of a job on graduation. I am very enthusiastic about the plan.

Rebecca has completed her first two weeks with us and greatly impressed the very experienced machinists who take our quality extremely seriously, becoming a valuable part of the shirt making team. You will be able to meet Rebecca in the shop over the Summer on Fridays and Saturdays. She will be gaining experience in the retail side of the business, measuring and meeting our customers whose appreciation of the dedicated, skilled cutting and sewing used which goes into the make of their shirts safeguard the future of this beautiful British product, and the careers of young people keen to excel in the skills required.

“My first two weeks at the factory have been absolutely amazing. Everyone is wonderful and I’m learning so much! “ Rebecca Scott

Thank you for your support.

Best wishes,

Emma