Five years ago I was invited to No.10 Downing Street to talk about my belief in British manufacturing which I did not feel we were making the most of considering the value of the Made in Britain label. The government introduced me to Jonathan Newhouse, chairman of Condé International who was also championing our clothes making industry and we set up the Condé Nast Emma Willis Sewing Scholarship, a years paid training at our factory sponsored by Condé Nast with a certificate on graduation. The aim was also to recognise the sewing skills in the industry rather than just the designers.
We also recently opened a community Sewing Studio at the Friendship Cafe in Gloucester run by Aysha Randera, our fifth Condé Nast Sewing Scholar, who trained with us for a year in order to be able to teach and pass on these skills to others in the city, either for pleasure or future careers. It is also a place to meet and make new like minded creative friends and learn English where needed, especially for the many refugees who the city welcomes.
It has been a wonderful project and proved that it is possible, with the right training, to teach young people who are creative and hard working to sew to the highest level in only a few months, giving great hope to our industry in the future.