The Zip Project Ltd - the joint venture formed by Marks & Spencer children's wear and Desmond & Sons Limited - has officially opened its state-of-the-art garment development and sourcing facility in Claudy, Co. Londonderry (director-e News, Monday 8 July).
Sir Reg Empey MLA, Minister for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment performed the opening, which means that key, knowledge-based jobs in the clothing industry will be created in Northern Ireland, enabling the Zip Project Ltd to compete successfully at a world class level.
The Zip Project was established in August 2001 in response to the unique characteristics of the children's wear market. Its function is to design, develop and supply children's wear to Marks & Spencer stores.
The new company will increase the speed, efficiency, and cost effectiveness of the supply of children's wear, enabling customers to benefit from more competitive pricing, and faster access to fashionable clothes.
The new building represents an investment in Claudy, Co. Londonderry, of £2.4 million, with the creation of over 120 jobs in the local community. Some 225 people will be employed in total by the Zip Project joint venture in Claudy and London.
Roger Holmes, managing director, Marks & Spencer UK Retail said: "I am delighted that we are working so closely with one of our long standing supply partners on this new and innovative venture.
"It supports our shared objective to continually seek to produce better products for our customers, faster, with more flexibility and at lower cost", he added.
Based at Drumahoe, County Londonderry, Desmond & Sons has supplied children's wear and adult clothing to Marks & Spencer for over 60 years.
The new Claudy development and sourcing centre will utilise the technical skills and expertise of the local workforce, designing and producing clothing patterns and prototype garments, then contracting out the production to a world class supply base.
Michèle Jobling, managing director of The Zip Project Ltd said: "We chose Desmond & Sons as our joint venture partner in recognition of the excellent design, sourcing and technical skills of its workforce.
"We are working really well together and, focusing on quality, value and innovation, we aim to profitably grow our children's wear business and increase our market share in this sector".
Denis Desmond, CBE, chairman and managing director of Desmond & Sons, commented: "The Zip Project was formed to address the challenges of an increasingly competitive and fast-moving children's wear market.
He continued: "The opening of this exciting unit in Claudy cements the long-standing relationship between Desmond & Sons and Marks & Spencer, and demonstrates how innovative thinking can transform the performance of our traditional industries and create new knowledge-based jobs here in Northern Ireland".
The first ranges from The Zip Project Ltd will launch in all Marks & Spencer stores from August 2002. And earlier this year, the company announced that it is joining forces with David Beckham to launch a new and exciting range of casual clothing for boys. David has been working closely with The Zip Project's in-house design team to create the new collection and will lend his name and image to the range. This collection will launch in September.