The annual conference of the Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry was voted a stirring success by a record number of attendees (240) and this success was down to a strong slate of speakers, a brilliant fashion show of student designs Choreographed by Stephanie Ingham and sponsored by M & S, and the whole event coordinated with urbane professionalism by Dr. Ian Holme, Conference Chairman.
Marks and Spencer were well rewarded for their terrific sponsorship of the Student Design award. The competition produced absolutely stunning designs from a large number of colleges around the country and the difficulty for the judges was eloquently described by Barbara Horspool Head of Womenswear Design at M & S as ‘a selection of excellence reflecting well the pre-eminent position of British fashion design’. So high was the standard that M & S increased the number of winners by awarding three additional ‘Highly Commended’ prizes.
Nottingham Trent University Fashion school won the award for the best overall group of designs put forward and the individual awards went to: Susie Attwood, (1st. University of Northumbria) Agnes Sisuru, (2nd.Nottingham Trent) Mitzi Koda (3rd. Kingston University). Highly Commended were Carol Heety (Nottingham Trent) Serens Seradu (London College of Fashion) and Neil Bedford (Bradford University). The winner received a cheque for £2000 and a placement with M & S in their design department, Nottingham Trent Fashion Department received £1500 and the runners up £1500 and £500 each.
This was, in the opinion of many, including this observer; quite the most stunning Student Design awards show presented by the ASBCI and the icing was put on the cake when Barbara Horspool announced that ALL the designs were to be presented on ‘The Clothes Show Live’ TV Show from the NEC in December this year. The standard of design was so high that Steve Longdon Director of Womenswear Design at M & S, in his own paper, commented that several of them were good enough to be included in the next Autumn and Spring Autograph ranges from M & S. This was truly a great show and certainly gave many ‘Sparks’ to Marks.
Staying with Steve Longdon’s paper he told in a straightforward way how M & S had recovered its way in the ladies fashion sector ‘By anticipating our customers’ needs and demands and delivering them with style, colour and design. We are proud of our clothes again and we now listen very closely to what our customers have to say. This is a policy that comes from the very ‘Top’ and every week the MD Roger Holmes visits stores and asks our customers what they like and dislike about M & S , indeed all our staff are asked to listen and report. Without our customers we don’t have a business, and we certainly don’t wish to revisit the recent past!’
Professor Edward Newton described how Hong Kong had become a world ‘Fashion City’ where the fusion of design ideas and the availability of an immense home market made the textile fashion sector what it is. As head of the Institute of Textiles and Clothing at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Professor Newton should know – he sets the standard for over 2000 students of fashion. The sun truly does rise in the East!
Mike Lockett pointed out that ‘Off-shore’ and Global Sourcing were not simply functions of cheap labour costs. Hong Kong for example was more expensive to manufacture in then Western Europe. Lockett also flagged-up the warning that January 1st 2005 was almost upon us. That is the day when ALL restrictve export quotas are abolished and the trade in textiles on a world scale becomes free of tariffs – everywhere. GATT, Protectionism, Multi-Fibre Agreements, all come to an end on Jan 1 2005 – even in France.
Patrice Vandendaele MD of Devan Textiles, Belgium, described in detail how technical developments in anti-microbial technology were bringing forward the day when the garments and uniforms and linens and furnishings, especially in hospitals, would be free of infection-causing bugs and super bugs. Aegis antimicrobial chemicals distributed in Europe by Devan are capable of killing invasive micro-organisms on contact. The chemical coating is applied in finishing and the substrate coating will survive more than 100 cycles through an industrial laundry.
Chris Thierry from the Woolmark Company showed how the development of a washable, wool suit was evolving. There are still problems with a crease-free finish in the jacket and the creases in the trousers are not easy however bringing forward the final successful product makes it even less likely that the consumer will visit a local drycleaner for professional clothes-care. But not just yet we hope.
Adam Mansell and John Morris described as clearly as they could the tangled and chaotic state surrounding the drafting and bringing forward of clear and concise care labeling rules for garments. As it took 7 years to get the system to where it is today (i.e. nowhere) and it seems likely to take even longer to make any sense at all, surely it is time for someone in the DTI to issue a UK mandatory care-labelling scheme for ALL garments to be sold in the UK. As it boils down to National self interest and the Japanese, Americans, Australians and the French ALL think that their system is best, there is no prospect of improvement. Meanwhile the consumer isn’t cared for and the drycleaner gets the blame. A pity that this Government is unconcerned about consumers; when they come to realize that they are also voters, at a stroke they could improve all our lots!
Dr. Brian Glover gave a ‘tour de force’ paper on how to specify the most cost-effective, non-leaching dyestuffs for your ‘new ranges’. The answer it seems is to reject reactives as a first and automatic choice and investigate the use of direct dyes. In many fibre mixes and blends, direct dyes can be substituted for reactives where moderate wet fastness is acceptable in heavy shades and where polyester/viscose blends are used. The message is ‘Do not over-specify and do not make false economies in fabric and dyestuff selection, it is also useful to have knowledge of the total manufacturing process and all the production steps.’ Good advice indeed, especially to a corps of ‘professional’ buyers and specifiers who are well versed in all the subtle ramifications of the wide world of textiles.
Bill Howie, making his second podium appearance at an ASBCI conference showed how ‘frontiers’ were not just a National border or tariff wall, they were also barriers in the mind which were created at every stage in the logistics process whenever a new activity was encountered. Optimising the risks inherent in transporting goods in an international market -place is no easy task and the pitfalls are on display in every ‘bin end’ sales outlet on the high streets of Britain.
The curtain was brought down on a truly memorable conference by Barbara Sykes from Bingley, W. Yorkshire. Her brand of management training and development is going to the dogs – literally. Barbara breeds Border Collies and uses them to train people in management skills and self-awareness. Very enlightening especially when one quickly realizes that all men and women are equal in a dog’s eyes. The ferocious MD and the inanimate Non-Executive are rapidly assessed and suitably identified by a sheepdog which refuses to accept their contradictory instructions. Ah well c’est la vie!
John Hoerner, Chief Executive, Clothing, at Tesco Stores gave the after dinner speech and relevant amusing and thought provoking it surely was. American businessmen seem to make the transatlantic crossing better than Brits going the other way. I wonder if that has a lot to do with the highly commendable American management characteristic of listening then acting - both characteristics being derived from, and driven by their customers. Those customers whom every American manager knows make his pay day possible.
The only sadness at the conference was the absence through illness of the Chairman Len Rose. Len was missed by many and wished well by all. The ASBCI would not be the organization it is without the years of effort continuously expended by him. We hope to see Len again soon