The Workwear and Corporate Clothing Show 2011 has brought together leading industry figures, buyers and sellers, to witness the very latest innovations in design and to hear the future is strong for the sector.
The two-day event at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, described by designer Jeff Banks as the equivalent of the Motor Show for the workwear industry, was sponsored by JAL Group and supported by some of the biggest names in the business including Pacific Brands, Incorporatewear and Dimensions among many other exhibitors.
The message from many of those at the show on April 5 and 6 was that despite the recession and spiralling costs of production, the future for the workwear industry is strong. This was underlined with some of the creations on display at the Workwear Fashion show which featured clothing made from recycled plastic bottles. The finale came in the form of a wedding dress made from pilots’ shirts, demonstrating the potential for making further use of garments that have reached the end of their original purpose.
Jeff Banks, who started Incorporatewear 15-years-ago, said people should not complain about competition in terms of cheaper products from China, but think about business as operating in a global market.
He said: “The state of the industry is good. A few people have fallen by the wayside but that is obviously going to happen during a recession, it’s part of being in business. I have been through two recessions and it does get rid of the dead wood and it makes you look at your own business harder. It also makes you look after your customers.
“We are a global business in a global industry. There is a lot of nonsense about China having an unfair advantage because of cheaper materials but you have to get out there and compete. We operate and compete on a world stage so you have to get off your backside and get out there.
“For our industry this event is the equivalent of something like the Motor Show, this is the industry show and we have to be where our business is.”
More than 50 exhibitors showcased products ranging from uniforms for airlines from Staffwear, to industrial footwear from Magnum, and the latest in PPE innovation.
The event was the first UK trade show for Pacific Brands, who used it as a platform to launch their workwear brand in Britain.
Roger Evans said: “We have used the show to launch the whole brand. It has been received with lots of interest and we have had quite a few potential customers come on the stand, which has been very busy. We felt the quality of visitors was very good, split between suppliers and potential customers.” The catwalk fashion show took place three times a day adding a touch of glamour to the event and on Tuesday evening approximately 150 buyers and suppliers attended the special networking dinner, where event organiser Yvette Ashby delivered a rallying speech to the industry about the future.
She said: “The Workwear and Corporate Clothing Show helps to remind us how vibrant our industry still is. However we can’t ignore the wider picture. We all know that there have been some fundamental changes within the industry in the past two to three years.
“Many of us have experienced tough times due to the volatile global economic situation and a number of staff from across the industry have unfortunately lost their jobs.
“Having seen such turmoil, we now wish for calmer times ahead. We hope that this will be achieved by healthy competition from a combination of long-term industry players and new players entering into the market.
“But we can’t just blame the recession and other global factors. We know that there were problems in the industry before these came along. I am talking about the driving down of prices to untenable levels. Bidding wars and E-procurement play a large part and is very much a live issue for us, as we move forward and tackle the challenge of e-procurement which is a real threat to our business models.
“The recession has meant that the consequences of this behaviour have really come home to roost – as companies accept lower and lower prices to secure the business even if it means the contract becomes unsustainable.
“Now, with the prices of raw materials rocketing, this can no longer go on. I feel that only by bringing the industry together to talk and find solutions, by not ignoring the challenges we face and by being open and honest with each other – can we look forward to a better and brighter future.”