Sunday, July 3, 2022

Next size up for growing fashion business

After just 18 months in its new premises, the Leicester Fashion and Textiles Academy Ltd, whose services include fashion design, manufacture and consultancy, has outgrown the space and is on the move again.

The Leicester Fashion and Textiles Academy Ltd (LFTA) was started in 2015 by fashion designer Janie Morgan-Wood whose experience includes designing for household brands such as Next, Matalan and Marks & Spencer.

For several years, Janie used design rooms owned by other companies at weekends to develop her business. Her core service was supporting manufacturers with their technical skills and she also began helping start-up companies that wanted to get a foothold in the industry. The business was doing well until Covid happened and she lost access to these design rooms.

Janie said: “As I sat at home during lockdown I realised I needed to adapt. I needed my own physical space and machinery.”

With the help of the Business Gateway Growth Hub she successfully applied for a Leicestershire Covid Recovery Grant and was awarded £5,500. Together with her own funds, she invested in machinery and premises in Wigston. A Small Business Recovery grant of £3,000, from Leicester City Council also meant she was able to set up a design room with new machinery to create premium samples.

This space in Wigston started as a design hub but today her business also manufactures small runs of 100-300 garments for niche, high-end customers. Products include ladieswear such as dresses, T-shirts, hoodies, cycling shorts, swimwear, yoga clothing and lingerie, and latterly dog hoodies. They also make men’s leisurewear including sweatshirts.

The business started to build so Janie’s husband Roy gave up his lecturing job and joined her full-time. She’s also taken on three machinists and a part-time fashion designer. They’ve outgrown the current location so have just moved to a 3,500 square foot building on Linden Street in Leicester.

Janie adds: “We’re helping new brands move forward with quality products made in the UK, and that’s something we are very proud of. With more than 35 years of experience, I’m able to support these brands to make better decisions for fabric and trims, it’s about focusing on what they really want.

“We’ve seen lots of textile manufacturing in Leicester that is cheap, fast-fashion, mass production for high street or online retailers but very few places make better quality garments. Our staff have a high level of skill, every piece is quality checked, it’s quite artisan.”

The business is also making an impact on the environment. As well as making garments of a high quality that last, they are supporting start-ups and developing brands by sourcing affordable fabric.

Janie explains: “There’s a lot of waste in our industry, not so much in our business, but once you get into larger-scale production there’s over manufacturing with unused fabrics and trims.

“We work with supplying companies to identify any excess, good quality stock which is offered to our clients. This means they can use better quality fabrics and trims at an affordable price. We’re helping these young brands achieve their aims saving them money and diverting unwanted fabrics from landfills.”

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