Daily Express

Tailored to the future

- Maisha Frost cooksonand­clegg.com communityc­lothing.co.uk

‘We could make 50 times what we are doing’

UK-MADE, reuseable, personal protective equipment (PPE) should be a fixture long after Covid-19 has been beaten, says Patrick Grant, TV sewing sage, Savile Row tailor and a manufactur­er now producing NHS scrubs.

His Blackburn factory Cookson & Clegg, which makes the affordable, everyday Community Clothing label he founded in 2016 as an antidote to fast fashion, has responded to the coronaviru­s crisis by switching to producing medical tunics and trouser sets, along with face protectors.

“Demand is so great we could make 50 times what we are doing,” he says.

Known as the immaculate judge on BBC One’s The Great British Sewing Bee, Grant’s rescue of the ailing military supplier Cookson & Clegg saved workers’ jobs through Community Clothing, a social enterprise with a network of partner factories across the UK.

An admirer of the UK’s textile manufactur­ing tradition and determined to maintain skills, Grant has been pin-sharp on retail acquisitio­ns and start-ups for the past 15 years.

Companies under his belt include Mayfair outfitter Norton & Sons, luxury heritage brand E.Tautz and the Hammond & Co formal menswear line for Debenhams. Overall turnover was around £30 million, but since Covid-19, he says “forecastin­g the future for business is for the moment a dark art”.

However good video tech skills may be, bespoke tailoring needs human proximity and Debenhams is in administra­tion. “We are still selling online and hopeful the stores, so important locally, will emerge out of this,” Grant adds.

There are now 36 staff in Cookson & Clegg sewing the PPE with a supply chain on the doorstep: “A large supplier of medical fabrics is down the road and we have been lent special equipment, including a machine to insert elastic wastebands.”

Set-up and the start of production have been achieved in under a week. Cheap disposable PPE made overseas is now the NHS’s main source of supply.

However times have moved on and now Grant says a long-term rethink is needed: “Digital manufactur­ing and automation are reducing production costs, the need for stocks and immediate availabili­ty has been proved both for the NHS and social care.There are new sterilisin­gprocesses and waste volumes mustbe reduced.

“When you look at the benefits of being able to reuse a garment 100 times and the costs of transporta­tion, reshoring becomes far more viable.”

Community Clothing is restarting production but PPE is highly likely to remain a part of the Cookson and Clegg output.

Grant says this has been the most difficult period he has known but his thoughts are also turning to scaling and new investment.

“This crisis has shown just how important manufactur­ing is and what a sustainabl­e future it has.”

 ??  ?? PRIORITY: Grant’s company is now making NHS scrubs
PRIORITY: Grant’s company is now making NHS scrubs
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