Buying British – Are British products appreciated more by foreign consumers?
In my first post on this blog I mentioned that many British fashion clothing and accessories brands are better known in countries like Japan and China than here at home. While it’s very satisfying to see British goods so appreciated abroad, I’d like UK consumers to know more of the exciting products made in this country.
British consumers often prefer to wear a well-known label, wherever made and irrespective of quality. Others simply look for the cheapest clothes they can find – a throw-away culture which fails to appreciate that quality will last. I’d like to see a more sophisticated approach to buying in the UK.
Consumers in Asia, Japan in particular, look for quality, heritage and a story behind products. They want products that will last, which have an interesting story behind them and which exude quality and design. They’ve found these qualities in British-made products. Small brands are appreciated for their design and quality – they’d rather show off a new brand rather than follow the herd with a common designer labels.
Anne Marie NG of Wearfore (www.wearfore.com) uses her tailoring and menswear skills to design men’s shirts. She has experience of the Asian market and told me,
‘We’ve seen how the Japanese love British heritage brands and tailoring. What is interesting, however, are the growing number of Asian consumers such as the younger generation of Chinese. They are embracing new brands and designs in a big way, partly due to their growing economies therefore they have the cash to do so and also because they are actively seeking out new products and are on a quest for ‘newness’. They are not afraid to take a punt on a fledgling brand, as long as they like the designs and they are well made; unlike in Britain, the Chinese buyers don’t have to wait and observe a new brand for several seasons before they place a small order to test the market. The fact that something is designed in Britain is an added bonus as they consider Britain to have some of the best design schools in the world’.
IggI of Workhouse, a men’s collection specialising in jackets, coats and hats, produced in the UK, told me.
‘Our main business is in Japan with Outer Limits, a famous showroom which we are enjoying working with and seem to be building confidence [with] our unique twist on classic menswear’.
Paul Vincent is co-founder of SEH Kelly, whose UK-made menswear is designed by business partner, Sara Kelly, says,
‘Our customers in Japan are extraordinarily interested in the provenance, heritage, and methods involved in the garments we make. And, since the menswear market in Japan is so incredibly huge, the number of customers interested in our garments in Japan does indeed outnumber significantly the number over here.
Paul adds an interesting view point,
‘Perhaps there is a link, or understanding or appreciation, between consumer and maker which, in the UK, has with time been lost, whereas, in Japan and other parts of Asia, it is still very strong.’
It isn’t surprising that we have a reputation for producing quality products in the UK. For years we were the World’s leading producers of clothing and raw materials, wool and cotton fabrics. Although cheap imports dealt the industry a severe blow in the later half of the last century, we are rebuilding lost skills and placing ourselves at the quality end of the market.
Buying British products creates employment and skills. We know who made the products and can be sure that they are fairly-paid and working in safe and good conditions. Best of Britannia is helping to raise awareness – it would be good to see UK consumers being as appreciative of UK-made products as Asian markets are.