Manufacturers & designers must support each other: MAES

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The COVID-19 crisis should lead to stronger relationships between all the designers and manufacturers, as well as provide greater appreciation of a local supply chain, according to Diana Kakkar and Joshua Rosario who run MAES London. MAES London is a garment manufacturer for high-end and independent designers based in Hackney Wick, East London.

Speaking about how they initially managed the business during the COVID-19 outbreak, they said, “Here at MAES London, we’ve been operational in some form throughout the pandemic and managing everything as best we can. At first, we won a few bits of business off the back of the lockdowns in China and Italy but eventually, we started to feel the effects here and by the time the UK went into lockdown we had to pause. A few machinists offered to work from home so we tried this but it was quite difficult and costly to manage and we had concerns that we may not be able to maintain a consistently high quality standard.”

“In the end, we put most of our team on furlough and tried to manage what we could with a skeleton staff that lived nearby and didn’t have to brave the London Underground. We had hired someone who started with us in mid-March just before the lockdown. She didn’t qualify for the furlough scheme but thankfully we had enough work for her and it helped that she had an easy journey into work. During this time we have had regular Zoom calls with staff as we navigated through the government announcements. UKFT’s updates have been great in ensuring we have the latest information. We’ve also been helping the Emergency Designer Network (EDN) to make scrubs for the NHS,” they said in a UKFT press release.

Speaking about how they are caring for the safety of their staff they said, “We’re following the government guidance on social distancing at work and as mentioned, the new space will make this a lot easier. We’ve appointed a member of staff to be our dedicated Coronavirus representative. We want everyone to feel comfortable requesting anything they need to make them feel safe at work and having them do so to another member of staff rather than the directors helps to remove any barriers.”

“So far we are seeing significantly reduced orders, which are smaller and more frequent, but this plays to our strengths because we are nimble and can react quickly. Hopefully this will favour UK manufacturing as a whole and not just us. As far as we can tell, there are still question marks around the various fashion weeks. The discussion around aligning the seasons better is welcome news. This, along with a reduction in the number of drops, will definitely help the industry adapt to the inevitable changes brought about by the pandemic. There are positive conversations around discounting too; for luxury designers, it is important to keep prices stable as this helps the entire supply chain,” they added.

Talking about how UKFT is helping textile sector, they said, “UKFT is great at bringing the community together and lobbying the government. Whether it’s Brexit or the pandemic, we must work together to keep London as the epicentre of fashion. It’s easy to say that fashion isn’t important right now but it’s the UK’s largest creative industry employing nearly a billion people and that alone more than justifies its importance.”