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Patrick Grant buys historic Lancashire clothing manufacturer Cookson & Clegg, saving it from closure. Thinking about how to revive it he forms the idea behind Community Clothing
On a Sunday night in early 2015 Patrick Grant (award winning designer and judge on the BBC’s Sewing Bee) receives an email telling him that Cookson & Clegg, a Blackburn clothing manufacturing established in 1860, and one of his most valued suppliers, is going to be shut for good. 60 people will lose their jobs. He steps in and buys the factory saving it from closure. A few months later he is approached about advising a group attempting another rescue mission, this time a big knitwear factory in Scotland, a rescue which fails resulting in the loss of 170 jobs and time being called on one of the world’s most famous knitwear factories. In his lifetime Patrick has seen a lot of great factories close and seen many textile communities suffer huge social and economic decline as a result.
But we’d all like to be able to buy good quality clothes, and we’d all like to see great manufacturing businesses kept alive, and see more skilled jobs created.
The Idea for Community Clothing begins to form.
Patrick runs a crowdfunding campaign that gains UK-wide support and Community Clothing is born.
At just before midnight on Friday 11th March the Kickstarter campaign to launch Community Clothing shoots past its target with over 1,000 backers and widespread media support. Just 5 weeks later the first jeans and outerwear are in production at 5 UK factories. The team start counting the hours of work they create.
Creative Review put Patrick on their cover saying, “In the fashion world, the philosophy behind Community Clothing represents a new way of doing things”
Newly added socks and jumpers become instant favourites and Selfridges gets on board.
Patrick approaches several other factories he knows well about working with CC. Socks and jumpers are added to the range and instantly fly out.
Selfridges chooses CC to be part of their Material World project under the banner ‘Buying Better, Inspiring Change’. A major window display at Selfridges in Manchester announces the launch of new Made in Manchester t shirts. The partnership with Selfridges was due to last two months. It ends up running for over two years.
Coverage in The Times, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The FT, The Guardian and on the BBC follows.
CC plays a major role in the newly created Festival of Making and the first schools engagement programme with local Lancashire schools is run.
Hours of work created pass the 5,000 mark.
A Ted Talk and a Topshop collaboration provide a boost. Hours of work created passes the 10,000 mark.
Patrick delivers a Ted Talk about Community Clothing and more good coverage follows in The Times, Sunday Times Style, Monocle, Fantastic Man, and Hole & Corner.
CC are invited to be part of Fashion Revolution.
Topshop host a pop-up shop at their iconic Oxford St store selling t shirts with illustrations by Mark Glasgow, including the much loved ‘full English’ (every stage of the t shirt’s production happens in England)
Hours of work created top 10,000.
New factories join and several new product lines are added. Lots of new customers join the CC revolution. Hours of work created leaps past 100,000!
The Observer photograph local CC supporters wearing the brand including teachers, museum curators, architects, graphic designers, students, Council Officers, artists, NHS managers and others for a major feature.
CC works with local art students to make ‘protest banners’ for a Manchester pop up and to paint a mural at the Cookson & Clegg factory
Patrick delivers a lecture at the Royal Geographic Society about Community Clothing
Many new factories join the supply chain bringing the total to 23. Lots of great new products are added to the range. And the number of hours of work created leaps up passing 100,000.
Covid hits and many of CC’s key manufacturers switch over to making critical PPE supplies for the NHS.
Covid hits, the world locks down, and factories in China and other places who normally make our PPE go into lockdown. The British textile industry steps up. Many of CC’s partner factories switch to making PPE, staff work long hours, many working 7 days. Those factories that aren’t able to make PPE lend equipment to those that can. Cookson & Clegg stops making clothes and begins making gowns, scrubs and reusable and disposable facemasks, in total they will make over a million pieces of PPE.
Patrick has discussion with Government about re-shoring of textile manufacturing, especially for critical NHS supplies. They make encouraging noises. But then the factories in China re-open and its straight back to business as usual.
Press coverage for CC includes, The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Daily mail, The Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Express, The Sunday Times, The Observer.
Stocks of lots of CC products run very low. But later in the year more factories are added and the number of jobs supported exceeds 1,000 for the first time.
2021 is all about green shoots. The Homegrown/ Homespun project launches growing flax and natural dyes in Lancashire. CC partners with Liberty and John Lewis. Hours exceed 150,000.
Homegrown/Homespun is a ground-breaking regenerative fashion project in collaboration with Northern England Fibreshed and The British Textile Biennial whose aim is the re-introduction to Lancashire of flax, woad and indigo growing for clothing after almost half a century. Project gets national support, including from BBC Radio 4 and BBC One’s Countryfile.
Launch at John Lewis who say the CC range ‘incredibly well-priced, thoughtfully designed and supports the clothing sector and its wider communities’. Initially just for one year the partnership will run for over two.
CC partner with Liberty the world-famous department store for a new ethical basics range.
British GQ says ‘Grant has set out on a mission to bring high quality, affordable, sustainably and locally produced garments to the masses’.
Number of factories reaches 32, and hours of work created exceeds 150,000!
CC now working with 40 partner factories and the hours of work created exceeds 200,000!
CC starts to run into capacity issues with its current roster of suppliers so Patrick reaches out to others. Several UK factories approach CC asking if they can get involved.
Selfridges invites Community Clothing to be part of Project Earth which aims to ‘transition to more sustainable materials, explore new business models and challenge mindsets’.
Several major new product categories go into development with new factories.
The number of partner factories reaches 40, hours of work created exceeds 200,000.
By May 2023 total hours of work created exceeds a quarter of a million.