The community sample studio reviving Plymouth’s textile manufacturing jobs
Back in the 70s and 80s, Plymouth was a hive of industry, with plenty of highly skilled jobs for local people at the Jaeger Factory. But in 1997, the factory closed, and around 300 jobs were lost, along with the textile manufacturing industry. Since then, the city has been haemorrhaging graduate designers who leave the city for London, where they can get samples made of their patterns.
To address this, the Plymouth College of Art and the Millfields Trust, a social enterprise that lets out affordable space to businesses to regenerate Union Street in the Stonehouse area of Plymouth, worked with ex-Jaeger Factory employees to design a business plan for a new textile manufacturing studio. Feasibility studies revealed that the South West was crying out for jobs, and that a revived textile industry could particularly upskill creative people furthest from the job market. In 2018, with funding from Plymouth City Council, Power to Change and M&S, Makers HQ CIC was born.
“Stonehouse is an area [of Plymouth] that needs a huge amount of love. It needs opportunities for people to raise their aspirations. We know 50 per cent of families here live below the poverty line, we know 37 per cent of families here are on the third-generation of claiming benefits, so there is a legacy of low expectations.”Sophie Glover Studio Manager at Makers HQ
Based in the basement of the ex-Jaeger Factory, Makers HQ is a sampling studio, which produces samples for fashion designers, and manufactures small runs of garments. The profits from this are reinvested to run courses for people that offer accredited qualifications. And Sophie and her team work with local schools to reignite a passion for sewing in younger generations, and creating a pipeline of skilled, local workers.
Since opening, they’ve run badge making workshops with Scout groups, helped young mums qualify and find employment, and worked with independent designers to produce lines of clothes, from streetwear to swimsuits for Muslim women.
Producing quality products, paying people fairly and limiting their carbon footprint are a priority for Makers HQ. As Sophie Glover puts it “We’re a nation of consumers driven by price – but actually, if we want quality we have to pay for it.”
Their latest programme, funded by the European Community Grant fund, will see them deliver a training programme for women over 50, NEETs and people furthest from the job market who need a skill, and ultimately will get them a job.