‘Made in Britain’ Fashion House David Nieper has Skills Sewn Up

The David Nieper fashion house in Derbyshire is addressing the textile industry’s skills deficit by supporting and nurturing local talent, and has set up a sewing school to help pass specialist tailoring and dressmaking skills to a younger generation.

According to the British Fashion Council, 60% of workers in fashion and textile manufacturing are over the age of 40. If we are to reverse the offshore production trend that is prevalent in the industry, we need to recruit and train before the skills are lost forever.

Photography by Roy Riley 0781 6547063www.royriley.co.ukDavid Nieper

David Nieper has been loyal to British skills and British manufacture for over 50 years and is one of the very few UK fashion houses that has never gone offshore to source labour from the Far East.

The new sewing school will be run by two of David Nieper’s most accomplished dressmakers; Carol Shaw with 14 years’ experience at David Nieper and Sue Cook with 27 years’ experience; responsible for design room sampling and advanced sewing techniques.

Starting this month, the school opens with its first four trainees aged from 18, including two school leavers and two more experienced ladies changing career. Sewing for a career is new to all trainees who will learn a multitude of practical skills over the 12 weeks course.

Carole Shaw, Senior Supervisor, David Nieper Sewing Room commented:

“Our trainees will start by getting to know their machines and develop thread control. They will learn dressmaking essentials including cross-stitch, overlock, lockstich and bar tacking. We start with paper patterns to learn the basic principles then progress to a range of different fabrics including; cottons, silks, elastics and wools and learn how to work with each.

Many seamstresses in clothes manufacturing only make one part of a garment e.g. a leg, arm or collar on a production line but our trainees will benefit from learning how to make the whole garment. At the end of the course we are hoping to offer jobs to trainees who have demonstrated a good eye, good coordination and a good aptitude for creating fashion in luxury fabrics.”

Designer Sarah Allen in the David Nieper studio

Bethan Kerry 19, recently graduated from Swanwick Hall school in Derbyshire said,

“We are learning such a lot, and although the patterns are repetitive to start it is satisfying when you get the hang of it. At the end of the course it will be rewarding to actually make a complete garment, as well as having developed a new skill and the possibility of a job. Most jobs in fashion are in retail and it is very difficult to find something like this that allows you to be creative.”

At the end of twelve weeks successful trainees will have the option to take up a full time position in the David Nieper sewing room as junior machinist or extend their traineeship, however they are under no obligation to progress further if they don’t wish to and although they don’t receive an official qualification, they will have achieved more than an NVQ level 2.

Managing Director, Christopher Nieper commented:

“We are delighted to pass specialist skills to the next generation. Our sewing school is only the start, there are many rewarding careers in fashion manufacturing alongside sewing such as pattern cutting, fabric cutting, knitwear and quality control.

There is a critical skills shortage in fashion manufacturing, made worse by relentless offshoring in recent years.   It’s crucial to nurture local talent and pass these valuable dressmaking skills to the next generation. Customers like to know where their clothes are made and ‘Made in Britain’ is our way of ensuring the highest quality, the best customer service and supporting the future of British textiles.”

Britain’s offshoring trend and rise of manufacturing in China, India and Eastern Europe has decimated UK fashion manufacturing. In 1977 over 900,000 people were employed in fashion manufacturing in the UK, this figure had fallen by 85% at the beginning of 2000 and today leaves a widespread skills deficit legacy.

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