Blog: Cottoning on to manufacturing

Simon Warburton | 12 March 2010

If it's Thursday it must be London again, so it was down to the Smoke for Lawson's press briefing to launch its latest software gizmo.

After lapping Cavendish Square several times on a freezing March morning in a bid to find the UKFT fashion and textile headquarters, I eventually stumbled across the the venue and made my way to the lift.

A group of us found ourselves standing in front of that lift - a rather handsome machine reminiscent of a smart Parisian apartment block - although without the terrifying Madame eyeing everyone - and pulled back the shutters to make the ascent.

Having pressed level 4 as requested by Lawson, we jerked our way upwards only to find the lift stubbornly refusing to progress any further beyond 3. Vainly pushing 4 again, the lift rumbled all the way back down before lurching back up.

After several such excursions - cue nervous comments about Sir Stirling Moss' unexpected lift detour this week - the group took the collective decision to abandon the contraption at level 3. Which turned out to be the Lawson floor after all.

Into the conference proper after having weaselled my way into the buffet for buyers in the morning session, first up was the Lawson general manager glorying under the name of Frederic Champalbert.

The boss lives in Lyon and confided his extreme surprise at Lyon beating the mighty Real Madrid the previous evening - before launching into his take on the state of the industry.

But Lawson's star turn is undoubtedly its industry strategy director and Clive James sound-alike Bob McKee. And batting away my moans about the British winter with a - "I live in Chicago, time to put some sun cream on" - Bob, who has been catapulted off aircraft carriers during his time in the US navy - gave a rousing tour de force of the fashion business - and the odd company plug for its Lawson for Fashion all-singing, all-dancing software tool.

McKee turned his attention to the hot topic of the day - notably China. "There have been be-alls and end-alls before," he noted, before making the astute observation: "China sends a lot of its work to Vietnam and Cambodia" as coastal cities such as Shanghai have high labour costs.

Just in case Bob got too carried away with his impressive oration - delivered to the glowering backdrop of the BBC - "GBP100m over budget" as one delegate was heard to grumble - a strategically-placed Lawson employee had cards with "5min" and "2min" on them to make sure the genial American was on time.

Peering anxiously at the time-limiting cards and highlighting the dearth of British clothing manufacturing from a country that once ruled the textile world, Bob finished with a bold battle cry: "There will be mills in Yorkshire again," he exclaimed.

"Even the Romans outsourced to England."

By Simon Warburton.


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