A small introduction to part of the story behind ‘Made in the UK’, that is so much more than a statement of origin.
As part of the social media campaign for ‘March Meet The Maker’ I wanted to start showing more of the behind the scenes work that goes into Lotus Maternity’s premium, unique and UK made nursing wear. So I decided to take a visit to The Nottingham Label Company because I’m having some new materials made there.
I have always used this printing company for our garment’s wash care labels but have never realised, or seen, how they are actually made. In the past I have placed my order, approved the artwork and received the goods, so this was a truly eye-opening experience.
I was so surprised by the volume of work that goes into making garment labels and printing in general! I was there nearly two hours, learning and taking it all in and having a laugh too (that goes without saying!) It was described to me as a ‘Tardis’ and it’s safe to say you truly would not expect the size of the factory or the abundance of machinery, as well as all the highly skilled operators and years of craftsmanship behind the office doors.
It can only be compared to that of Narnia, whereby you open a set of doors and there’s a whole other world inside!
My tour begun with Steve who has worked in the label printing business for 28 years. He started showing me the entire process, from the proofs being created by the design team upstairs, that are then turned into negative films, that are later washed out and made into flexographic plates.
There are of course many other specialist technicalities involved, however, I am not an expert and it was quite difficult to take it all in. I really was blown away by the amount of work that goes into label printing and the sheer amount of skill. Once printed, the reels of label fabric are then put in an oven for two hours and are almost ready for cutting.
I was then taken under the wing of Noddy (he’s called that because he’s a ‘yes man’ and nods his head to everything, well, I was told almost anything anyway!) He started explaining all of the specifics that go into cutting the labels, such as using ultra-sonic waves to seal the ends, so that they don’t fray. As well as the technicalities of the machines, such as the light detector that is able to recognise the printed ink, in order to cut each label equally to a specific width. He also spoke of his ingenuity in making small collection trays for our Lotus Maternity labels, or others which were narrower in width and thus needed a different container.
These highly skilled craftsmen, easily could have spoken with me all afternoon about the intricate processes involved in label making, especially considering their expert knowledge of the industry.
Before joining The Nottingham Label Company, Steve worked for another printers that closed in the late 80’s as it faced production moving to China and Bangladesh. “I’m not sure whether people actually take much notice of a label and there isn’t much of an awareness from the general public of where their products are actually coming from.”
Which I think is completely true, with the worst thing being that they print some clothing labels with icons of scissors on, encouraging consumers to cut them out! Now I can completely empathise with how frustrating this must be, having seen first hand all of the hard work that goes into making labels.
Click On The Above Image To View Our Label Cutting Video
Noddy has been working in label printing even longer, since he was 16 and his brother who also works here with him, since the age of 15.
He told a similar tale of taking redundancy from his label printing factory in 1988, as a lot of the UK industry was phased out to countries such as China, because it was cheaper to make abroad. “Between us all here there is a wealth of knowledge, as collectively we have 200 years of experience in this industry,” he said.
This does really highlight the importance of buying British and keeping UK manufacturing heritage alive. Both gentlemen reported a lot of printing companies have closed down with the work shifting abroad and they both believe cheaper costs are to blame.
When chatting to the staff they were really pleased and impressed that I source all of the material for Lotus Maternity locally, with the majority of it sourced here in Nottingham. It makes me proud to say that I’ve developed a company with strong values and the best intentions, not only to help breastfeeding mothers but also to support the local community. Yes, I pay a bit more for the goods but I want to support local business and keep the wonderful people making our materials in jobs.
All of our materials at Lotus Maternity are sourced from local, UK companies. From the cloth in our breastfeeding tops, that is bought from small, independent fabric shops in Nottingham’s city centre and rural Leicestershire, to our graphic design that is based around the corner.
The only, single thing that isn’t are our nursing clasps. Those are imported from the USA simply because I couldn’t find anywhere in the UK that sold them wholesale. So if anyone is aware of anyone that does sell them, then please let me know!
To find out more about our manufacturing and to gain more inside into the individuals that make our unique breastfeeding tops, click here.
We are a British company and are therefore proud of our British heritage. The core principles and values of the brand have meant that from the outset, our objective was to manufacture solely here in the UK and of the upmost importance. We will continue to source and buy our fabric and materials locally and always try to use sustainable cloth to protect the environment.
So I hope that in turn people will support us and my independent, British brand too and rather than purchasing on price alone, consider other aspects such as quality, longevity, jobs and sustainability that are so inherent in British-made products.
And remember as my Grandad Bill always used to say;
“If you buy cheap, you get cheap.”