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Next size up for growing fashion business

After just 18 months in its new premises, the Leicester Fashion and Textiles Academy Ltd has outgrown the space and is on the move again. Their unique mix of services including fashion design, manufacture and consultancy seem to be a winning formula as the business goes from strength to strength.

The Leicester Fashion and Textiles Academy Ltd (LFTA) was started in 2015 by fashion designer Janie Morgan-Wood whose experience includes designing for household brands such as Next, Matalan and Marks & Spencer.

For several years, Janie used design rooms owned by other companies at weekends to develop her business. Her core service was supporting manufacturers with their technical skills and she also began helping start-up companies that wanted to get a foothold in the industry. The business was doing well until Covid happened and she lost access to these design rooms.

Janie said: “As I sat at home during lockdown I realised I needed to adapt. I needed my own physical space and machinery.”

With the help of the Business Gateway Growth Hub she successfully applied for a Leicestershire Covid Recovery Grant and was awarded £5,500. Together with her own funds, she invested in machinery and premises in Wigston. A Small Business Recovery grant of £3,000, from Leicester City Council also meant she was able to set up a design room with new machinery to create premium samples.

This space in Wigston started as a design hub but today her business also manufactures small runs of 100-300 garments for niche, high-end customers. Products include ladieswear such as dresses, T-shirts, hoodies, cycling shorts, swimwear, yoga clothing and lingerie, and latterly dog hoodies. They also make men’s leisurewear including sweatshirts.

The business started to build so Janie’s husband Roy gave up his lecturing job and joined her full-time. She’s also taken on three machinists and a part-time fashion designer. They’ve outgrown the current location so have just moved to a 3,500 square foot building on Linden Street in Leicester.

Janie adds: “We’re helping new brands move forward with quality products made in the UK, and that’s something we are very proud of.  With more than 35 years of experience, I’m able to support these brands to make better decisions for fabric and trims, it’s about focusing on what they really want.

“We’ve seen lots of textile manufacturing in Leicester that is cheap, fast-fashion, mass production for high street or online retailers but very few places make better quality garments. Our staff have a high level of skill, every piece is quality checked, it’s quite artisan.”

She continued: “We communicate well with the brands to make sure they receive what they want. We’re eliminating some of the issues they have experienced when dealing offshore, for example where time differences and language barriers may result in garments arriving that do not meet customer expectations.”

The business is also making an impact on the environment. As well as making garments of a high quality that last, they are supporting start-ups and developing brands by sourcing affordable fabric.

Janie explains: “There’s a lot of waste in our industry, not so much in our business, but once you get into larger-scale production there’s over manufacturing with unused fabrics and trims.

“We work with supplying companies to identify any excess, good quality stock which is offered to our clients. This means they can use better quality fabrics and trims at an affordable price. We’re helping these young brands achieve their aims saving them money and diverting unwanted fabrics from landfills.”

There’s been a great deal of negativity surrounding the textile industry in Leicester. It’s heartening to see that this business, by being flexible and proactive, has carved out a niche and is elevating the profile of what Leicester businesses can produce.

Janie was recently interviewed by TV presenter and journalist, Stacey Dooley for her ‘Fresh Starts’ podcast featuring LFTA’s client, ethical brand, Noelle.

Finally, Janie added: “The impact of the support has been invaluable. Without the new machines, we wouldn’t have been able to start the business and be growing at this rate. The quality of the liaison with the Business Gateway has been outstanding. Our adviser was amazingly helpful in every way. She was so knowledgeable about what was available and the best route for me.”

“I was signposted to all the different online tutorials, the marketing one was informative and helped me to focus on an achievable plan. The health & safety webinar alerted me to the latest issues.”

Janie has been so pleased with the support she’s already recommended the Business Gateway to neighbouring business JV Fabrics. They’ve secured a business growth grant for £25,000 which will help towards the purchase of equipment for digital fluorescent printing on fabric. This will be a unique service and a first for the UK.

If you need support to grow contact the Business Gateway. Complete an online enquiry form or call 0116 366 8487.

Pic 1: CEO designer and pattern cutter, Janie Morgan-Wood of LFTA

female in front of cotton reels

Pict 2: Janie with one of her designs

Female with dress on stand

Pic 3 Janie with designer and pattern cutter Meryem Maoun

two females looking at patterns

Pic 4: One of LFTA’s skilled machinists Shobhana Jobanputra

lady at sewing machine

Pic 5 Janie’s husband Roy Morgan-Wood cutting fabric

man cutting fabric

Images by Beth Walsh Photography.