Outtakes | Barrie Sharpe on making in England

You guys brought back John Smedley

Barrie: My dad used to wear them. They were almost out of business, doing underwear basically. They had old stock and they supplied us. You couldn’t do that now, people can’t see shit like that.

How come?

Barrie: English companies are hard to work with. They don’t like to progress. Not many English companies change with the times. And they all fade away. All the old companies I used to know are gone. You’ve gotta be current.

Do you think it’s hard for them to adapt?

Barrie: They think you’re doing them a favour all the time. There’s a hat company. Instead of being shaped, I want them round domed, which is how they come. To make a shape is extra work, so I said ‘just give them to me like that’. ‘Oh, we can’t do that, it’s bad for business’. The only thing bad for business is if I don’t buy your hats. But they wouldn’t do it for me. I’ll pay the same price, you’ll do less work and they just wouldn’t do it. They can’t see the bigger picture. This is how it’s always been. Just because they’re unreliable. 

I’ve heard this before, with everyone speaking about the Made in England revival

Barrie: You can’t get anything made here. First of all it’s always late. They deliver late. They tell you it’s ready when it’s not. The quality is variable. You don’t always get what you order. If they’ve got a problem, you’ve got a problem. In China, if there’s a problem they’ll tell me afterwards. ‘There was a problem but we’ve sorted it’. They don’t tell me it’s my problem. They look at the bigger picture, they want the business. The factories (in the UK) say, we can’t work with this, there’s a problem. Then I’ve gotta go and sort it out. You’ve gotta do everything. They just treat you like they’re doing you a favour and I just got sick of it in the end. And they’re not cheap either. 

Some people wanna pay more for proximity

Barrie: I don’t think the quality’s there. Especially in knitwear, they haven’t got the quality China’s got. I could never get that quality in England. They haven’t got the machinery to make it. 

A lot of them sold their machinery didn’t they?

Barrie: Yeah, to China.