Rethinking the fashion value chain: how reshoring can create a localised product lifecycle and support sustainable economic growth

Alana James, Sophie Mather, Kelly Sheridan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Historically, the UK was internationally renowned as a thriving manufacturing hub within fashion and textiles, with production being steeped in quality, heritage and craftsmanship. Although it is no longer a country synonymous with fashion manufacture, current industry activity contributes £20bn annually to the economy, with 34,045 businesses in operation, employing 500,000 people across manufacturing, wholesale, and retail. While this seemingly healthy industry is economically sustainable, the market continues to source products overseas, with a heavy reliance on countries such as China, Bangladesh, and Turkey. This level of global sourcing has significant environmental and social impact, the majority of which is largely unknown to stakeholders such as brands, retailers, and consumers. Despite these negative consequences, the import of fashion products continues to increase annually with £27.7bn of goods being imported in 2020, compared to £25.9bn in 2019. Meanwhile exports remain relatively low at £8.9bn in 2020, creating a significant imbalance of the flow of goods in a post-Brexit environment.

The consumption of fashion has also continued to rise, with the UK having the highest level across Europe. Annually, consumers spend more than £45bn, catalysed by the fast, and ultra-fast fashion business models providing accessibility across multiple platforms and channels. Low costs and high volumes have decreased the consumer value of clothing resulting in short-term ownership and premature disposal. Consumer understanding of global fashion supply chains remain minimal, creating a disconnect between clothing production and consumption. The imbalance of imports and exports in the UK, coupled with increasing levels of consumer purchasing, presents a significant opportunity for future innovation. Challenging current systemic norms through the reshoring of production would have positive economic impact nationally, creating a thriving, sustainable industry.

This chapter challenges traditional, linear methods of overseas production and questions the reliance on overseas supply chains opposed to more localised manufacturing options. Furthermore, it explores how advancements in technology can help fill a gap in the skilled labour force, natural resources and equipment needed for garment manufacturing at scale. Rethinking the production and consumption of fashion is long overdue, with current methods no longer practical for staying within the Earth’s planetary boundaries. Radical transformation is needed, with novel and innovative solutions required to drive forward meaningful change towards a responsible future.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNovel sustainable alternatives for the textiles and fashion industry
EditorsSubramanian Senthilkannan Muthu
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
ISBN (Electronic)9783031370601
ISBN (Print)9783031370595, 9783031370625
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2023

Publication series

NameSustainable Textiles: Production, Processing, Manufacturing & Chemistry
ISSN (Print)2662-7108
ISSN (Electronic)2662-7116

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