Simon Middleton writes...
Blackshore Coastal Clothing is a tiny, two-staff, business, with a small shop and a clothing workshop in the bustling little town of Southwold on the Suffolk coast. Well, it was, until two weeks ago, when, ahead of Government instruction, we decided to close the doors of the shop just as the Spring season was getting underway.
It was such a painful moment, to turn the sign on the door to CLOSED. We’d had such a brilliant first few months. The combination of selling exclusively made-in-Britain clothing, and the extra interest of having our own workshop on site where we were making half of what we sell, was really capturing the imagination of locals and visitors alike.
But it was obvious a week before most shops, bars and other premises were told to close, that keeping the shop open was just inviting the Covid 19 infection to spread. It’s a pretty intimate environment. We talk endlessly with customers. They try on clothes. We measure people for bespoke garments. We knew we couldn’t continue.
So the shop closed first, and a week later we took the decision to close our workshop too and to postpone all making for the duration of the crisis.
But far from being down hearted, I'm certain that the global health crisis will help to shift people’s thinking about where and how certain kinds of products are made.
We’ve come to realise like never before that the things we all tended to take for granted, such as the NHS, and food supply, are actually things of existential importance that we have to be enormously grateful for.
And I think it’s also prompted the thought that some other things that we took for granted, like endless supplies of disposable fashion, and constant consumption of short-life products, are neither necessary nor positive for our lives or the planet.
Strangely, and encouragingly, despite the massive commercial and financial challenge of the pandemic, it seems to have made people more appreciative of the made-in-Britain movement and of small craft-based businesses like ours.
With many large companies, on the high street and on industrial estates, shedding jobs, the importance of small and micro business like Blackshore can only increase across the economy. Businesses that make things of quality and longevity will bounce back from this biggest of challenges.
During the hiatus in Blackshore’s making and retailing, we're designing new additions to our range of handmade garments, as well as offering guidance where we can to other small businesses in the apparel and textile sector.
Simon Middleton, Co-Founder & Creative Director