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In an age when manufacturing is all too often outsourced, companies that still make everyday products here in the UK have a tough battle on their hands; and those that manufacture in London, perhaps even more so. However, despite the rising rents and shortage of space, manufacturing is alive and well in the capital with many companies reaping the rewards that the ‘Made in London’ badge brings. Here, we celebrate three of the tenacious brands who have managed not only to keep production within the UK but within the M25.
The story of Kaymet trays began back in 1947, when the owner of a small London metalworking business, Sydney Schreiber, set out to find new uses for his redundant machinery that had been used to make parts for World War II radios and radar equipment . He found the answer with a line of durable trays and trolleys made from pressed anodised aluminium, a material that was cheap and abundant at the time.
Celebrating its 70th anniversary next year, Kaymet still proudly produces its trays in a factory in Bermondsey that is run by Sydney’s son, Ken Schreiber, alongside architect and urban strategist Mark Brearly, who previously ran the Mayor’s Design for London team.“London has been Kaymet’s home for near 70 years, and it’s where we all choose to live,” says Brearly of the company’s London base. “Manufacturing is alive and growing strongly in our city, and we are proud to be a part of that. These days we find that many customers want to know where the products are manufactured. Being able to label our wares with ‘Made in London’ has become a big advantage.”
Remarkably, the design of the trolleys and trays have remained largely unchanged with only subtle adaptions made over the years—the addition of a number of different finishes, rubber feet and grips, and more recently the launch of a bespoke service that allows customers to specify their own colours.
Based at the Algha Works factory on east London’s Fish Island since the 1930s, Savile Row eyewear make rolled gold spectacle frames crafted from 18K gold. Using a combination of machinery that dates from the turn of the 19th century and new advanced production technologies, the brand says it fuses ‘the best of both worlds.’
“From Algha Works, our historic East End factory, we participated in the war effort by producing eyewear for the British Armed Forces during World War II, supplied eyewear to the NHS, and produced frames for prominent figures, including Queen Elizabeth II and John Lennon,” says Savile Row’s international sales manager, Ben Kogan.
“For generations, our product has been hand-crafted using century-old machines right here in London’s East End, and our iconic building and heritage as a British brand based in London form an essential part of the tradition that defines Savile Row Eyewear today.” Highly specialised metalworking machines press, bend, and shape wires of 18 karat rolled gold into the metal components of Saville Row’s frames. Each frame takes an average of 120 processes and several days to make.
Founded in 1805, Ince Umbrellas has been based in London’s east end for over 200 years. “We have only had pressure (from developers) in the last 10 years to move out,” says Richard Ince, who is the sixth generation to head up the family business. “Trouble is our skilled workforce live fairly locally, so moving out is not a simple option.”
Passionate about maintaining a sustainable supply chain, Ince & Sons source materials from as close to home as possible from traceable, sustainable sources. While stitching is done by machine now, and synthetics and steel have replaced silk and whalebone, traditional production methods and handcraft skills are still used at the company’s workshop in Bethnal Green.
“We are near our customers who range from small independent retailers and wholesalers, to the Square Mile (for branded corporate products) and the film & theatre industry,” says Ince, listing the benefits their unusually central location. “It means that clients from home and overseas can come and see us without traipsing up and down the UK. And being able to say ‘Made in London’ is a huge marketing benefit.”
For these ‘Made in London’ brands, the road has not always been easy, but the value of remaining within the M25 is well worth the effort.
Click here for Part 2.