More than 70 former Laura Ashley workers are set to return to the clothing industry following Fashion Enter Ltd’s decision to open a new production facility in Powys with Welsh Government support, Economy Minister Ken Skates has revealed.
Fashion Enter Ltd (FEL), a social enterprise specialising in training and manufacturing excellence, received investment from the Welsh Government after securing a major contract with online fashion retailer ASOS.
Welsh Government moved quickly to provide funding from its Economy Futures Fund, with FEL using the cash injection to establish its new factory in Newtown.
Following crucial support from the ReAct wage subsidy programme, the 77 skilled former employees of Laura Ashley will initially help to produce 10,000 garments a week for the ASOS contract from FEL’s new base. This will increase to 20,000 a week within a month.
FEL CEO Jenny Holloway said:
“Many of the stitchers we have hired had loyally worked at Laura Ashley for more than 35 years. I couldn’t rest knowing they were going to lose their jobs. You also don’t find experienced stitchers of that number anywhere anymore, they are like gold dust.”
FEL will be based in the Royal Welsh Warehouse, known locally as the Pryce Jones building. The landmark building is owned by the Potter Group of Welshpool, who have also invested in the building to facilitate its use by FEL and whose project team of contractors, solicitors and surveyors were able to deliver the accommodation for occupation in a very short time frame.
FEL will also provide PPE for luxury clothing brand Private White VC.
Jenny Holloway added:
“We are absolutely delighted with the support and guidance we have received from the Welsh Government which has resulted in Fashion Enter being able to employ staff and we still want to recruit a further 30 stitchers. Our order book is currently full, and the sky is the limit.”
FEL is already operating in line with the many aspects of Welsh Government’s economic contract which is designed to promote fair work and help companies to future proof. The company employs trained psychologists to support staff and has significantly increased staff earnings by introducing a performance related pay system.
It also plans to increase local employment and invest in local skills levels by establishing a textile academy in Newtown over the coming months, and is committed to promoting good sustainability practice, and reducing its own environmental impacts along with that of its partners and clients. It has also signed up to the code of practice on ethical employment in supply chains.
Minister for Economy, Transport and north Wales, Ken Skates, said:
“Powys, and the Newtown area in particular, has a rich manufacturing history, with highly skilled and experienced individuals. I am delighted Fashion Enter Ltd has seized the opportunity to put their valuable expertise to work with this important investment in mid Wales, which will continue that rich tradition for years to come.
“I am also pleased our support will not only see former staff of Laura Ashley re-employed at a time of such economic uncertainty but that it will also enable a raft of apprentices to gain new skills and in doing so will bolster the region’s manufacturing value even further. Fashion Enter Ltd’s investment in training and upskilling, and in the wellbeing of its workforce, is exactly the sort of behaviour we are trying to drive with our economic contract.”