Why this cloth-making startup is calling for an end to Brexit squabbling

A fabric producer has called for Britain and the EU to stop squabbling and provide businesses greater clarity over requirements for flow of goods between the UK and the trading bloc.

Heritage Weavers was founded after David Kendal, who was previously export sales director at Joseph H Clissold, lost his job following the coronavirus outbreak.

David Kendal established his own cloth-making business last September after being made redundant at a similar firm a few months prior.

Heritage Weavers is already supplying fabrics to some of the biggest high-end fashion brands in the EU but Brexit has created a great deal of confusion for the business and its trading partners.

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Mr Kendal told The Yorkshire Post that he had a frank discussion with a representative from the Department of International Trade over what documentation is required to trade with European partners.

The cloth is made in Yorkshire.

He said: “It’s been very frustrating. We export to all these other countries and we know what’s required regarding documentation, on the European side of it there is just no standard format of what people are looking for. If we send something to China, we have three copies of invoices. If we send something to Qatar, we have got three copies of invoices and a sticker of origin from the Chamber of Commerce.

“What is happening with Europe is that nobody knows what they’re wanting. Everybody and every company is so different. There’s no set rules and regulations for working with Europe at this moment in time.”

Europe is a key market for the newly-formed business, which has already seen turnover reach £450,000.

“We need to get a level playing field,” Mr Kendal said. “I believe that we want to trade with Europe and I believe Europe wants to trade with the UK as well.”

"It’s what I know and what I love," says Mr Kendal about cloth making.

Heritage Weavers was founded after Mr Kendal, who was previously export sales director at Joseph H Clissold, lost his job following the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Kendal said: “Obviously because of the pandemic there are no jobs to apply for so I spoke to a couple of agents, who I’d worked with for a long time, and a couple of customers.

“I said ‘I’m thinking about doing it for myself, would you support me and would you be interested?’

“We got together a collection quite quickly with the help of friends, customers and competitors. We got some assistance from other people who had also been made redundant and we put the collection out there and got orders.”

Brexit and the pandemic has created “a perfect storm” for the business, Mr Kendal says.

“We could have worked with one of them but having to work with both of them at the same time has become a bigger problem,” he added.

The greatest challenge for the business so far has been getting goods into Europe. Heritage Weavers does a lot of samples for designers. Mr Kendal said: “We get the sampling round really quickly – we put a lot of effort into doing that

“All the good work that we do to get the sampling out on time is then undone by procedures.”

Heritage Weavers currently has three staff in total. The business buys in the yarn, designs the fabric and hands it over to a weaver and then finisher for the end product.

“We buy yarn from the Italian yarn spinners and German yarn spinners,” Mr Kendal said. “We then bring it to the UK and we then commission weave it and then we commission finish it. We are the designers and sales people but then we subcontract all the manufacturing out.”

The cloth is made by other firms also based in Yorkshire.

Alongside Europe, the firm has also exported to China, Japan, Qatar, Kuwait and North America in the last six months.

Mr Kendal said: “The Far East and the Europeans still like made in England, made in Huddersfield fabric. It’s synonymous with quality. People like the quality.”

The founder of Heritage Weavers admits that demand is up and down as the business looks to establish itself in an uncertain economic environment.

“Demand is obviously not quite the same as it was last year or the year before,” he said. “There is more interest the further out of the pandemic we come.”

Despite an uncertain economic picture, the business is aiming to reach the £2m turnover mark in the next few years.

Heritage Weavers currently contracts warehousing but Mr Kendal believes that is a service the business can itself provide. If that is the case and sales are good then he sees the business creating eight to ten jobs.

The ultimate aim of the business is to continue the tradition of cloth making in Huddersfield

Mr Kendal said: “I want to make a living out of it and for my colleagues to make a living out of it. If we can continue the tradition of making fine cloth in Huddersfield then I’ll be very proud.”

‘It’s what I know and love’

David Kendal has been in the textile trade for over 35 years. He started working at a woollen mill as a 16-year-old in Milnsbridge, Huddersfield.

Mr Kendal has since travelled the world, working in Portugal and South Africa before returning to the town seven years ago.

Mr Kendal admits that he did consider retraining after losing his job last year and despite a lack of jobs out there, he decided to stick to what he knows best.

He said: “I did consider retraining but it’s something that I have done all my life since I was 16.

“It’s a heck of a lot of experience to just dispose of and go and do something else. It’s what I know and what I love.”

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