British but not as we know it

There was a report out this week that stated that just 8% of the British Olympic merchandise is actually going to be manufactured in Britain.  Although most of the companies allocated the contracts are British, they are mostly outsourcing their production overseas. 
Is it me or is this a massive wasted opportunity?  We are certainly not short of creative talent in this country, far from it.  However, all visitors are going to be able to see and buy are mascots made in China and bed linen made in Turkey.  Not only does this cause pollution from factories and shipping from abroad but Britain is barely going to benefit from the money generated by these orders.  Isn't the country in need of more jobs?  Wouldn't it be a great opportunity to show off our talent?
Isn't it a staggering oversight that our British government, along with 50 British business delegates, recently travelled all the way to China to promote British products, yet then failed to ensure that British made products were available in Britain at one of the biggest events on the world stage for a generation?!!  A golden opportunity like the Olympics comes along and somehow they manage to flood it with non-British made, mass produced goods for sale?!!  How crass is that? 
Yes, I know its all about big business and they need to make money, but don't the government keep going on about how they want to support entrepreneurs and small businesses and promote British products?  Isn't it time they did something about it?
I will be writing to my MP to ascertain whether there will be any opportunity for designer makers of British made goods to sell their wares and if not, why not.  Here on this page are a few gorgeous items made by British designers in Britain.  If we can't take advantage of promoting British talent at this fantastic opportunity, when can we?          

New Designers

This years New Designers Fair of graduate talent was brilliant and the standard of work excellent. Here are just a few of the thousands of examples of work that we saw!

The Wealth of Nations

Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776 and is regarded as one of the fathers of modern economics. His image is depicted on the new £20 note.  He laid the foundations for the basic principle of globalization/capitalism - the importance of free markets based on free competition.  It is often overlooked however, that he actually expressed grave reservations about untrammelled capitalism, especially the threat it posed to the public interest.

"The proposal of any new law or regulation which comes from [businessmen] ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted til after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous but with the most suspicious attention.  It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have upon many occasions both deceived and oppressed it."

Wise words indeed and as relevant today as then. I think he would be pretty horrified at the size, wealth and power of many corporations today. 

News has come in of Tesco's £3.4 billion pound profit and Terry Leahy's £5.2 million pay package.  Sir Terry was a lunch guest on Sunday of David Cameron the Prime Minister at Chequers, among a host of other retail leaders.  I hope the PM heeds the warning of Adam Smith.  I fear that the country is so debt ridden that business leaders will have more influence than perhaps they ought or is good for the public or the public purse.  Untrammelled capitalism benefits few people and those that it does are the very people the PM is lunching with.  Is it going to be a case of more of the same? 

As if people matter

How incredilbly sad it was to read in the papers last week that a young woman Vicky Harrison took her own life after failing to find a job after 2 years of searching. She was well educated and applied for about 12 jobs a week from shop working to waitressing.  She became depressed and felt she had no future. 
New figures show that unemployment has risen to a 16 year high to 2.5 million, of which nearly a million are 18-24 year olds. 
Unfortunately globalisation means that manufacturing and services are carried out where it is economically the most viable ie where wages are lowest.  The UK now has a £50 billion manufacturing trade deficit.  As jobs go to countries with low wages, unemployment here rises and wages get lowered as a knock on effect.  To further add to the problem, there is now mass immigration from workers overseas/EU who can be exploited by unscrupulous employers to work for next to nothing, further depressing wages and increasing unemployment.  Then what happens is that more people become so much worse off that they have to buy these 'cheap' imported goods because they can't afford anything else.  It's a great business strategy that is incredibly successful! 
At least it would be incredibly successful but for the Vickys of this world.  Unemployment is a terrible thing.  It brings lots of social problems, poverty, crime, drugs, family break ups, anti social behaviour, depression and suicide.  Not to mention sky high taxes paying for unemployment and all the services that have to be provided for the migrants.  Employers like all this cheap labour because they don't have to pay these hidden costs. It's society that pays.  And pays dearly.
There has to be another way, as if people matter.  People are brilliant.  They want to use their brains and their hands and feel useful and do a good days work.  If only more employers/governments would see that.
Rising unemployment, national debt of £900 billion, consumer debt of £225 billion.  Public unrest. Environmental pollution.  Etc. Way to go govt and captains of industry. 
Here at Not Mass Produced we really appreciate what people can do, see examples below, but of course  can't help feeling that more must be done to change the way the system works (or doesn't work as the case may be):



Alternative Mothers Day Gifts

When I went into town recently I saw a local card shop full of Mothers Day stuff and everything was a sickly pink! And I mean everything.  What a ghastly sight!  Take a look at some alternative suggestions which aren't all pink or made in China.

Give a cat a home, these lovely little bags/purses (above) are just too cute, small £43, large £57 handcrafted in wool felt and organic leather.

Corporate crap

I recently blogged about comparing the cost of a local handmade corsage to that of a factory imported one.  Now a report for the UN into the activities of the worlds 3,000 largest public companies has estimated the costs to the environment of their activities.

They estimate that more than a third of their profits would be wiped out if they were financially accountable for the damage they do.  They reckon the top firms cause $2.2 trillion dollars worth of damage (£1.4tn) Yes, that's Trillion!  That doesn't even take account of the consumption of those goods ie energy used in using the goods, waste, disposal etc. Nor does it take account of "social impacts" ie of people being driven out of affected areas, health problems and so on.

To add a few of my own: there's also all the tax they often avoid paying which may of gone some way to addressing their activities.  Encouraging a throw away society.  Driving everyones wages down (except the CEOs).  Cheapening talent by plagarising artists work.  It all adds up to, in my estimation, a beeping high cost!

Why do we keep shopping at these corporations?  Is it a lack of alternatives?  Is it a lack of knowledge?  Is it a lack of caring?  There's only one planet and people do matter.  Isn't it time we changed our shopping habits and encouraged others to follow?  If we don't they continue to make millions at our expense and trash our environment.  They continue to make mugs of us all.
(Pretty bag pictured from Not Mass Produced made from vintage materials)

People in Pyjamas

I hang my head in shame!  I confess to having nodded in agreement with Tesco when I first heard that they had banned people from shopping in their pyjamas.  I smugly thought that I had always managed to get dressed before leaving the house, why couldn't they?  Then I thought, hang about, hang about, since when have Tesco ever had any principles?

They have systematically eroded British farming. They have forced thousands of dairy farmers into bankruptcy and off their land by barely paying them enough to cover the cost of production.  They flagrantly squeeze suppliers and bully them.  They have a poor record on animal welfare and are one of the worst companies for having the biggest pay gap between their CEO's and their staff.  They use what a lot of people would call misleading food labelling.  Goods are imported from thousands of miles away without barely a thought for the environment or the conditions of the workers.  They have made many small independent shop keepers go out of business, causing untold misery and ranks of unemployed.  They do all that and then, all of a sudden, we find that they have principles on dress codes?!  Considering their track record, who do they think they are telling us how to dress?

Well, they are already in a very dominant and powerful position taking in £1bn over its counters every week that frankly they can do what they like.  Before long you will be able to shop anywhere you like as long as its Tesco.  Another 600 Express stores are planned by 2015 and they plan to launch bank branches in their stores.  Perhaps they will be telling us next exactly what to buy by checking our spending habits (which they can do every time you hand over the points card) and by knowing how much you earn and what you can afford (by checking your Tesco bank account) and ultimately just taking your money straight from the account without even bothering to ask!

When they've completely conquered the world, how will designer makers/skilled crafters fit into this homogonised world? They won't. Tesco like everything/everyone to be standard/average, that way they are easier to deal with (they would probably like us all to be like Stepford Wives and dress like them!  And not ask awkward questions like how they can sell £2 chickens.)  Makers are the equivalent of bananas that are too curved or green beans that are too long.  They will want them to get a proper job like stacking shelves.

Of course we can be optimistic that there is a vibrant community of designer makers all making wonderful, unique things (for now) but there is still much work to be done convincing shoppers of the dangers of having a high dependency on the likes of Tesco.  We need to communicate the amazing alternatives available before it's too late.  We have already witnessed the danger of what can happen when a handful of very large poorly regulated companies dominate a crucial industry.  Look what happenend in banking and the devastating consequences of that.

Do we really want to live in a world where Tesco staff tell us what we can and can't do, how we must dress, what we must eat, how much we should spend?  No!!!  Give them the thumb and nose salute and take your money elsewhere.  Forgive me for agreeing with them on that one point (a momentary lapse) and help spread the word!  

Go Compare

There's something rather worrying about those Go Compare ads, I mean apart from the annoying jingle and the fact that they're on TV every 5 minutes, and others like them.  The worrying thing is that price is purveyed as the only thing that ever matters.  When it comes to making stuff, production generally takes place in the country with the cheapest labour costs.  Alot of companies have made a fortune using this system.
But after 20 years of unparalleled economic growth and wealth, has society really benefited? Not a lot. Child poverty is worse than ever and not since World War II has the gap between rich and poor been so great. 90% of the worlds wealth is owned by 10% of the people.
Who benefits from this system?  Not the foreign workers.  Even Marks and Spencer were mentioned in the Sunday Times a few days ago accused of paying Sri Lankan workers 25p an hour which even by their standards isn't a living wage.  War on Want said "the grim reality is that none of Britain's high street retailers are doing the right thing by the people who produce their clothes".  Out of sight out of mind?  
UK workers do not benefit.  Those that have work face a diminishing pay packet as they compete in a global employment market and face a burgeoning tax burden in order to pay for unemployment benefits for those put out of work. Talented people that do make some fabulous items struggle to compete on price with 'cheap' imports so their work tends to be less valued too.

The people that do benefit are the chief executives, banks and shareholders. A small elite.  Never before has the gap between employees and chiefs been so high, in some cases by as much as 400 times the amount. The new boss of Marks and Spencer is reputedly getting a £15 million golden hello and salary package in the first year.  New ITV chief Adam Crozier is set to get £16 million over 5 years, after decimating the Post Office.  Sir Terry Leahy of Tesco gets over £9 million a year and so it goes on. Not only do they get paid obscene amounts the extremely wealthy are also adept at avoiding tax leaving a greater burden for the majority.  So what are we to do?  Think before we buy.  Compare the difference between items not just price.  Think who is going to profit from the purchase.  Where possible buy things from small producers.  It helps them make a living, money tends to stay in the locality and they usually pay their taxes.  Better wealth distribution has to be better than the selfish inequitable system in place now that benefits so few.  So, I hate to say it but, go compare! 
Here's one I did earlier:

These corsages are both £10, one is from Rebeccamaryjane at and the other is from  The purple one is made of natural materials of felted merino and angora with vintage mother of pearl buttons and glass beads individually sewn on by hand.  They are made in small quantities by a woman in Yorkshire who enjoys what she does.  The beige one is made of man made material possibly nylon or polyester with plastic beads and faux diamante in the centre.  It doesn't say where it is made, from the site info but I'm guessing China, Thailand or somewhere in Asia.  It is not known who made it or whether they got a decent wage.  It was probably made in a factory churning out thousands of the same and it probably travelled thousands of miles, using up precious fossil fuels, large amounts of packaging and caused a fair amount of pollution on the way for which the tax payer again foots the bill.  The real cost of this one is way more than the £10 you pay over the counter.  Do we really want to be giving so much of our money to the small elite?  


Wool - it's officially eco-friendly, Prince Charles says so!

Hats off to Prince Charles who is championing a comeback for woollen goods as opposed to cheap synthetic throwaway garments destined for landfill sites.  Apart from being gorgeous, wool helps keep farmers in business, keeps sheep on the hills and preserves the landscape.  Wool is fully bio-degradable, it lasts longer than synthetic material, it's warmer, doesn't use fossil fuels and looks great.  We, at Not Mass Produced do not need to be convinced - we already are!  Look at our beautiful selection.
Hand knitted wollen flower brooches by Rebeccamaryjane are £8.50.  The moss stitch bag is by Woolcake and is made of 100% wool from their own farm in Somerset.  The bag is handknitted at £40. The stripey hat is by Susan Bolton and is 65% merino wool and costs £38. 

And check out these delicate and beautiful accessories handmade by Fleur de Boheme.  The brooch is just £10 and the wrap £57

Made in Britain

I have been a little encouraged to read recent reports that manufacturing is returning to the UK.  We have the weakening of the pound, poor quality of workmanship, increasing freight costs and time delays from ordering abroad to thank for that.  It will however, take a lot to get back to the situation 25 years ago when manufacturing trade was in surplus.  Last year it was in deficit by £61 billion. Manufacturing has risen by a mere 2.8% in ten years and has lost more than a million jobs.  In the past decade it's share of GDP has gone from 22% to 11%.  Not to worry though, at the same time that manufacturing was in decline financial services were in boom and more than made up for the shortfall! Hooray!  Except the naughty people otherwise known as 'bankers' made a lot of money (mostly for themselves) by gambling on high risk 'investments' and then made huge losses which taxpayers had the privilege of paying for.  Grrr.  We paid a staggering £63 billion to save Lloyds and RBS.  Yet they continue to charge extortionate rates and receive bonuses. Is it not time to dump the 'bankers' and start making things again?

We have lots of lovely things made from lots of lovely talented people here but we need more people making things and more people buying them (rather than so many of the imports.)  Here a couple of things with the Union Jack on that, I hope you're sitting down, were actually made in the UK!  Don't you just hate it when you see the Union Jack all over bags and cushions etc when they were infact made in China. You might as well have the Chinese flag on them in my view.

Did you see the worlds tallest building unveiled in Dubai the other day?  The one we are all supposed to be so impressed with?  What height was it again?  Oh yes, the height of nonsense, that was it!  Doesn't it just epitomise the greed, the inflated egos, the extravagence without substance of the past decade?  In the end it had to be bailed out by Abu Dhabi.  I wonder who has bailed Britain out to the tune of £178 billion? (It wasn't me!)