Made In Preston - a fashion house for all women
- Credit: Archant
Lancashire business woman Nikki Hesford decided enough was enough when she couldn’t find the clothes she desired. Instead, she set up her own fashion house - Made In Preston.
Nikki Hesford was truly tired of trying to find fashionable clothes that fit an ample bust. ‘I identified there was a distinct lack of fashion forward items on the high street suitable for those who aren’t small chested,’ explained the 28-year-old ex-model. ‘It all came to a head when I was at a post-graduate job interview and the button on my shirt popped off. I knew something had to be done!’
Launching her first clothing company in 2008, Miss Fit UK, Poulton-born Nikki has gone from strength-to-strength developing and reinventing her brand. With £250,000 of private investment secured, in June 2013 the business woman transformed Miss Fit UK into the hot-off-the-catwalk company, Made In Preston.
Made In Preston is an online brand that designs and produces clothing and lingerie that is just as on trend as the likes of Topshop and ASOS, but goes beyond a DD. ‘Once upon a time, the high street decided that all women were a 34B,’ said Nikki.
‘So the majority of clothes were produced to fit this specification, perfect for those of an A, B or C cup. How would a 34B and a 34J girl ever fit into the same size top or dress, without resorting to buying a size that was way too big in other areas?’
The Preston-based fashion company offers 55 different bra and bikini sizes, and has a special sizing aspect to their clothes. ‘Although we do produce items for the bigger busted ladies, it is a misconception that only big-boobed women can shop with us. I don’t want to become a niche market.’ Nikki’s clothes can be ordered in three different shapes. Once you have found your perfect item, you have the choice to order in either ‘fit’ for those who are of an average bra size but like the designs, ‘foxy’ for ladies who need a little more room or ‘fab’- perfect for woman blessed with a larger bust.
In her previous fashion ventures, Nikki didn’t have a factory and all her items were ordered from overseas. The entrepreneur was keen to source a space for her new brand, and employ those who were struggling to find work in the factory to produce the items. ‘I was mindful when choosing a location that it would be accessible for employees to commute. Central Preston was perfect for that.’
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The six full time and four part time employees at Made In Preston are a mixture of ages and experience, with some machinists already skilled in clothes making. However, lingerie machinists received training in house, and Nikki is eager for all staff members to develop new skills while employed at the company. ‘We also have two apprentices starting towards September. They are complete novices in the trade so they will be trained up from start to finish.’
‘The average age for a machinist nowadays is late 40s to 60+. Those people will be retiring soon and we don’t have a lot of young people in training to continue this industry,’ added Nikki. ‘It is so important to instil skills and training when people are young.’
‘I think the increase in university fees has encouraged more people to take up trades such as this. We have UCLAN so close by, and a lot of fashion graduates leave but their CVs don’t show any skills of being able to physically manufacture clothes. The theory is there but no practical side, for example the knowledge of cutting, and grading to handling machinery and equipment.’
So what does the future hold for Nikki and Made In Preston? ‘We are pretty good at what we do now with our online store, so I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew.
‘I don’t want to wholesale, and I don’t think any shops or concessions are in my future plans. However, we have had interest from ASOS to stock our items which is exciting.’
Nikki, who lives in Kirkham, wanted to build a business that could operate without her being there all the time. The idea of becoming an entrepreneur was irresistible.
‘All of my investors in the business are male and they are lovely. I feel like an equal and I think I am really lucky as sometimes in this industry inequality is still present.’
‘They trust me to get on with it. It is still very much my business, and I hope the next year is just as good.’
The sold out dress
At Christmas 2013, Made In Preston received a boom in orders for a particular tartan dress. Nikki and her team never anticipated the demand to be so high, and with eight to ten orders a day flooding in they soon ran out of fabric. ‘I had nightmares that we weren’t going to manage to create enough for the customers!’ said Nikki. ‘It had been picked up by the national fashion magazines and bloggers, so it was great that it was so popular. It worked out in the end, but it certainly was a manic experience.’