AN AWARD-WINNING businesswoman is on a mission to go back to the future and update Wigan’s manufacturing past for the 21st century.
Mandy Summerscales, the owner of boutique Fashion PA, wants to introduce the skills of tailoring to a new generation with a view eventually to be selling her own branded range of clothing made within the borough.
Mandy, who has won three Wigan Business Awards in the past two years, hopes to take the first step towards achieving her dream when she begins working with retail students at Wigan and Leigh College. For Mandy, getting her own range of clothes made in her home town will also be a matter of keeping it in the family, as her grandmother Winnie Barratt was a seamstress at the now-demolished Foster’s factory.
She said: “My grandmother was a really good seamstress who made all my clothes when I was little and showed me how to make little outfits for my dolls.
“When she retired they gave her machine to her, so I remember going to her house and this massive machine was in the kitchen.
“It’s part of my heritage.”
Successful entrepreneur Mandy believes the time is right to begin moving into manufacturing after the clothing business formed part of retail guru Mary Portas’s campaign to revive the High Street and the success of Buy British campaigns.
She hopes to embark on this line of thinking by producing a maxi dress, which she says is currently the must-have fashion item, before expanding to begin producing clothes for Fashion PA, which will probably be sold as a label called Zuzh.
Although Mandy says her ambitions are currently quite modest, with ideas for machinists to work upstairs at Fashion PA’s site on Bradshawgate in Leigh on a part-time basis, she hopes to eventually broaden out to sell the borough’s clothes far and wide, based on the success of previous campaigns to buy British.
Mandy said: “For Mary Portas’s last project she re-opened a sewing factory in the Rochdale area and employed people on the dole.
“There’s a big thing at the moment about bringing manufacturing back to the UK, and we want to produce a range of essential items to sell throughout the year.
“Making clothes is a skill we don’t want to lose.
“We’ve all got a strong trade behind us in our family and I think that’s what young people need.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people out there with a skill set right now, and it would be great if we could train people up as well.
“It’s all there for us to do locally if we can get the finance together.”