A LEADING British designer has urged North Staffordshire’s ceramics businesses to continue investing in skills to stay ahead of overseas competition.
Wayne Hemingway, who launched the Red or Dead fashion brand with his wife Gerardine in the 1980s, told exhibitors and guests at yesterday’s Ceramics 2013 conference that to him, the greatest designs showed the new meeting the old.
But he warned Stoke-on-Trent’s new generation of designer-makers that to be successful they need a brand that reflects their own stories and beliefs.
Speaking at the Centre of Refurbishment Excellence (CoRE) in Longton he said: “This is an industrial area and that needs two things.
“It needs manufacturing and like a lot of other areas that will come back again.
“But what it can’t lose in the meantime is design skills and design thinking.
“What they are doing in China now is investing in design. People from China are also coming here to learn and in 20 years time they will be great at design.
“In that time production costs may mean that it is as cheap to manufacture in the UK as it is in China. So we have got to keep investing in design to make sure we don’t lose out.”
Holding the event at CoRE meant that for the first time, the annual Ceramics conference had an interactive element.
The exhibition space developed in an old pot bank with four bottle kilns incorporated into the venue offering the latest high tech facilities. Exhibitors from a range of businesses involved in the ceramics sector showcased their work and held hands-on demonstrations throughout the day.
Mr Hemingway, whose Hemingway Design business is involved in everything from housing to fashion and furniture, said he could see other opportunities for growth and development throughout the city.
He said: “In a way, Stoke-on-Trent is a damaged brand. But that’s not a terrible position to be in.
“There is an unconditional love for Stoke-on-Trent and its heritage but it’s how we deal with that and celebrate our way out and keep the love going until we can act on it.
“People know it as a proud city that was thriving and produced some amazing stuff and I think its quite sad that it was affected by what happened when Britain lost its manufacturing.”
Tony Kinsella, chief executive of material research business Ceram, said hard work and perseverance meant the ceramics industry was getting back on it’s feet.
He said: “Innovation and invention is part of the DNA of our great industry.
“Over the last decade companies have been able to listen to their customers and design to their needs with great passion.”
Laura Cohen, chief executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, in Stoke, said: “The industry has been through a difficult recession and we need to focus on job creation. We need to carry on our work to ensure the UK remains an attractive place for manufacturers to continue to invest.”
Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Tristram Hunt said: “We need to draw on our past as it is so powerful. We are again seeing a spread of innovation and enthusiasm and creativity, art and design and it is providing us with the future that we want to see.”