Marks & Spencer is thinking about playing a pivotal role in the revival of Adria, a hosiery supplier and one of the United Kingdom’s former manufacturing trailblazers.
Adria, which closed down its operations over a decade ago, was established by the late Rolf Noskwith in 1961. Rold Noskwith was a Bletchley Park codebreaker who went on to take over the textile business of his father.
The company became a pioneer of the fashion industry by responding to the swinging trend of the Sixties for miniskirts with seam-free stockings, which ended below short hemlines. For many years Adria was the biggest hosiery supplier of Marks & Spencer. However, it was sold to another clothing manufacturer, which transferred production to Turkey, Bangladesh and later Cambodia.
Adrian, Mr Noskwith’s son, is spearheading plots to resurrect the site. He has organised a team of former Marks & Spencer and Adria employees to start a new hi-tech facility in Strabane, Northern Ireland, where the old plant was located for 45 years prior to closing down in 2006.
Mr Noskwith has held detailed discussions with Marks & Spencer about becoming the main customer of the company and is now testing automated machinery to produce tights. The said technology is assumed to cost between £2m and £3m and would be financed by the entrepreneur and the government grant scheme of Northern Ireland.
Mr Noskwith stated that he believed that “automation is the only way we can bring manufacturing back to the UK.” He revealed that the factory would still support the local community as it would generate jobs for support staff, transport and logistics workers, and engineers. “There is a real knock-on effect, and Strabane has the highest unemployment in the country”, stated Noskwith.
It is understood that Steve Rowe, the M&S boss is determined to bring some of the chain’s manufacturing back to the United Kingdom so that it can respond more promptly to shifting demand. He also believes that big retailers can play a key part in promoting deprived areas. However, retailers encounter challenges in hiring skilled labour and ensuring that factories are compliant with ethical standards.