French & Teague and Sixteen47 Labels : Made in Ghana
Our unique little workshop in Ghana was an extraordinary era which lasted 20 years – closing in September 2018.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY.
In 1998 1647Ltd UK was supplying the International Designer Collections Floor at Liberty, London where we launched our Designer Label “French & Teague”. We really needed to expand our own London factory – which had been in Primrose Hill – and decided then to see if opening up a factory in Ghana – was an option. I had been going back home since 1994 to visit family so in 1996 I rented a small studio and designed and sampled a collection there – it was called “Sea of Change”. Clearly it could be done…or so it seemed then – and this collection was followed by “Blinded by the Light”, “From a Hard Landscape” and “Black Lily” amongst others. The quality of the work was exceptional as my recruitment policy was to only hire gifted dressmakers.
In 2000 1647Ltd UK opened its Gt. Castle Street shop – a fitting location to showcase our the French & Teague Brand. Roomy changing rooms, comfy chairs and chocolates.
We were also planning a venture with House of Fraser to launch a collection in what would be a new Flagship Store for them in London. Part of the plan was to team up with other designers – well known and loved – and who had agreed to work with us to produce 16+ sizes.
By 2000 all our production was done by Sixteen47 Ghana Ltd. The quality of the work was superb – and one thing we can say is that Ghana has gifted dressmaker who can be trained to produce the highest quality product.
For a while, as far back as 2000 – it looked as if the 16+ market was going to take off at the top end and we were at the forefront of these developments.
Sixteen47 Ghana was selected as one of 14 company’s to be part of the Ghana Government’s Presidential Special Initiative for rapid growth in the apparel Industry. We embarked on an ambitious expansion programme and it seemed to be a dream come true.
Sixteen47 Ghana Ltd.
Progressive policies, excellent terms and conditions, training and opportunities for all staff.
We did have great Staff – skilled and disciplined, representing the best Ghana can offer for this industry. At the time we closed the average time served was 10 years!
The extract below ( https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/ ) is from the press coverage of the formal opening of our (new in 1995) factory – and shows the optimism that prevailed at that time.
“New garment factory hits world market”
Accra, March 3,GNA – Mr Alan Kyerematen, Minister of Trade and Industry, has repeated Government’s commitment to provide right environment for industries to flourish. It would also facilitate their collaboration with European Union (EU) and American markets. “We also have to provide the necessary institutional support to improve access to technical assistance, finance and skilled labour so that our companies would be competitive on the global market” he said The Minister was inaugurating a garment factory, “Sixteen 47 Ghana limited”, a subsidiary of “Sixteen 47 UK Company”, which specializes in producing and making big size and high quality brand named garments for the United Kingdom and the American markets. “Sixteen 47 Ghana Limited” is one of the companies selected to participate in the Export Action Programme for Garments and Textiles under the President’s Special Initiatives (PSI). Mr Kyerematen said world trade in garments was very huge, running into more than 350 billion dollars per annum and offering employment to more than four 4 million people. He said the Government under a programme expected “Sixteen 47(Ghana) Limited” to become a significant garment exporter and to bring in about 20 million dollars per annum and to employ about 1,000 Ghanaians in the next four years. ….. Mr Gordon Wetherell, British High Commissioner to Ghana, said the inauguration of the garment factory demonstrated a successful strategic partnership between the people “in our two countries, which would help to meet Ghana’s objective of adding value to raw materials. “We believe that this would help generate the growth necessary to underpin Ghana’s wider development”, he said “Sixteen 47(Ghana) Limited” was registered in Ghana in November 1998 and its products are marketed in the UK through big retailers such as the Arcadia Group, Harrods and Liberty and Selfridges.
Little did we know then that this dream was not to be. The basic infrastructure support for our industry business could not be met and Sixteen47 Ghana Ltd did not fulfil expectations. 20 years after we founded our factory very little has changed for this industry in Ghana despite the potential. Expansion to meet the demand proved impossible in an industry which was simply unable to make enough progress.
By 2018 – as in 1998 – Ghana still lacked basics such as reliable electricity and broadband, pools of skilled specialist workers, supportive and effectively regulated import and export services, effectively regulated legal and financial institutions and even supportive and regulated statutory authorities. Trying to run an efficient operation in this industry in Ghana was, to say the least, attritional.
The company fluctuated in size between over 100 staff to under 20 staff between 1998 and 2018. Despite the challenges we did build a sterling small business which provided good jobs and conditions for all our staff. Our commitment to staff training ensured our staff were head and shoulders above anyone we know doing comparable work.
1647Ltd UK continued to invest year after year in the hope that things might improve.
In 2017, knowing that we were not getting any younger, 1647Ltd embarked on a year long investigation to see if it might be possible to re-structure Sixteen47 Ghana so that it could become more sustainable in the long term by supplying local markets and developing new products. We finally concluded that the challenges we had already encountered were the same for these initiatives despite the huge potential.
It was with great sadness that in July 2018 we, as directors and owners of Sixteen47 Ghana, finally accepted that we would have to close and we faced the heartbreaking prospect of closing and making our staff redundant. However, while in the final throes of closing down a local entrepreneur in our industry approached us and asked to take on all our staff! As a neighbouring business she had been greatly impressed by their dedication and discipline and when she heard we were closing was anxious to take them on. We saw a way forward to secure the excellent terms and conditions of our staff and jumped at it! We decided to “gift” Sixteen47 Ghana Ltd’s entire operation (along with all our staff’s jobs) as a going concern to this entrepreneur. She had turned out to be of the most successful Ghanaian business women – and majority shareholder in the largest factory in West Africa. Her plan regarding our legacy to her was to build a specialist enterprise for top quality work.
There is optimism about the future of garment manufacturing in Ghana and we are hopeful that it will emerge to reflect progressive values and provide a sustainable industry which values and rewards everyone. See this link for an optimistic outlook on “Africas’s” future in manufacturing.
We were so delighted that our staff would be able to keep their well paid jobs and excellent terms and conditions if they wanted to.
This was the end of a 20 year Era.
Sixteen47 Ghana 1998-2018
Goodbye and Good luck.