Rob Drake-Knight, one half of the sibling co-founders of clothing brand Rapanui, talks to James Pozzi about the company’s soon to open screen printing production facility in the Isle of Wight and its part in the reshoring initiative.
What are the primary benefits for a company like Rapanai in bringing its production to the UK from India?
For a start, having increased control over product quality is really important to us. There is also the issue of added flexibility. We have a couple of new channels we are developing and the majority of the products – screen printed and corporate wear – are going to be made in the new factory. The factory will also have space put aside for a new merchandising system. Producing in the UK puts us in control of fixed and variable costs, and having this level of greater control is a big deal for us. The more vertically integrated you are, the more control you have over the aforementioned elements.
You’ve said you plan to create 12 new jobs over the next three years. In which areas are you looking to fill roles?
12 new jobs over the three years is a realistic estimate. Seven of those will be directly in production, whereas the other roles will go into other areas of the business which are naturally expected to grow too. Five of those 12 have actually already been filled this year, the first year of the three year plan. I anticipate the figure to be the absolute minimum, if we achieve our conservative estimates. But I can see this figure being much higher based on my experience of the last few years and where we anticipated we’d be now and what actually happened.
Rapanui is an advocate of sustainable manufacturing, with the new factory described as Eco-friendly. What measures have been taken to ensure you maintain sustainability levels?
While we like to think of ourselves as unique, we do follow a lot of the easy steps everyone can take. This includes where we source our energy from and also investing in the building. It’s evident how many savings can be made in terms of environmental impact of the building, the majority being in heat and water, so it all comes down to waste management. We’re going to be installing wood burning stoves in the new factory, as they are incredibly useful. Then there’s the screen printing itself, which will be phthalates-free, the ink also known referred to as a ‘gender bender.’ You have to be careful with the type of materials you use in the products, as they can rub off and get into the environment.
You’ve been backed by both Reshore UK and the Manufacturing Advisory Service. What sort of impact have these two organisations had on Rapanui?
The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) were really helpful on issues such as assisting on specific projects to looking at our production flow and factory proposals. It’s an organisation full of people who have been there and done it, and they’ve been particularly great with the specialist issues. Me and my brother are still quite young and don’t have great experience of production. MAS also introduced us to Reshore UK, which champions something I feel the country should be supporting. Local production embodies communities, and while I’m not saying we shouldn’t buy things from outside if it’s a benefit economically, I think we should always look to add value to UK business. We’re a country with a proud history of textile production dating back to the industrial revolution, and anything we can do to support that is great for the Isle of Wight and the economy.