It’s 15 years this month since VetiGraph arrived in the UK from its French homeland. And as we celebrate a milestone birthday, it seems a good time to reflect on our journey since then – including a rather bumpy start to life in this country.
“When I came here in 2005, I was told by one customer that there was no clothing manufacturing here and I should go back to France,” says CEO Hervé Andrieu wryly.
“We went against the grain and arrived at a time when our competitors had left.”
The first years saw VetiGraph struggle with product launch and brand recognition, but we soon developed a small cluster of loyal customers. Then the 2007 the banking crisis hit, leading to a recession. It was a difficult time for our industry, along with many others.
Things really started to look up in 2010 with the start-up of many online companies, who needed British suppliers. Soon there was a manufacturing boom in the Midlands, most noticeably in Leicester. These companies needed to improve the way they managed their production orders, so we started to develop our PLM style pack system and business really took off.
Our team was growing rapidly, and staff spent hours on the M1 every week, travelling to and from the Midlands. By 2015, we had100 UK customers.
There was another revolution brewing and 2016 was the year of the digital cutting room. We made another big step forward last year, opening our training facility Fashion Forward Centre in Leicester. The training centre recognised the urgent need to train more people on digital pattern cutting and grading.
We’d already trained 80 people before Covid-19 forced us to shut the centre’s doors. It’s fitting that we marked our anniversary this month by reopening the facility. We’ve made the space larger, meaning we can train more people while ensuring social distancing.
This year, we’ve done everything we can to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. We’ve been laying the foundations of 3D design and digital sampling and pushing the boundaries to help .
“When I look back, our biggest success has been establishing the brand in the face of scepticism. We now have more than 300 customers, based in the Midlands, London and Manchester,” says Hervé.
Among those customers is the one who politely suggested that Hervé. was wasting his time trying to establish VetiGraph in this county.
“In 2014 he called me back and said could he buy three VetiGraph systems – that was a sweet moment, ” he says.