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This classic outfit was part of Marks & Spencer's 'Best of British' range, which celebrated British craftsmanship and creativity.

British ensemble fact file



Designed by

Marks & Spencer (est. 1884)

Made in

Britain, with British fabrics

Made from

Harris tweed, silk, wool

Museum reference

K.2015.112, K.2015.113, K.2015.114

On display

Fashion and Style, Level 1, National Museum of Scotland

Did you know?

Harris Tweed is the only fabric in the world which is protected by its own Act of Parliament.

Mass-manufacturing of clothing in the United Kingdom has been in decline since the mid-1990s. Production now tends to be outsourced off-shore to create garments more cheaply, enabling high street brands to keep up with the quick turnover of fashion trends. However, we are being made increasingly aware that cheap production comes at an environmental and human cost.

A resurgence of ‘Made in Britain’ clothing lines produced in collaboration with expert craftspeople reflects the zeitgeist for buying ethical and local, and demonstrates the difference between quality and quantity. 

In 2013, Marks & Spencer embarked on a three-year partnership with the British Fashion Council to create their ‘Best of British range’, in a true celebration of British craftsmanship and creativity. Launching for Autumn/Winter 2013, the collection took inspiration from the M&S archives and emphasized sustainability and local production. The highest quality British fabrics – from luxury Scottish cashmere, to fine Yorkshire cloths – were crafted into knitwear in Hawick, outerwear in Manchester, and footwear from Northamptonshire.  

Marks & Spencer ensemble

Above: Ensemble consisting of a woman's coat, shirt and trousers. The coat, called the 'Elizabeth coat', is made from navy blue Harris Tweed, with narrow lapels and a turn-down collar, and fastens with two horn buttons. The shirt, in navy blue silk, has a high neckline and narrow fold-down collar, placket concealed buttons and full-length sleeves with stiffened button closed cuffs. The wide, straight-leg trousers are made from navy blue pure wool.

Both fashion-forward and classic, the men’s and women’s collections brought home-grown design and manufacturing talent to the high street. Showcasing skilled craftsmanship, fine detailing and premium fabrics usually reserved for bespoke orders, M&S created a capsule collection of contemporary investment pieces with a subtle heritage twist.

Marks & Spencer ensemble

Marks & Spencer ensemble

While the collection is no longer produced, the industry is being increasingly vocal about championing ethical production and home-grown talent. As one of the UK’s leading high street retailers, M&S has been a longstanding supporter of the British Fashion Council, who launched their Positive Fashion Initiative in 2013. In 2015, the BFC commissioned the High-end and Designer Manufacturing Report in conjunction with the UK Fashion & Textile Association, Creative Skillset and Marks & Spencer.

As a result of the report, last year a free database of audited UK manufacturers was launched, with content provided by leading industry professionals and designer recommendations. With industry support, it will continue to grow.

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