‘Is this what people wear now?’ Sewing Bee host criticises M&S jumpers and socks

Last Updated: June 9, 2024By

The Problem with Modern Clothes

While filming The Great British Sewing Bee, Patrick Grant, the show’s host and a well-known clothing entrepreneur, found himself needing a pair of black socks.

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The production team went to the nearby Marks & Spencer to get him a pair. Grant explained, “They went to everyone’s favorite high street store, known for quality and value, and bought me their Autograph socks, supposedly their best.

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But when I put them on, I was shocked. Is this what people wear now? They felt like tights—thin, synthetic, flabby, and just awful.”

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Old vs. New Quality

He added, “The sweaters I bought from Marks & Spencer in the 80s are still fantastic. But now, the £30 sweaters they sell are terrible. They’re not the same at all.”

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Despite these criticisms, M&S saw a resurgence in profits last year, becoming the top UK womenswear retailer again. Sales of women’s partywear were up 49%, and knitwear sales rose 23% in October 2023 compared to the same time last year. Their more trendy collections seem to be paying off, and they’ve hired a new head of menswear design starting in June.

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Grant’s Harsh Words

Grant, who runs Cookson & Clegg and Norton & Sons, and judges on the BBC show, was tough in his critique. An M&S spokesperson responded, “Our clothing is made well and to last, using carefully sourced materials, which is why we’re known for quality and value.”

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Speaking at an event for his book, Less: Stop Buying So Much Rubbish, Grant criticized not just M&S but the entire industry. “This decline in quality is everywhere—clothing, footwear, even our homes. They’re built cheaply to make more money. But does it make our lives better? Absolutely not. Clothes aren’t cheaper; they’re just worse. And in the process, we’ve lost millions of jobs, devastating communities.”

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The Cost of Living Crisis

At 52, Grant understands the appeal of cheap clothing, especially during a cost-of-living crisis. Speaking at Waterstones in Leeds, he acknowledged, “It’s tough to tell someone to buy a more expensive item for the sake of quality. Many people are struggling right now.”

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“But,” he added, “the sad truth is, the cheaper the clothing, the more likely the money goes to people you wouldn’t want to support, rather than those who truly need it.”

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The Downfall of Creativity

Grant lamented that veteran designers like his co-judge Esme Young would struggle today against fast fashion. “Fashion is now a $3 trillion industry, mostly producing cheap, low-quality items. Creative and skilled designers don’t stand a chance. Companies like Shein, selling thousands of designs for a few pounds, have killed the opportunity for creativity and craftsmanship that thrived in the 60s.”

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“Esme couldn’t achieve today what she did back then,” Grant said. “Even icons like Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen would find it tough. When people pay just £2.50 for clothing, how can a true craftsman survive?

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Fashion should reflect the world and its culture, but it’s drowning in a flood of cheap, poor-quality products.”

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The Decline of Quality in Modern Fashion and How It Hurts Us All

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