At a very uncertain time for fashion and textile businesses, Future Fashion Factory members are diversifying and adapting their manufacturing to cope with shifting demand.
Canvasman produces textile products for a variety of purposes across the leisure, medical, marine and automotive sectors – all of which have come under strain as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The closure of marinas during lockdown has meant a significant drop in demand for key products such as boat hoods and covers, while many private and trade customers have decided to wait until the global situation improves before going ahead with orders that have already been quoted.
But from its base in Baildon, West Yorkshire, the company is meeting this unique challenge as demand has skewed in favour of new and existing products that can be used to improve public safety.
We’re finding there’s a really good spirit among businesses supporting each other and getting suppliers paid quickly.Chris Salisbury, Canvasman Managing Director
So far the business hasn’t needed to re-tool or to convert any of its manufacturing capacity, which was already versatile enough to produce a broad range of products.
“We had a fast-prototyping line before the pandemic, but not quite this fast!” says Chris Salisbury, Canvasman’s managing director. “We’ve prototyped 30 new products in the last 3 weeks.”
Some existing clients have pivoted towards helping the fight against Covid-19.
One customer has continued with existing orders to support end users manufacturing ventilators while adapting to develop new products for the medical sector, including a new design for clean tents. Canvasman was able to prototype this design rapidly, supporting its customer’s efforts to develop a new market.
However, the company has also connected with an entirely new customer base in public transport.
The first enquiry came in from a bus company a few weeks ago, looking for a physical barrier between drivers and passengers to help ensure their safety.
From receiving the basic requirements for the product, Canvasman managed to quote, pattern, prototype and eventually start production on a fabric screen to fit the driver’s cabin within 24 hours.
Once the screens were in use Canvasman started contacting public transport providers across Yorkshire, but the most influential factor in driving new enquiries has been word of mouth.
“We’re finding there’s a really good spirit among businesses supporting each other and getting suppliers paid quickly,” Chris adds. “Those businesses need to survive so there’s still a supply chain when the pandemic is over.
“It’s still a very uncertain time, but we’re hoping that the contacts we’ve made so far will put us in a positive position to move forward when demand starts to pick up again.”