Clothing manufacturers AMA Group is on the verge of completing a contract with top fashion brand Marie Claire worth £3m over three years.
The potential deal will see the Peterlee business, which started production just nine months ago, produce a range of lingerie for the style label, which publishes one of the UK’s bestselling fashion magazines.
It will represent the second major national contract for the firm, as it already creates clothing for Tesco’s F and F range, which went on sale in stores across the UK last September.
Director Julie Price said: “The deal hasn’t been completed yet, but we’re only two to three weeks away.
“I used to run a company called Lingerie Brands with a designer but it hasn’t really traded since all my efforts have focussed on AMA Group.
“However, our name must still be well known because, through that company, we were approached by Marie Claire who are doing a license for lingerie. Clearly our name is out there.
“We’re now bringing the Lingerie Brands name into AMA, and we’ll hopefully be making bras and other products for Marie Claire and getting it into the shops by Christmas.
“We’ve had interest from Debenhams and are also in conversation with Next – it’s very exciting. Marie Claire is the largest selling women’s fashion magazine and a name known by everyone.
“I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t bring in £3m in turnover over three years. Over the same time period the Tesco contract is predicted to bring in between £3m and £5m – we’re talking big business.”
Mrs Price said talks were also underway with Fred Perry to produce a range of sportswear, potentially generating further sales and jobs.
At present the firm employs 44 people, but the rise in work will bring new jobs to an industry which was decimated in the North East in the late 1990s as firms outsourced manufacturing to overseas businesses, resulting in the loss of more than 4,000 jobs.
Mrs Price said: “We don’t have traditional production lines with 25 girls all work on the same machine, and only working on that one machine.
“Our strategy is to have cell production, with each cell consisting of six to eight machinists working on eight to 10 machines, and each cell works together as a team.
“That means that each member of staff increases their skills to operate all of the machines, and not just one.
“We’ve got just over 40 at the moment but we’re looking to employ one production cell a month – so we’ll be up to 180 to 200 employees by the end of this year.”
The AMA directors – Julie and David Price and Paul Watts along with Steven Price and Steven Lawson – announced their plans a year ago February to bring clothing manufacturing back to the region, signalling the revival of an industry which was once at the heart of the area’s business community.