“The Zip Project, a joint venture company between Marks & Spencer and Desmond & Sons, is creating a centre of excellence in the design, fabric and garment sourcing, prototyping and merchandising of childrenswear at Claudy”, Sir Reg Empey, MLA, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, said today.

Sir Reg was speaking at the official opening of the Claudy, Co. Londonderry, operation. The Claudy facility will design and produce clothing patterns and prototype garments in-house and then contract the production to the manufacturers of Marks & Spencer’s childrenswear.

Said Sir Reg: “This is an immensely important investment in knowledge-based skills. It will focus on building capability in new product design and development, supply chain management and marketing. This is an approach in line with Invest NI’s strategy and with the recommendations of the Kurt Salmon Action Plan.

“The Zip Project is designed to place Marks & Spencer at the forefront of up to the minute design and innovation in childrenswear which will attract more shoppers in to the company’s stores.

“The retailer’s decision to team up with Desmonds shows the confidence which it has in the vision and expertise of this entrepreneurial Northern Ireland business,” added Sir Reg.

“Another significant benefit of this alliance is the value-added employment opportunities that are being provided in an area of social need.”

Michèle Jobling, Managing Director of The Zip Project Ltd said: “We chose Desmond & Sons as our joint venture partner in recognition of the excellent design, sourcing and technical skills of its workforce.

“We are working really well together and, focusing on quality, value and innovation, we aim to profitably grow our childrenswear business and increase our market share in this sector.”