THE crisis in the North-East's clothing industry has grown deeper with another 33 jobs lost in the face of cheaper overseas producers.

Workers at ladieswear manufacturer Varahwear were left devastated after being told the firm's factory at Willington in County Durham will close by the end of September.

The latest closure means more than 4,000 workers have lost their jobs in the North-East over the past 18 months.

And it comes less than a week after another manufacturer, Susie Radin closed its factory at nearby Crook, shedding 108 jobs and shifting its entire production to Hong Kong and China. Paul Vaughan, Varahwear's owner and managing director, said: "We've been here 23 years and we're basically gutted by it.

"We're just no longer viable due to the downturn in the business, with work going overseas and continuous decline of the clothing industry.

"It's a great shame. We've got people who've worked here for 20 years. People generally understand - we've got a very good working relationship.

"They're remaining optimistic but they're not going to find it easy. There are some young people but there's a hard-core nucleus who are in their early to late forties and fifties.

"Things will be wound down here by the end of September. Half the staff will go within the next four to six weeks and the rest in about 12 weeks."

He said the firm's other factory at Blyth in Northumberland, which has about 50 workers, would continue for the forseeable future, with no redundancies planned at present.

Varahwear took over the Blyth premises when clothing firm Marc Curtis collapsed seven years ago.

GMB Union regional organiser Jackie Woodall said of the Willington closure: "There's scarce prospects of any work coming forward and even if it does it will probably be short term," she said.

"We'll have a clearer and more final idea how things are after the holiday period.