Online retailer Boohoo aims to open a ‘model factory’ in Leicester after being engulfed in controversy over working conditions in the city’s textile industry.

Boohoo, which dropped two suppliers after a Sunday Times exposé of underpayment of staff in factories, could begin manufacturing its own lines in a joint-venture factory up and running by September, The Mail on Sunday reported.

Chief executive John Lyttle is visiting Leicester today, where he will tour a possible site for the factory, which he hopes will show Boohoo’s determination to address critics.

The factory, which would employ 250 people, would also be a symbol of the etailer’s commitment to British manufacturing. It would allow Boohoo to adopt a similar strategy to fashion giant Inditex, owner of Zara, which manufactures its own clothing.

Lyttle said: “Number one: this factory is a commitment to UK manufacturing. But it’s also about making sure we can support our growth with a level of in-house production.

“Inditex have a number of joint ventures in Spain and in Portugal that they work with, and that really helps their flexibility – it’s not dissimilar to that.

“Let’s get this one up and running, prove the model. And then decide and see where we go from there. We’re not manufacturers, but we feel confident we can execute this and we can make this factory successful.”

He said that the allegations about conditions in Leicester factories had been “upsetting”, but maintained: “If there’s stuff wrong in Leicester, I’d rather find it and fix it, not run for the hills and say, ‘That’s it, we’re out of here – let somebody else sort it out.’”