From urban tweeds to astronauts, Drapers profiles 10 British makers setting the standard for UK manufacturing excellence.
In with the old and New
Inspired by the Scottish textile industry’s heritage and expertise, designer Jennifer Kent launched men’s accessories brand Edition Scotland in 2013. The collection consists of six cashmere scarves in up to four colourways (£159 retail). For autumn 15, she will add three merino styles.
A Glasgow School of Art graduate, Kent interned at Alexander McQueen and Tom Scott in New York before joining Lyle & Scott.
Her own brand is driven by Kent’s ethos of respecting the old and embracing the new. She uses Todd & Duncan cashmere yarn, and the scarves are hand-finished in Scotland. A limited number of each design is produced, so sold-out styles are not repeated.
Edition Scotland is available online and in menswear boutiques including Grey Flannel in London and Paul Stuart in New York.
Inspired by polar explorers and intrepid mountaineers, Dhu Performance is pioneering the use of cashmere in sports and outdoor clothing.
The company was founded in 2012 by outdoor enthusiast Ian Moore, who couldn’t understand why cashmere was not being used in outdoor products in the same way as merino wool, as the fibre has the same breathable, lightweight and flame-resistant properties.
The cashmere is sourced from farming communities in Inner Mongolia and all manufacturing is carried out in partnership with Johnstons of Elgin.
The London College of Fashion knitwear design graduate created 25 styles across menswear, womenswear and accessories, including base layers and neck gaiters, retailing from £189 for a woman’s base layer up to £399 for a man’s hoodie.
He combines traditional knitting techniques with sportswear-led design. For example, each product is hand-shaped and pressed, but also features waterproof zips and light polyurethane toggles.
The collection is available through Dhu’s website and selected stockists, including Harrods and Johnstons of Elgin.
Todd & Duncan
Todd & Duncan has a 140-year heritage in supplying cashmere yarn to couture houses and fashion designers worldwide, although the company refuses to reveal their names.
Based on the banks of Loch Leven in Kinross, Scotland, the company is famed for its colours, created by mixing pure white cashmere fibre with soft water from the loch.
Sales director Bruce Cameron says this process allows Todd & Duncan to create unique colours like its Hebridean Collection, inspired by Scottish land and seascapes in shades of petrol blue, rich russet and sage green.
The business was acquired in 2009 by Chinese cashmere company and former supplier Ningxia Zhongyin, guaranteeing Todd & Duncan’s continued access to high-quality white cashmere fibre.
Looking to tap into the trend for lightweight knits and fabrics, Todd & Duncan launched Cashmere Superlight at yarn show Pitti Filati in Florence in January. Approximately 63% the weight of Todd & Duncan’s traditional yarn, Cashmere Superlight is a lightweight worsted yarn with the texture of a woollen spun yarn.
Armadillo Merino founder Andy Caughey is passionate about the need for “professional risk takers” in the police, fire service or military to be properly protected.
The Derbyshire-based firm, whose clients include Nasa, began manufacturing merino wool base layers in response to the broad use of synthetic fibres, which melt into the skin when ignited. Merino, by contrast, is naturally flame-resistant and only ignites in temperatures above 600°C. Even then it does not melt.
Armadillo Merino uses only traceable merino certified by the New Zealand Merino Company, renowned for its fineness and softness.
New Zealander Caughey, former managing director of knitwear brand John Smedley, launched Armadillo Merino in 2011. It now offers three ranges, with items retailing between £19 for socks and £115 for mock turtle-necks. Caughey is working on enhanced flame-retardant cloth, an alternative to polyamide fibre textiles, and body-monitoring fabrics to monitor stress levels.
Glow in the dark
Tweed textiles designer, supplier and retailer Dashing Tweeds was launched a decade ago to create modern, urban sportswear from heritage cloth. Founders Guy Hills, a photographer, and woven textile designer Kirsty McDougal work with mills and finishers to achieve unusual textiles, such as merino wool blended with reflective yarn. Its first creation was Lumatwill, a reflective tweed for urban cyclists.
The company launched its first capsule collection for autumn 14, which included a Lumatwill bicycle blazer, waxed wool jacket and a merino and silk smoking jacket. The spring 15 collection has 10 pieces, with retail prices ranging from £250 for shorts to £650 for summer jackets.
Last year, it opened its first store in Mayfair, London, and Hills also hints at a wholesale arm.
Having already collaborated with brands such as Converse, Dashing Tweeds will soon also announce a new project with a “very large British brand”.
Wool and The Gang
Hip to knit
Central Saint Martins textile design graduates Aurelie Popper and Jade Hawood knew they wanted to build something sustainable in an age of mass-produced fast fashion.
Having hit upon the idea of developing kits that showed customers how to knit their own garments and accessories, the pair launched Wool & the Gang in 2008.
While WATG’s online store (woolandthegang.com) is more design-led than a traditional knitting shop, at its heart is the focus on quality yarn. WATG launched with Crazy Sexy Wool, a chunky 100% Peruvian wool yarn, and now has a further four yarns available, including Jersey Be Good, which is made from upcycled factory off-cuts.
With 300 designs split across womenswear, menswear, kidswear and babies, customers can choose to knit their own design or use the expertise of ‘the Gang’, a 400-strong global community of active knitters who make garments on their behalf. The ‘Gangstas’ receive 78% of the sale price of each item for their time, and also sell their knitted creations on the site.
Over the next year, the company will continue to look for “exciting yarns with exciting stories”, such as using leftover fibre from fabric manufacturers, and look to develop new, lighter-weight products for summer.
One of only two jeans manufacturers in the UK (the other being Dawson Denim, below), Hiut Denim was born out of a desire to save denim craftsmanship in the west Wales town of Cardigan after the closure of Dewhirst’s factory in 2002 left 400 skilled workers unemployed.
David and Clare Hieatt launched the brand in October 2011 with two styles available online, extending into wholesale for spring 12. Hiut Denim now has a 14-strong team producing 100 pairs of jeans a week.
Denim devotee Hieatt, who sold his Howies brand to Timberland in 2006, sourced two types of raw denim - organic from Isko in Turkey and selvedge from the Kuroki Mill in Japan. When woven on shuttle looms, fabric comes out with tightly woven bands running down the edge, giving rise to the weaving term ‘selvedge’ or self-edge.
The collection has five cuts - four for men, including regular and a Tech Jean, blending cotton and polyester for extra flexibility, and a slim fit for women. A women’s black Tech Jean was added in late January, with new products to be announced in April. Retail prices range from £124.99 for the women’s skinny-fit jean to £230 for a pair of men’s selvedge jeans.
Hieatt wants to sell 80% of product directly through the website, although Hiut Denim is also available through 25 stockists including London’s Rivet & Hide and Japanese fashion retailer Beams.
Chelsea College of Art and Northumbria University graduate Rosie Sugden wanted to turn traditional cashmere accessories on their head with fresh patterns from neon pink leopard print to bright camouflage.
Sugden was first inspired to go into knitwear by her father James Sugden, former group managing director of Scottish cashmere specialist Johnstons of Elgin. Her eponymous collection, launched in autumn 2011, features 30 pieces in 12 designs, including her bestselling turban, as well as other hats, gloves and scarves. Prices range from £45 retail for cashmere wrist warmers to £120 for a moss stitch beanie.
Passionate about Scottish textiles, the Edinburgh-based designer manufactures the collection at a 200-year old mill in Innerleithen, in the Scottish Borders. Her products are made from two-ply woollen-spun cashmere yarn. The fibre is sourced from Alashan in Inner Mongolia, where it is combed from cashmere goats before being dyed and spun in Scotland.
Stockists include Liberty, Harrods and Anthropologie in the UK, as well as 14oz in Berlin and Isetan in Japan.
For autumn 16, Sugden will present her first women’s capsule collection, including a small number of statement pieces, but plans remain a secret as the collection is in its early stages.
Launched in 2002 to provide warm clothing for cold-water surfers, Cornwall-based Finisterre’s range
of jackets, jeans, merino base layers and accessories spans 120 styles, retailing from £12 for socks to £195 for a men’s jacket.
Founder Tom Kay’s ambition is for his products to be durable and ethically produced to the point of developing a UK fine fibre supply chain. He works with Devon-based producer Leslie Prior, who grew the UK’s last flock of merino sheep from 28 in 2005 up to 200 today. Kay would like Prior to provide 20% of Finisterre’s merino in 20 years’ time.
The company has five stores, in London, Paris, Braunton in Devon and Falmouth and St Agnes in Cornwall.
Its latest is the Camber jean (£150 retail) - made from 60% cotton and 40% merino - launched in autumn 14. This blend will warm cold legs post-surf, while curved side-seam pockets offer easy access for cold hands.
Brighton-based Dawson Denim was established in 2012 by denim designer Kelly Dawson and her partner, Scott Ogden. The label is heavily influenced by their mutual love of “old stuff”, particularly from the 1950s and 1960s.
Manufactured on three original 1930s sewing machines, Dawson Denim launched with a range of four workwear aprons (£80 to £110 retail) - the pinny, carpenter, mechanic and mercantile denim aprons. Sales were ploughed back into the business so Dawson and Ogden could achieve their ultimate goal of producing jeans, more costly and complicated to produce than aprons. The first cut - a men’s regular fit - was launched in autumn 14, priced at £220.
Having spent so long getting the right machinery, the denim had to be exactly right. Dawson was able to source selvedge denim woven on 1920s manually operated Toyoda looms at a 100-year-old factory in Japan.
Offering free repairs and a log book to track the history of each garment, Dawson Denim makes 10 pairs of hand-cut jeans a week. Over the next three months, the company is planning to expand its apron range with new styles, as well as adding another jean fit and a jacket design.