English Fine Cottons will in July produce the first batch of cotton in Greater Manchester since the last mills closed in the 1980s.
“In two months’ time we will have our first kilogram of fine English yarns to supply luxury fabric and garment manufacturers in the UK,” said Brendan McCormack, managing director of English Fine Cottons at UK sourcing event Meet the Manufacturer in east London today.
He said, at its peak, there were almost 180 cotton mills producing around 80% of the world’s fine cotton in Thameside, but “the industry didn’t just disappear, it collapsed” as businesses moved production overseas.
The firm, which is owned by automotive and technical textiles company Culimeta-Savegard, was established to restore cotton spinning to the area in the refurbished Tower Mill in Dukinfield. English Fine Cottons is investing £4.8m of its own money, £2m of which is a loan from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, to regenerate the former Victorian cotton mill and install new technology to create luxury yarn.
A further £1m has been awarded as a grant by the N Brown RGF6 Textile Growth Programme, marking the largest single award from the fund. The £97m programme aims to support a national revival in textiles, led by an industry board chaired by N Brown and including Marks & Spencer and other UK firms.
“We spent two years doing market research to see if there is still demand and we believe the time is right,” said McCormack. “We are sourcing the best cotton lint and we’re able to supply small batches with short lead times.”
The company has registered the name Britspun to highlight that the cotton is spun in the UK.
It will have an initial capacity of 1,000 tonnes of yarn per year, which McCormack said is equivalent to 0.2% of total cotton imports.
“We have CMT, weavers, knitters and so on in the UK but no cotton spinners,” he said. “This investment will make the industry joined up again.
“We are creating opportunities for the industry to increase quality with quicker response, smaller batches and just-in-time deliveries – we hope that the industry will look at us as a precious resource.
“Last year, the UK had a record trade deficit of £100bn and of that £1.5bn each quarter was made up of apparel. Although we are starting small, you have to think that every piece of clothing we make in the UK is one that we don’t import. It is all part of bringing manufacturing back to the UK.
“We’re creating 130 jobs in the area and if you can make cotton in the UK, you can make anything.”