In August premium British shirtmaker Smyth & Gibson will double the size of its factory in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, allowing a more efficient layout of its production line.
For the past 10 years, the factory has occupied a former railway building dating back to the Victorian era on the banks of the River Foyle. During its two-week summer break it will expand into the vacant adjacent unit – once the now-defunct station’s waiting room – and double in size to 30,000 sq ft.
“We won’t actually be increasing production, but the expansion will allow us to have more room generally and to arrange the production stages – pattern cutting, fabric cutting and sewing – in a more logical and efficient way,” said co-owner Richard Gibson.
Smyth & Gibson employs around 70 people, mainly female, who maintain the skills that once made Londonderry one of the centres of UK shirt-making. Gibson’s wife Selina is the main creative force, while he concentrates on the manufacturing.
A recent recruit is Dan Worland, a former product director for Diesel, who is charged with increasing sales of own-label shirt and tie collections.
Smyth & Gibson took part in the recent London Collections: Men, where Gibson said he was impressed with the quality of buyers from Brown Thomas to Bergdorf Goodman. It has a wide range of premium brands and retailers, including Margaret Howell and Harvey Nichols, for its CMT and made-to-measure services.
It is aiming to show its own-label collection, part of which has been selling well for several seasons in Japan, to premium menswear independents in the UK and Ireland. Wholesale prices for the range, which typically features premium fabrics from Albini and Thomas Mason in Italy and Spence Bryson from Northern Ireland, are from £40 to £75.
Last year, Northern Irish fashion entrepreneur Sam Morrison, who runs the Clockwork Orange shops among others, invested in the company.