At Pantherella International Group, Justin Hall oversees a century of sock-making expertise.
Based in Leicester, HJ Hall and Pantherella are two hosiery institutions. With more than 1,000 stockists apiece, the brands are known for their high-quality styles and UK manufacturing heritage. Wholesale prices for HJ Hall range from £1.30 to £6.50 and for Pantherella range from £4 to £24.
The two brands are run by the Pantherella International Group, after HJ Hall bought Pantherella in 2001. The business is headed up by managing director Justin Hall. Hall’s family has been involved in the sock-making business for five generations, and Hall is following in his father’s footsteps in running the business. Drapers speaks to him to find out more about making a success of socks.
What is your background? After studying engineering at Bristol University, I went on to qualify as an accountant before making the decision to return to HJ Hall when my father was moving towards retirement.
Your family has been in the hosiery industry for generations – how did you experience this when you were growing up? I spent a lot of time in the factory and remember the staff who used to look after me while my father was in meetings – some of whom still work for the brand today.
I can also remember seeing TV adverts for HJ socks in the 1980s and 1990s and being very impressed that that was my dad’s company.
What makes the business unique? Our 135-plus years of heritage – HJ Hall has been making socks since 1882, Pantherella since 1937 – our huge concentration of sock-making expertise and the sheer dedication of our staff, several of whom have been with the company for more than 40 years.
Why is UK manufacturing important to you? Leicestershire has been at the centre of hosiery manufacturing in the UK for many years. We’ve built up an amazing wealth of knowledge and expertise, which allows us to make wonderful-quality, high-value products that are exported all over the world.
How would you describe the brands’ style? Pantherella is sophisticated but easy to wear, and focuses on the use of high-quality materials. HJ’s style is classic and timeless with a focus on comfort and value.
What are some of the challenges you face on a day-to-day basis? We’ve recently been sourcing new energy efficient machinery to help reduce our overheads and lessen our small environmental impact even further.
What are some of the highlights from your time with the company? The 2016 merger of HJ Hall and Pantherella on to one site in Leicester and the creation of Pantherella International Group. It has been hugely satisfying seeing the two teams integrate and operate as one.
The development of the HJ ProTrek outdoor range has been something I’ve been heavily involved in, and I am looking forward to its launch in January 2019 very much.
How do you keep yourself motivated and inspired? My background in engineering means I’m inspired by innovation and I have a real passion for developing new products. Consumer feedback is very motivating – there’s nothing like hearing directly from the consumer what it is they enjoy about our socks.
Is there anyone in the industry that particularly inspires you? My grandfather and father were both great innovators and genuinely interested in all aspects of the hosiery business, so I’ve always found them very inspiring. I also thought that [the late] Mark Sebba, the former CEO of Net-a-Porter, was a great example of a business leader with integrity, wisdom and strength.
Favourite clothing brand
Favourite places to shop
I like to shop in New York when I’m there on business
Last fashion purchase
A pair of Cheaney shoes
Messing about in boats with my family on the North Norfolk coast
Last book you read
Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker
Last film you watched
Paddington 2 with my children
Not including packing socks for HJ Hall as a 14-year-old, I was a ski chalet host in St Anton in Austria
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
As well as the usual DIY and gardening jobs, I coach mini-rugby for under-eights