Wednesday, 30 March 2011


Well, a switch actually. Please forgive this purely aesthetic post. A friend of M&I showed us a beautiful light switch today. He sourced it from eBay and it was made in England. The packaging was an item to behold in itself. Here it is. If anyone knows the manufacturer please do leave a comment below.

Monday, 28 March 2011


Sunspel and What it Stands For

“We think of ourselves as two things. Number one: The British jersey experts. We have developed, over the last 150 years, a number of fabrics that are unique. We are innovators in fabric development. Number two: We are manufacturers - cut and sew manufacturers in England. That is pretty rare. We're probably the last brand that manufactures cut and sew products in the UK from our own factory. There are other brands that dabble with making in the UK but they don't own the factories. The factory is not the core of the business.

When we grow the range we focus on those two things - is it a jersey and is it a cut and sew product? We do make certain items abroad, our boxer shorts for instance, but we have maintained the core here. I think a lot of other brands made a mistake in shifting all of their production abroad.”

The Creative Director

“He (J.W Anderson) loves our product. He is fundamentally a product guy at heart. He knows that what he does is about fashion but he knows that when he comes here and works with us we keep it simple. A lot of the stuff that he produces for menswear is made in the UK so there is a good synergy.”

Sunspel Mens and Sunspel Boxer

"When Peter Hill came back to run the business after the war, his elder brother was still living in Europe and he was a journalist. He then came back 5/6 years later. Then they fell out. So they decided to split the business between Sunspel Menswear and Sunspel Boxer. Peter, the guy we bought from, kept menswear and John had boxer.

Then, in the 80s, when the Levi's ad came out Boxer did really well. Because everybody started doing boxers; Marks & Spencer and so forth, the boxer side of the business effectively closed down.

When John, the brother, died, Peter bought the remaining business off of John's son. But he never really liked the boxers. I remember when we came up to speak to Peter, he said to me "what kind of underwear do you wear?" And I replied, "well boxers...briefs, a bit of both." And he responded, "Boxers. Nasty things!"

Photos of our visit are here. The informative Sunspel blog is here.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


Earlier this month M&I visited the Sunspel factory in Long Eaton, Derbyshire. Whilst there we met with Nicholas Brooke, the director of the company since he and business partner, Dominic Hazlehurst took over 5 and a half years ago.

Theirs is a tale of investing in a factory that was steeped in history and tradition – so much so that everything financial was still done on a ledger when they took over. We discussed the story of Sunspel, textile manufacturing in the East Midlands, and why Japan is so important to them.
Over the next few days we will be publishing some extracts of our conversation.

Taking Over

“The business started in 1860 and until 1937 the factory was in Russell St in Nottingham. I’ve known Sunspel since I was about 12 or 13, when I bought my first pair of boxer shorts. My wife's aunt is the companion of the previous owner, Peter Hill, who was part of the family who started the business. My wife’s aunt would say that ‘Peter does not want to sell the company to someone who will offshore it.’ I had been chatting to Dominic for a while about starting a business and we thought it would be a great opportunity to reestablish an old English brand.

In this room (a meeting room directly above the factory) there were four ladies who were the accounts department. Everything was done in handwritten ledgers. Then there was a final lady who had a very old computer on her desk, and as the ledgers came round she then typed them into her computer, which was wiped clean at the end of every year.

The biggest challenge has been that everything here has a massive legacy. We were careful not to chuck it all away though, because if you chuck it all away I think you lose what is ultimately the core of the brand... and then you might as well be making cheap t-shirts.

When we took over everything that was being done was very old fashioned... but we had this business with Japan which was all about slim cut coloured t-shirts."

Japan and The Japanese Consumer

“A Japanese guy went into Harrods or Selfridges... bought some underwear... and thought, ‘my, this is an amazing t-shirt. If I could do this in Japan…’ So he contacted Peter Hill to see if he could have some t-shirts made. Peter went there once... but I don't think he realised that we are in some of the best shops that you can get into.

The Japanese really understand the purity and quality of the product. What they love is; the fact that it is made in Britain, the fact that it is long staple Egyptian cotton and the fact that it is made really beautifully and it lasts. I think the UK consumer is getting closer to the way the Japanese consumer's way of thinking.”

Photos of our visit are here. The informative Sunspel blog is here.

Part two of the interview will follow shortly.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


John Spinks has taken some photos of the factories and workers that Albam creates its clothing with. You can download high resolution images at East Photographic. Very nice indeed.

The book of his handsome photos is available here, priced £30.

Images, from top to bottom: Rough Rounders, Rushden 2009 / Shears, Long Eaton 2009 / Packing Room (II), Leicester 2010

Thursday, 17 March 2011


According to Reuters, Philip Green, the chief of the Arcadia Group, has joined the conversation on UK manufacturing. M&I thinks it is promising that someone of his stature should be considering shifting some production back to Britain.

"When the market is as it is you want to manage as near home as you can. That's why there's some debate about UK manufacturing and people actually opening some new factories," Green told the Retail Week conference.

"Is suddenly all our production coming back here? No. Is there an opportunity to do some production here? Hopefully there is and we're going to try," Green added.

Image from Cooper Stollbrand, Manchester (one of the factories that has recently produced items for Topshop, part of the Arcadia Group)

Saturday, 12 March 2011


We had the pleasure of meeting with Gary Bott of the classic luggage maker, Globe Trotter last Friday.

Both the interviews from our visits last week are in the process of being written up (transcribing always seems to take more time than you think.) In the meantime, please feel free to browse the photos taken on our most recent visit to the HQ of Globe Trotter in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


We really enjoyed this 1931 documentary on the industrial revolution by John Grierson. It covers a range of craftsmen and their work - from the potter William Davenport Cotton to the steel workers of the shipyards.

If you desire a higher quality version of this film there is a DVD (which includes approximately 40 similar films from the era), entitled Land of Promise available from the BFI.

Footnote: Apologies for having to click on the link to get to the film, the embed code doesn't appear to work.

Image of Mr Grierson from here

Sunday, 6 March 2011


Last Thursday we spent a couple of hours delving into the archives at Sunspel's factory in Long Eaton, Derbyshire. Whilst there we also nipped round the buzzing factory. A full write up of our time with Nicholas Brooke of the classic underwear and clothing brand will follow here shortly, but for now, please feel free to browse some of our photos of the visit on Manufacture & Industry's Facebook page.