Best Of British
Stylishly Supporting UK PLC - The Chic Geek Loves UK Fashion
When it rains, it pours. And when it pours, it’s good news for British wax-coat maker Barbour. We took a trip to Newcastle to see where these famous jackets are still being made and to get an insight into the history of the brand and its future expansion.
Left - The Barbour factory in South Shields, busy at work producing your next jacket
Barbour was founded in 1894 in the Market Place in South Shields, just outside of Newcastle, selling clothes for the workers of the north-east. Situated on the mouth of the Tyne river, South Shields was the place to perfect waterproof clothing. Originally covered in fish oil (smelly much!), fishermen, miners and drayman wore Barbour to keep themselves dry. Barbour moved on to tar and then finally wax as a water resistant coating.
Right - ‘Uncle Harry’s’ Coat 1910 - The oldest jacket in Barbour’s archive. Affectionately called ‘Uncle Harry’s’ coat, it was passed down through many generations of the Macpherson-Fletcher family before being returned to Barbour
Today, it is run and owned by Dame Margaret Barbour, the 5th generation of the Barbour family and Barbour's headquarters and factory are still proudly located in Simonside, South Shields.
They make 600 jackets a day, 3000 a week or 130,000 - 140,000 a year at the UK factory. All wax products are made in the UK. The other Barbour ranges are made all over the globe. There are 4 production lines and a 5th is being added in September, creating 65 new jobs to fulfill the demand for 'Made in Britain'. The average age of workers in the factory is now 47, so they have established the Barbour Academy to train young people in the art of making a Barbour jacket.
The jackets start with Millerain fabric, made in Scotland. Up to 100 layers of fabric are cut at a time into the templates of the jackets. The fiddly bits, like the collars and plackets are done in a separate section, while the production line produces and constructs the main elements on the jackets. Everything is checked throughout the process on the 125 different styles that they make.
Left - The templates of a jacket on up to 100 layers of Millerain fabric
Barbour sells in 40 countries worldwide. It has huge potential. It’s not even in the Australian or Chinese markets yet. China alone could easily double production in the UK, if they get it right.
There’s also a facility at the Barbour factory where you can return your jacket to have it rewaxed. This is recommended once a year and costs £30, including return postage. You can drop it off at any Barbour store or send it direct to the South Shields factory. They can also repair jackets and replace zips; no task is too great for Jean and her repairing crew. The Queen and other members of the Royal Family use this service.
While we were there we were lucky enough to be given a sneak-peek of the new Norton & Sons/Barbour collaboration which we will fill you in about later in the year, when it is released for the Autumn/Winter 2013 season.
Barbour means many things to many people. From the Sloanes of Chelsea to the hipsters of East London, the Barbour has been embraced as a truly British product. Barbour's second biggest market, after the UK, Germany, requires the Union Flag as a standard on all product.
Left – Ursula Jacket 1940 - Submariner commander Captain George Philips was so impressed by the weatherproof protection of his officer’s all in one motorcycling suit that he asked the Barbour factory in South Shields to make a two piece prototype. The result was the Ursula jacket and trousers which became standard issue for submariners throughout the Second World War.
Barbour are growing rapidly in the US, so things look bright for Barbour. A company manufacturing on a large scale in the UK, they are the template of a traditional brand making contemporary and desirable product. One thing is for sure, it's always going to rain, so we'll always need Barbour.
Below - A jacket being rewaxed
More images below
Cufflinks should be like little works of art. Practical as well as beautiful, the cufflink is an important part of male jewellery, and as such says a lot about your personality. We wanted to highlight DEAKIN & FRANCIS, founded in 1786, who design and manufacture the world’s finest cufflinks. Their English workshops, based in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, produce fine quality handmade jewellery in precious metal, incorporating vitreous enamel and fine gemstones.
Left - The eyes move and everything! - Deakin & Francis - White Diamond Skull Cufflinks - £8855
The firm was founded by Benjamin Woolfield in 1786, later to be joined by Charles Washington Shirley Deakin, who together with C.W.B Moore traded as Deakin and Moore from 1848 – 1879. Upon Moore’s retirement, Stephen Deakin joined his uncle Charles and the firm became Deakin and Nephew 1879- 1881. Charles Deakin retired in 1881 and Stephen was joined by his brother-in-law John H Francis and the style changed again to Deakin and Francis, becoming a limited company in 1902.
Right - The factory in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter
The Francis line ceased with the death of Captain J H Francis in the First World War, and the company is now managed by the 7th generation of the Deakin family, James & Henry Deakin who’s father is the great, great nephew of the co-founder CWS Deakin. Throughout this period of more than 200 years, the business has never veered from the high standards of craftsmanship and quality that are its tradition. The company is justly proud that it is still able to offer the very best of British jewellery and silverware produced in its own workshops and supplied to many customers, both at home and overseas.
Over the last 200 years the team of manufacturing jewellers and silversmiths at Deakin & Francis has created over 1000 cufflink designs for business people, celebrities and members of royalty worldwide.
Left - What we're calling the 'Monica' cufflink! Deakin & Francis - Gold Cigar and Matches Cufflinks - £3295
Styles include gold and silver cufflinks, through to full dress sets in platinum and diamonds. Deakin & Francis creations range from funky and fun to classic collections.
Stockists include Harrods.
We love a factory visit here at TheChicGeek. It’s a little bit like seeing a friend’s home for the first time; the brand comes to life in a full 360 degree immersion.
We took a visit to the small village of Wollaston, Northamptonshire, to see the home of Dr Martens. This workhorse of a boot has become such a part of British life, that it’s hard to imagine life before it.
Dr Martens originally started out as the Griggs family firm, who have been making boots since 1901 in Northampton, the home of British shoemaking.
Left - The original Dr Maertens
Bill Griggs sat in his Cobbs Lane office one day in the late 1950s flicking through an issue of Shoe and Leather News magazine, only for his eyes to fall upon an advert by a German duo looking for overseas partners for their revolutionary new air-cushioned, ‘Air Wair’ sole. Munich-based Dr Maertens and his university friend Dr Funck invented an air-cushioned sole to make work shoes more comfortable and were looking for like-minded innovators to produce it with. Griggs contacted Dr Maertens, the name was anglicized to Dr Martens, and voila! A legend was born on April 1st, 1960.
Right - The Griggs family home is still there
Manufacturing of Dr Martens returned to the Wollaston factory in 2007 and now accounts for 2% of the total boots made - (60,000-70,000 are made worldwide every year). Though this Made in the UK amount is small, it has doubled in the past few years. Here they make the ‘Crafted’ collections and special made-to-order or designer collaborations like last year’s A.Sauvage collection, that we loved so much.
Left - Our favourite boot from the current 'Crafted' Made in the UK Collection - Pietro - £310
All Dr Martens are stitched and glue is only used to hold the pieces together before they are stitched. What makes a Dr Martens special is the row of 3 perfectly stitched parallel lines on the sides of each show, put on by an American machine called the Puritan and the Air Wair rubber sole which is fused to the bottom with heat.
While we were there, they were busy making the new collection of brogues using British menswear fabrics and also the super polished and handsome Pietro boot (pictured).
More pictures of our day spent at the home of Dr Martens are below
Trainers-for-non-trainer-type-people, that's how you could describe New Balance. The styles are so distinctively 'generic' trainer-shaped that they almost seem non-branded which makes them so obvious that they become cool and ironic.
New Balance began as a Boston-based arch support company in the early 1900s, developed into a specialised shoe manufacturer in the 1970s, and has grown to become a leading global athletic products company.
What many people will be surprised to learn is that New Balance manufacturer a number of their styles in the UK. New Balance opened its UK manufacturing facility on 23rd August, 1982 and currently employs over 210 people at its site in Flimby, Cumbria, producing over 28,000 pairs of shoes a week, with 90% of all footwear sold going to European markets.
“Everyone at New Balance is delighted and proud that our design and manufacturing innovation and our vital contribution to the sustainable growth of the UK economy has been recognised with such a prestigious and unique accolade,” said Jon Ram, Managing Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa. “The ‘Made in England’ cachet, coupled with product quality and manufacturing flexibility has offered us distinct advantages in certain of our export markets – significant examples being Japan and Italy, where we have achieved considerable market penetration.”
For New Balance and a veritable feast of other branded sports shoes look at trainers at JD Sports
Above - New Balance - 576 - £90