Monday, 28 February 2011


We have two factory visits lined up this week, both of which we are very much looking forward to. On Thursday we are heading to the East Midlands, Long Eaton to be precise, to visit classic clothing manufacturer Sunspel. Following this, on Friday we are heading south, to Broxbourne in Hertfordshire to visit Globe Trotter, a luxury luggage company.

Please get in touch (either by leaving a comment below, by email or via our Facebook page) if you have any questions that you would like M&I to ask.

Globe Trotter label from M&I's photo album of our first factory visit to Stevenage Knitting Company.Sunspel label from Sunspel's blog

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


There is a great interview with Kenneth Grange in the latest issue of Monocle. Here are a couple of choice quotes:

'When you have companies buying the best equipment and tools to make things as good as they can be made then you get the finest partners for designers to work with. When these things don't exist, when cost and quantity become more important than quality, as has happened in Britain, then designers look elsewhere for partners and the industry falls to pieces.'

'One of the biggest rewards as a designer is knowing how to make something. If I were Chancellor I would give big tax incentives to small firms providing a fantastic service or making something beautifully. In 10 years this would create a platform of makers again.'

We could not agree more.

The Design Museum in Bermondsey, SE1, will hold a retrospective of Grange's work this summer.

Image from Monocle

Sunday, 20 February 2011


If you ask to go to the toilet at Monmouth Coffee's premises in Bermondsey, SE1, you get to venture behind the rope. Here's some pictures we took when we did just that. Some lovely typography and machinery in evidence.

Friday, 18 February 2011


'The harsh and sad reality is that for the past few decades the majority of British factories, mills, weavers, finishers and textile suppliers have all ceased to exist but we are now more determined than ever to foster and revitalise the profile and general awareness of British manufacturers and remind the world that the UK has always and will continue to make the very finest garments.' James Eden, Private White V.C

Tonight at 1930hrs on Channel Four there is a 30 minute documentary on life at Cooper & Stollbrand, the factory behind Private White V.C. We are looking forward to seeing it.


Winding Up

'There were other things that contributed to the decision to close. Many of our staff were in their 50s and 60s, very skilled, but a lot of them wanted to slow down, especially on the knitting side. Also, the company that made the knitting machines in Italy closed down last year (2009). We would end up waiting on spares, sometimes for six weeks.

Another reason for closing was with the yarn suppliers. British sheep give quite coarse wool. However, demands of late have been for softer Merino wools. We would get wool from France, Austria and Italy. Most suppliers were doing a stock service so we would put in a bulk order for the raw material and during the season would call in whatever colours we wanted. Hardly any of the spinners now do a stock service so we could end up waiting for six weeks for delivery. With the limited season it is very difficult from getting orders to waiting six weeks for the materials to come in.

We always thought we were better at manufacturing for others than to use the Stevenage Knitting Company label but Albam wanted us to use our label in our final set of jumpers that we did.

I've always made something, ever since childhood. It was always really satisfying seeing your designs on the catwalk or on the cover of Vogue... it seems odd that's gone now. I would like to carry on making something. There's so little manufacturing left now.

In Stevenage, the new town was built on assembly: ESA school furniture, Platignum pens, Kodak cameras and Vincent Motorcycles. Now it is nearly all service industry or companies like Glaxo (Smith Kline) or Fujitsu computers. There's hardly any manufacturing. There's a few engineering companies left... but nowhere near as many there was.

Our chief knitter started at 15 and is now 62. She only left to have children. When her children were young she would have a knitting machine at home. She used to do all of our interpretations of designs - from sketches in to finished garments. She wanted to retire. The closure is a combination of lots of things. It was a very family oriented business, we had cousins working for us... a mother and daughter, sisters... and for some of the staff it was the only job they'd ever done.

I phoned up the Knitting Industries Federation and explained that we were closing. They told me that they thought SKC was the last place producing hand framed garments.'

Images (from top to bottom): The window of the factory on Sish Lane, Stevenage, Spare parts boxes on wall, yards of yarn and a view from the factory floor

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


Joseph and the 80s

'In 1980 we were approached by Joseph and were very close with them, producing nearly all of the Joseph Tricot range. This was the period of our highest production. We were doing about 15,000 garments a season, with two seasons a year.
During this time we opened another factory unit in Stevenage that concentrated on finer knits. At the same time we were still producing schoolwear for Harrods and in particular Hill House School in Knightsbridge. We also produced officers sweaters for the Royal Artillery and the tank regiment, if they wanted something a bit different from the normal olive drab uniform. We also did sweaters for the Admiral's Cup teams; both the UK and the USA.
When Joseph was sold, production started to drop off. We were competing with the Far East. They (brands) weren't particularly interested in the hand framed knitwear that you see in the video. A lot of what we were doing was still on the hand framed machines. So for this season (winter 2010) we would have been manufacturing during the summer but they (Joseph) didn't order anything.'

Images (from top to bottom): inside the (now closed) factory, a Joseph Tricot fine knit (bound for the V&A) and two Stevenage Knitting Co. jumpers - Admiral's Cup (with red v-neck) and Royal Artillery (with epaulets)

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Excerpts from an interview with Paul Pinkstone (MD of Stevenage Knitting Company) conducted over the phone (December 2010) and in person (January 2011):

The Early Days

'The factory started in 1926 and it was just supplying local shops in North Hertfordshire. Mainly childrenswear, hockey jumpers and the like. It was amalgamated during for the war effort so the factory was actually closed down during this period. Then after the war my father took it over. He'd been in the knitting industry in Nottingham before the war. He liked the area and knew the person who owned the factory so took it over from him. My father concentrated on oiled wool sailing sweaters. He sailed himself and supplied country stores with fishermen's knits. He also supplied people like Lillywhites and Harrods with skiwear... and Lilley and Skinner, those old names.

We also used to make for Marks & Spencer in the 1960s, when nearly everything of theirs was made in England. There was quite a lot of export to the States and Japan then too.

My father died in 1973 and I'd just finished at school so I went in to business here with my brother in law and took it over. We carried on doing a similar thing to before.

For more images of M&I's visit to Stevenage Knitting Co. see our Facebook page

Saturday, 12 February 2011


'I am committed now to wearing Scottish knitwear. I consider it a political statement. It's not even that much more expensive than Chinese knits and it lasts a lot longer.'

It's not often that we enjoy reading interviews with fashion designers but this one with APC chief Jean Touitou in Hint Fashion Magazine made us smile.

A good weekend to all our readers.

Factory image from Robert Noble

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


Marwood creates all of its (rather handsome) neckties in the UK. Expect to hear more about the brand throughout 2011.

*M&I understands that Marwood ties will be stocked in quality retailers as of June 2011.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


Here's a sneak preview of something that we intend to read over the weekend. There is little available online about the history of Design for Industry magazine so once we have reviewed the content we will post something further.

For now, please enjoy this cover from May 1959 and the subscription card that was enclosed with the issue.