The fabric of society

Hainsworth cloth spreads far and wide, from royalty to top designers. Stephanie Smith celebrates a Yorkshire success story.

Fashionable Hainsworth cloth
Fashionable Hainsworth cloth

Doeskin, Cavalry Twill, Duffle, Pilot Cloth, Waterloo, World War Two Khaki. These names evoke the cloth and clothing of times past... and yet they are very much part of the future.

Based in Pudsey, Hainsworth is a legendary name within the cloth manufacturing world, responsible for weaving the very fabric of Britain for more than two centuries. It made the uniforms worn in the Charge of the Light Brigade, and to this day makes the scarlet cloth of the Royal Guards and the fabric for ceremonial uniforms of the Royal Family. Pictures of Hainsworth cloth are transmitted around the world, on TV, in newspapers, on tourist postcards.

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Enter beneath its arched nameplate sign, through to its cobbled yards and stone mill buildings, and it’s like stepping onto the set of a period drama. AW Hainsworth & Sons is one of Britain’s oldest textile manufacturers and the Hainsworth family has been manufacturing woollen textiles since 1783. Its first mill, Cape Mills of Farsley, was leased in 1800 by Abimelech Hainsworth – Old Bim – and the current mill has been Hainsworth’s home since 1882, with buildings added over the years to house the increasing assortment of textile production machinery required by the flexible modern operation of today.

Fashionable Hainsworth cloth

More than 150 people work at the mill, and the company exports to North America, Canada, Scandinavia, Russia, India, China, Japan, Australasia and South and North Africa. Hainsworth was awarded a Royal Warrant in 2004 and its interior fabrics are used as curtains at Windsor Castle and for the interiors of Buckingham Palace.

As much as it celebrates and exemplifies British heritage, Hainsworth is also at the forefront of 21st century style and design, attracting increasing attention from fashion houses around the globe.

British fashion designer Christopher Raeburn, famous for his re-appropriation of military fabrics into edgy menswear and with clients including Victoria Beckham and Tinie Tempah, is a Hainsworth fan. He says: “We pride ourselves on quality, craft and provenance, so Hainsworth has been a natural partner for us as they embody all three elements so well.

“Another key factor for us is local manufacturing and a Made in England label. Hainsworth has helped to elevate our products to a global market.”

Fashionable Hainsworth cloth

Fellow fashion designer Adrien Sauvage calls Hainsworth his “favourite mill”, adding: “Hainsworth is innovative whilst maintaining the beauty behind tradition.”

Earlier this month Hainsworth showcased its work at the Tour de France Grand Départ fashion show in Leeds, sending onto the catwalk a stunning scarlet coat of Hainsworth Doeskin, created by Leeds designer Anita Massarella.

Meanwhile London design duo Zowie Broach and Brian Kirkby of Boudicca have used Hainsworth fabrics to inspire a number of the brand’s iconic coats and capes.

Zowie Broach says: “The quality and beauty of Hainsworth’s fabric is perfect for our work. It is a perfect balance of weight, surface, colour and precision.”

For the coming autumn, Hainsworth has launched a campaign to celebrate its “fabric of a nation” reputation, with a shoot featuring clothes and accessories made in Hainsworth fabrics, featuring designs by a number of labels, including Boudicca, Adrien Sauvage and Christopher Raeburn, against a backdrop of London’s landmarks.

Tom Hainsworth, managing director of the seventh generation family business, said: “We are proud of our heritage and craftsmanship, but also aware that to remain the fabric of a nation we must continually look to innovate. This is why it is so exciting to be working with some of the world’s most dynamic fashion designers, providing them with beautiful, timeless fabrics for their collections.”

Twitter: @yorkshirefashQ

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