AW Hainsworth & Sons: Yorkshire cloth manufacturer plays striking role in the Queen's Jubilee Trooping the Colour parade

AW Hainsworth & Sons makes the red cloth of the guards' uniforms that come out every year for the Queen’s official birthday parade including this year as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. But, as Stephanie Smith finds out, the mill is also a pioneer of future fashion.

When the Royal Grenadier Guards step out next Thursday for the Queen’s official birthday parade, better known as Trooping the Colour, they will wear their famous coats of scarlet Yorkshire cloth.

It will be quite the sight, as it always is, although this year the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee will add an extra swell to the pride and pageantry, as more than 1,400 soldiers gather at Buckingham Palace and march down The Mall to Horse Guards Parade, traditionally joined by members of the Royal Family on horseback.

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Based in Pudsey, AW Hainsworth & Sons – the maker of that scarlet cloth – has been weaving the fabric of British society for more than two centuries. It made the cloth for the uniforms worn by the British cavalry in the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854, and, more happily, for Royal Family ceremonial uniforms, including the one worn by Prince William on his wedding day.

Queen Elizabeth II attends a military ceremony in the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle to mark her Official Birthday on June 12, 2020 at Windsor Castle. Trooping of the Colour has marked the Official Birthday of the Sovereign for over 260 years. Photo by Eddie Mulholland - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

“We are extremely proud of our heritage and long-standing connections with the Royal Family, and look forward to coming together with the nation to celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee,” says Diane Simpson, commercial director, adding that Hainsworth has woven a limited-edition throw featuring a seven-stripe design in honour of the Queen’s 70-year reign.

AW Hainsworth was founded in 1783 by clothier Abimelech Hainsworth – Old Bim – who leased its first mill, Cape Mills of Farsley, in 1800. The current mill has been the Hainsworth home since 1882. With its cobbled yards, arched entrance and solid stone buildings, it could easily be the backdrop of a period drama.

Today, Hainsworth is one of the last remaining fully vertical woollen mills in Britain. This means that every part of the production process takes place on the one site, from raw fibre to finished cloth, using specialist techniques to give lustre and handle and ensure fabric consistency. More than 180 people work there, and it exports to North America, Canada, Scandinavia, India, China, Japan, Australasia and Africa.

Hainsworth was awarded a Royal Warrant in 2004 and its soft furnishings fabrics have been used at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. It also makes cloth for snooker and pool tables.

The Queen in 1969 riding her horse Burmese to inspect the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards, during the Trooping the Colour ceremony at Horse Guards Parade. PA Archive/PA Wire

“We are always looking to innovate and invest where it’s needed,” says a spokesperson. “The addition of jacquard weaving capabilities enabled us to launch our short-run bespoke fabric service back in 2021, which provides our customers with the unique opportunity to create entirely exclusive fabric ranges without a huge commitment to stock and investment, and the ensuing wastage.”

As a heritage brand at the forefront of 21st century innovation and design, Hainsworth supplies some of the biggest designer names in fashion. “Unfortunately, we can’t name these specifically, but can say that our fabrics are chosen by the world’s leading designers and major fashion houses,” adds the spokesperson.

Womenswear designer Valdone Au focuses on slow couture fashion, making made-to-measure garments after an order is placed, eliminating waste and dead stock. “The brand promotes a different approach to fashion focused on timelessness and craftsmanship,” says the spokesperson.

“With regards to slow fashion, we continue to champion the movement and promote the benefits of wool. To mark the Campaign for Wool’s Wool Week, we created a short film celebrating our commitment to slow fashion and exploring why wool is the perfect fibre for sustainable, responsible, long-lasting style.”

Coat by womenswear designer Valdone Au, which focuses on slow couture fashion, pictured at the Hainsworth mill.

Tom Hainsworth stepped down from the executive team in October last year, and the managing director is now Amanda McLaren. The company is a partner in Future Fashion Factory, a £5.4m research programme aimed at supporting innovation in the UK’s fashion and textile industry, funded by the Creative Industries Clusters Programme and led by the University of Leeds in partnership with the University of Huddersfield and Royal College of Art. In January 2020, leaders from government, business, universities, finance and entrepreneurs from around the world visited the mill.

Hainsworth’s willingness and ability to supply both surplus and short-run fabrics means it is a staunch supporter of emerging designers and those who need and want to use smaller amounts of cloth.

York-based fashion designer Matty Bovan will discuss his collaborations with AW Hainsworth & Sons at Future Fashion Factory’s Virtual Showcase on June 15, 2022, joining a panel with Phoebe English, Joshua Kane and Patrick McDowell to explore the future of the fashion industry and highlight innovative projects driving change in the sector.

Bovan won the 2021 International Woolmark Prize and the Karl Lagerfeld Prize for Innovation for his autumn-winter 2021 collection, creating beautiful bespoke jacquard fabrics making use of Hainsworth’s short-run bespoke service, using roll-end cloth, screen printing and hand painting.

Early photgraph of A W Hainsworth family.

The judges praised his intarsia knitted garments portraying ghostly figures in black and white, like characters in a TV screen. Bovan said: “It’s already opened my eyes to how I can create a best practice future footprint and will enable me to elevate my brand with an even greater awareness and knowledge of how I operate a sustainable business and label.”

AW Hainsworth remains right at the forefront of fashion and design innovation, in part by using traditional processes and manufacture to create fabric that will stand the test of time. Premium cloth is an investment – something to bear in mind as we watch those bold grenadiers in their regimental red.

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■ Find out more about Hainsworth at www.hainsworth.co.uk

■ The Jubilee throw is available at www.atkinsonblankets.co.uk from June.

■ Find out about Future Fashion Factor at www.futurefashionfactory.org

Hainsworth's collaboration with British menswear designer and Saville Row bespoke tailor Lee Marsh, whose clients include Prince William, Prince Harry, Colin Firth, Johnny Depp, Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Hainsworth Melton fabric and tweed flat cap, £58 at Kempadoo Millar.
The weaving process at AW Hainsworth.