Precious few factories are set up in the UK these days. Even fewer make high-quality menswear. We therefore welcomed enthusiastically the news back in 2010 that Emma Willis would be setting up her own shirtmaking factory in Gloucester. Perhaps the greater news, however, is that two years later the factory is still going, has expanded in products and staff, and is receiving visits from royalty. Last month the Duke of York (pictured above, centre) visited the factory, saw a shirt being cut and made, and interviewed two young trainees.
Such visits do wonders for the motivation of budding craftspeople. I found a similar atmosphere among weavers at the Corgi knitwear factory in Wales during a recent visit. Because they can do short runs at short notice, Corgi is often used by fashion designers, and the local girls crowd around Style.com after the fashion shows, looking for their pieces on the catwalk.
Emma Willis now has a far larger number of local staff enjoying this success, with the teams of cutters, machinists and finishers all doubling in size since 2010. They include Megan, pictured above cutting out a pair of boxers, and Lyn, who hand weaves all the shooting socks on an old Victorian loom. The factory has also started making ties, meaning everything including pyjamas, silk scarves, swimming trunks and dressing gowns are made on site. I can particularly, and personally, recommend the shooting socks.
Here’s to you, Emma.