The Best of British - How we made the HebTroCo Works 177

Surely it couldn't be that hard?

After two years in development, we’re proud to finally have our lighter “office weight” Works 177 on our shelves and shipping to customers. Launched at the end of January, these are the trousers we’ve been working on since the company launched, to sit alongside our flagship 177 Moleskins.

Featuring a British woven cotton twill fabric, British buttons, the Works 177 is expertly cut and made right here in the North of England.

The tale of how these trousers have come about, how it’s taken so long to get them made. It’s quite a story…

LIKE THOSE, BUT IN THIS…

How hard could it be to make a trouser in a different fabric? We’d signed off our moleskin trousers and were happy enough with the cut and fit. Surely it was a matter of simply using the same pattern in a different cloth? So that’s what we did. As early as April 2016, we had trousers appearing on social media. Cut to our 177 pattern but using “dead stock” fabric they were version one. They looked great. But there were problems…

CUTTING REMARKS

Moleskin fabric has give in it, due to the way the weft and warp are arranged. The “dead stock” fabric we used was much more rigid, and so they pinched, a lot, when you sat down, or moved. Painfully so. “Dead stock” is the clothing industry’s name for cloth that nobody wants. It’s a glamorous way of saying “old”. This rigidity was certainly an issue with this cloth, but the shape of the pattern needed modification too. We tried adding a bit in front, a bit in the back, a bit in the side seam. But we were getting nowhere. We brought in next level design skill and turned to computers. We started to understand the issues of trouser design. How to move volume. How to (and we apologise for this next bit, but you’ll understand) get good ball room without having a saggy arse. We worked with leading designers and pattern cutters. We got our own pattern.

FAKE IT BRITISH

So we needed more cloth. Cloth to our specification, or the closest cloth we could find. We called around, and eventually ended up at a factory down the valley. We saw huge rolls of fabric being dyed and waxed. It was impressive. An impressive list of customers that were supplied cloth was reeled off. All being done right here. Amazing. The fabric salesman looked us straight in the eyes. We asked again. Just to be sure. “So this fabric is definitely woven in Britain?” He nodded. Tapped his pen on the swatch samples in front of us. Full of bravado we ordered three different weights of cloth, and two colours of each. Sample prices aren’t cheap. But we were told this was the real deal. The cloth landed, and entered garment sampling. Bold as brass we ordered trousers and shorts. When they arrived in Spring 2017, They looked tremendous. With their jeans like construction with run-and-fell seams, and a nice cloth texture. Onto a winner for sure.

 

MORE BUT LESS

The fit still wasn’t quite right, but with the patterns all computerised, the issues with fit could be worked through. First weeks wear went well enough. Then we hit a stopper. Washing. Incredible amounts of shrinkage. So much that Ed’s trousers were now shorts, and Brant’s trousers shrank enough for Ed to wear. Despite following the shrinkage guides for the fabric, we’d missed the vital step of checking that shrinkage for ourselves. The cloth was beginning to unravel. And then the punch in the stomach. Whilst the dyeing plant we’d seen was real, the cloth wasn’t woven in the UK at all. It wasn’t even woven in Europe. It was from much further afield. An expensive lesson, but a lesson nevertheless.

 

WE’LL BELIEVE IT WHEN WE SEE IT

We wanted cloth that worked. We knew we had to control the process and be assured of everything along the way. Working with a local weavers we commissioned our own cloth. 600m of cloth, woven to our specification. A big investment, and a big leap of faith. But one we could call our own, and have control over. Our amazing weavers turned it around super fast, and we were able to start sampling garments again towards the end of Summer 2017. We moved more steadily now – checking the cloth for shrinkage. Reworking the pattern for that all important ballroom, we resampled several times to get fit right.

BRITISH BUTTONS

It seemed nuts that we couldn’t find genuinely British made buttons. People in the industry told terrible tales of high prices. Far far more than offshore buttons. But come on… a trouser has four buttons on it. How much would it actually add to the price? So we asked. And though the British buttons are around 20 times more expensive than an off shore button, 20 x not that much isn’t that much really. Though our accountant would probably disagree. The buttons are made of Corozo,  derived from palm nuts, and come from sustainable rainforests in Ecuador, where trees are planted and maintained rather than being cut down. This means that our nuts are green and they are very special. As well as being natural the material is tough, takes colour well and gives a pleasing marbled effect. Many trades disappeared as British manufacturing lost out to off shore sourcing. Natural button making was one, until our supplier breathed life back into this dying industry. They are now the only natural button maker in the country. All our jackets and trousers have British made buttons.

NEARLY TRIPPING OVER AT THE FINAL HURDLE

Pattern signed off. Cloth in place. British buttons sat on the shelf. It was nearly there. With delight we realised that we had a story – the 26th of January was two years since our Kickstarter campaign that launched our company. How we had managed to ship 176 pairs of trousers within two months of that was a credit to all involved. But to launch entirely British made trousers, with our own cloth, and our own pattern was a great event, perfectly timed for our anniversary. The weather was even turning spring like!

The order was placed, production moved through well, and trousers were received. Final checks… What? Every pair was 1.5in too long due to a hemming pattern error. We hurredly had them hemmed and finished again and shipped the first batch in late February. Just in time for The Beast Of The East to hit the country and everyone to want warm trousers!

Now, with everything lined up, we’ve finally got ahead of demand and have trousers on the shelf. It’s taken two years, and we’re incredibly thankful to everyone who’s helped us along the way. Works 177s are available to buy now – https://hebtro.co/product/works-177/

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