Our Best Priced Item Ever
English Fine Cottons are, after 50 years of industry decline, spinning cotton again in Manchester. This was central to the T shirt we launched last week. People on Facebook went mad for it. Or perhaps at it.
We’ve been working for a couple of years now on British made products. We started with trousers, then added belts, boots and jackets, all made in the UK. We recently added an £170 Sheffield made pocket knife, but even that didn’t attract the levels of vitriol from Facebook posters that our new British Standard T Shirt has. Maybe people felt like we were attacking a close family friend?
T shirts are a wardrobe staple. Everyone has a favourite one. Band shirts, event shirts, blue and white stripey shirts, ones your dad gave you, old ones you use to clean your bike. Everyone loves a T shirt and we thought it would be a great plan to offer a T shirt in our range, in our usual style; super plain, not flashy, certainly durable and proudly made in Britain.
For this project our starting point was Manchester. In the years before Premier League football, acid house music and craft beer, cotton is what made Manchester great. It was once the world centre for cotton spinning. That industry that had been very much in decline. In fact more than that – the industry had been totally dead. Until recently.
English Fine Cottons started a project, and that project has come to fruition, and now it’s possible once again to buy cotton that’s been spun in Manchester. With the help of huge investment there’s a mill once again spinning cotton in Manchester. It’s the only mill to spin cotton yarn in Britain for over 50 years. Using superb quality Supima cotton from California, English Fine Cottons are breathing life into premium cotton manufacturing globally. Making some of, if not THE best cotton yarn in the world.
Maybe we didn’t explain it right. People look at the price tag along with the beard and tattoos and make an assumption. Because it seemed as if some people on Facebook didn’t like this. At all. Because as it was being imported, some Facebook people said our cotton wasn’t British. And not only that, the cotton wasn’t organic, and not just that – the cotton was cotton! Several people said our T shirt should have been hemp, or made from recycled sea plastic. Hemp and recycled sea plastic clothing are both very good things. We are looking at ways of using them in items already, but we wanted to make a premium quality 100% cotton T shirt made from cotton that was spun in Manchester. And no matter how hard you spin hemp or recycle sea plastic it isn’t cotton. Then there’s that prickly subject “organic” – that was decided for us – English Fine Cottons don’t offer a premium grade organic cotton. Because we wanted the very best they did, we used their finest quality Californian Supima cotton.
We take that super strong, long fibre Supima Star yarn woven in Manchester, and send it to the Midlands on a lorry. A bit further south than we like, but hey… The fabric is woven in Leicester, on quality machines, run by a family with a long history in the trade. Then it’s sent up to a factory in Blackburn where we’ve worked with their staff to make a shirt just as we wanted it. The right cut, the right sizing, the best quality.
Could we have done it for less? Sure! We make it to our specification, not an off the shelf garment. Just the fabric alone in one of our T shirts is £6. Just the cloth! We could have saved money any number of ways, like buying and just selling on a stock T shirt made of English Fine Cotton yarn. Taken another yarn and had it woven in the UK. Taken another cloth and made it into T shirts in the UK. Or done what a huge number of people do – take an offshored “Gildan” shirt for under £1.50. But we didn’t. A bit like we don’t usually buy beer based on the amount of alcohol you get your for you money.
Our £6’s worth of fabric is cut, sewn, bound, printed, packed, shipped. Printed? Yes – even the unprinted shirt has sizing printed in the back rather than a label because it doesn’t rub your neck and it’s nicer that way.
Despite the protestations of the origin of the cotton, it was the price that people got very wound up about. With a £40 retail price, as well as the £6 of fabric, there’s £6.66’s worth of VAT in every shirt. That’s going to the government to hopefully spend wisely. And the rest? Well much of that goes to the manufacturers to make it, the printers to print the detail in the neck, our landlord for our rent, to our accountant, our insurance, the packaging people and Facebook of course. We make a profit, not massive, but a profit nonetheless because that’s what you’re meant to do when you are a business.
We’re not attempting to sabotage the T shirt market, to inflate the prices to ridiculous levels. We’re not forcing people to spend £40 on a T shirt. We’re just giving people who like the idea of supporting British manufacturing, and who have £40, the opportunity to buy a shirt that’s got a story. A shirt made right here, spun in Manchester, knitted in Leicester, and made in Blackburn by people paid properly, in British factories.
Facebook and our mailing list have helped us find people who appreciate those facts, and thanks to there being a good few of those out there, we’re about half way through selling the first batch in just a week. Cheers – whatever you’re drinking.