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Fix up, look sharp: Welsh clothing manufacturers need our support, but not as much as we need theirs

14 Apr 2024 11 minute read
Mabli Knitwear

Stephen Price

While doomscrolling through Instagram the other day, I was stopped in my tracks by a beautiful image shared by one of my favourite accounts of a tailor from Ynys Môn taken by John Thomas.

I’ve had it on good authority that Mr Thomas was ahead of his time and liked to dress up us Welsh folk for the camera, but I’d say that there’s a good chance that the dishy tailor would have made a bit of an effort all the same.

Even the most uninformed about fashion past and present, myself included, would be unable to deny the stark contrast between the standard of dress of days gone and today’s Footlocker and Marvel-approved looking era.

The tailor, Bryn-du, John Thomas, circa 1870-1880 and an X Men Tee

From builders to farmers and even the menfolk down the mines, most people in the not-so-distant past (at least according to photographic evidence) made a little more effort than us.

They look a lot more wholesome than us. And they often, surprisingly, look utterly timeless.

How many of us could say the same about the attire we’ve been wearing for the past few decades?

From hoodies to dryrobes, Uggs to onesies and everything in between, comfort, cost and practicality are king. But at what cost?

Identity

The importance of how we project ourselves and how we are perceived can’t be underestimated.

If one looks slobbish, and as though one doesn’t care, then one might reasonably assume that one is, and that one doesn’t.

What we wear plays a key role in the image we project to the world. Tied up with every other element of our identity, it tells others an awful lot about the kind of people we are.

And as a nation, I wonder how that might look collectively.

There is much welcome talk about who we are as a people, and as a nation, of late – and I don’t propose that we have a state sanctioned national dress and all go about in Welsh lady hats (I’d be up the first to wear one, mind you) – but there is little to no mention of how we, as a people, look.

We take great offence when Welsh identity is confused with English identity by the uninitiated, but when it comes to what we wear, we certainly don’t look any different to our neighbours, or Americans, or anyone else in the west for that matter. And does that matter, anyway? Is it even worth mentioning?

Well, I’ve got this far so I’m in too deep now…

The term sports-luxe was always a bit of a stretch, but more and more of us (especially with so many working from home nowadays) have decided that suffering for fashion is a thing of the past.

And who can blame anyone?

But it’s not just effort that’s gone out of the window, it’s also value.

Fast fashion is cheap, easily attainable, and easily discarded. What’s in this season is out the next.

But big players, with Vivienne Westwood’s inspiring line, “Buy less, choose better, and make it last,” no doubt ringing in their ears, are saying ‘no more’.

We need to change for the sake of the planet and for the sake of the poor adults and children making our clothing and suffering the environmental fallout from its manufacturing.

And, I would argue, we also need to do better for our own wellbeing, self worth and identity.

A group of walkers preparing to climb Yr Wyddfa – John Thomas

Of course, it’s a lot easier to give in and have house clothes that can take a good beating than it is to make an effort.

And if we have no intention of leaving the house, taking the kids to school, popping to the shops or whatnot, then who’s to notice.

Add to that, we have a weather system that is doing its best to break us, and it’s no wonder that attire that should never be seen in a clothes bin let alone in public sometimes, finds itself getting a regular airing.

With advancing age comes much more of a don’t-give-a-frock attitude, but post-lockdown at least, a few too many of us have started to chill out a little too much when it comes to what we put on in public.

Fix up look sharp

There’s a joy in dressing up, making an effort and looking good – but our escape from the office into our own homes as working places has been an unfortunate nail in the coffin for the need to make a daily effort.

Our better-dressed ancestors and future generations would wince if they could see some of the shit we put on.

GLC’s Dryrobe rap video

Dressing better also offers an opportunity to ditch environmentally damaging, carbon copy fast fashion in favour of timeless pieces too (and there’s always eBay or Vinted to keep the costs down).

And not only that – if budgets allow, we could (and should!) even try and support more home-grown, home-manufactured brands.

A call to action if you will – but here are a few fine Welsh clothing manufacturers with sustainability at their core that our descendants would be very pleased to see us knocking about in in digital photos that will forever haunt the internet…

Don’t let them see you in that Hulk tee. Please.

Mabli

Mabli’s timeless, thoroughly Welsh designs often take inspiration from old Welsh blanket patterns.

Mabli Knitwear

They are a must-have for discerning fasiwnistas, and their children’s-wear is guaranteed to not only stand out but to stand the test of time – with pieces often making their way to younger siblings in time just like good old clothes used to.

Their approach is slow fashion, with an eclectic and vintage inspired aesthetic and it’s easy to see why their popularity knows no bounds.

Hiut

Cardigan’s Hiut have one goal: to do one thing and do it well – and that’s jeans.

Gregg Wallace at the Hiut factory, Cardigan. Image: BBC

They are proud to say that they make some of the best jeans in the world. Of course they’d say that – but to buy a pair is to invest in a pair of jeans for a lifetime.

Join their no wash club, or take advantage of free repairs for life if you don’t believe me!

The brand began with the aim of bringing manufacturing back home, to use the skills they have on their doorstep and breathe life back into their town.

Carpenter and Cloth

Carpenter and Cloth have built a solid fan base who are as bowled over by their timeless designs as they are their manufacturing processes – many of their items woven at Melin Teifi, one of the last flannel mills in Wales.

Welsh wool hoodie. Carpenter and cloth

The say: “We are makers, sharing our space, skills and creativity, with a passion for enduring design and soulful craftsmanship, inspired by the qualities of the materials we source and a connection to our environment.”

Weekend Offender

Known for its unfussy and pared-back functional outerwear, Weekend Offender was founded by young entrepreneurs Sam Jones and Rhydian Powell in 2004.

Ever since, it has found popularity in the terraces, where it sits next to Adidas’ SPZL line and premiership football scarves.

Elin Manon

Elin Manon’s designs are boldly and beautifully Welsh to their core. Described as, ‘eclectic, circular and artisan’.

A design by Elin Manon

Elin Manon is your place to get zero waste, individual designs made from sustainable materials.

With a focus on fully fashioned knitwear and fashions from upcycled materials, Elin Manon clothing is made to be characterful yet timeless, opting for smaller collections in limited runs.

Onesta

Onesta has sustainability and ‘giving back’ at its heart. They say: “When you buy from Onesta, you are supporting people, caring for animals, and working every day towards saving our planet.”

They clearly discuss the impacts of cheap clothing, and how sustainable wear costs more, but costs the earth less and often lasts longer.

Another important thing they make clear about their clothing is the humanitarian impact – paying a fair wage to the makers of our clothing means we, too, must be prepared to pay more.

Work Shy

Based in Cardiff, Work Shy design and create organic cotton work jackets intended to last a lifetime.

Workshy

Since their launch in 2019 they’ve kept to their vision of supporting fellow creatives – offering a sustainable, stylish uniform ‘for freelancers, free thinkers and general hard workers’.

Dati

Dati, made by two sisters from Wales, has a clear focus on reworking fabrics and reducing fabric waste.

Dati means ‘good on you’ in Welsh – and they challenge us all to buy in a more considered way.

Dati

They’re famed for producing one‑off zero waste pieces, created from leftover fabric, recycled cotton and recycled thread.

Acai Outdoorwear

Based in Flintshire, Acai was founded in 2016 by husband and wife team Joe and Kasia Bromley.

The company is on a mission to revolutionise women’s outdoor experiences and to create sustainable and stylish outdoor clothes for women.

Corgi

Corgi is a family-run business that was founded in 1892 by Carmarthenshire draper Rhys Jones.

Today, Corgi is still making those same hand-knitted wool, cotton and cashmere socks, as well as knitwear, in the heart of Carmarthenshire.

Corgi knitwear

What’s more, it’s one of the most sustainable brands in Wales and all energy used in Corgi’s factory comes from a 100 per cent renewable source.

Dryad

Based in Abergavenny, Dryad was founded in 2019 as an outdoor sportswear company for women.

After recognising the inequality between genders in the sporting industry and the issue of fast fashion, Dryad’s founder Matt Thomas chose to create a sustainable clothing brand that gave equal opportunities to women in all levels of sport.

YMC (You Must Create) 

Taking its name from a quote by the famous industrial designer Raymond Loewy, “You must create your own design style,” YMC is the brainchild of Newport-born Fraser Moss and Jimmy Collins.

The edgy and unique brand prides itself on delivering mens, unisex and womenswear that stands the test of time.

You Must Create

Upcycled fabrics are utilised to create workwear and clothing made of selvedge denim and corduroy two-pieces that act as year-round mainstays and are often completely unique – a welcome antidote to cheap and soulless seasonal trends.

Make

Make is an outdoor brand that is working to reduce textile waste one garment at a time.

Using surplus materials from across the world, which are typically and unnecessarily bound for landfill, Make works with local communities, such as Welsh surfers and wetsuit and surfboard producers John Purton and Greg Owe, to create products that leave little negative impact on the planet.

p.s. There are most certainly many more sustainable Welsh brands that haven’t been mentioned – let us know your favourites and we’ll aim to feature them again.

p.p.s. I repeat, please don’t criticise home-grown makers for their costs which involve fair wages, transparent manufacturing processes, environmental awareness and many other associated costs that we often leave other countries to pick up the bill for.

Direct your ire to Louis Vuitton, Prada, Primark and the like – and be proud that we still have Welsh manufacturing and design excellence standing tall among the best brands out there.


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'ö-Dzin Tridral
'ö-Dzin Tridral
1 month ago

Thank you so much for this. I’ve long been looking for Welsh clothing manufacturers and this list (and any names that may be added to it) is most helpful.

I would add, that although not a Welsh company, the wonderful (I think) Community Clothing, makes underwear in New Tredegar and is deserving of support.

Please see:
https://communityclothing.co.uk/pages/welsh-pants

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