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Emma and Harriet are thrilled to have been invited to speak at Meet the Manufacture, a unique trade event celebrating the British textiles industry. With this coming up next week, it has made us reflect on how important the Made in Britain label is to Wallace Sewell.
“Made in Britain” has long been an assurance of excellence. It signifies tradition, heritage, integrity and quality. Emma Sewell and Harriet Wallace-Jones instinctively knew this when they started their design house, Wallace Sewell, twenty-five years ago. Production in the UK had become a commercial challenge, yet they made a conscious decision to keep it British.
“Having both studied textile design at Central St Martins and then the Royal College of Art, we were fascinated by the British textile industry.” says Emma. “Initially we both wanted to work in a mill but the country was in recession and jobs were scarce. British manufacturing was really struggling. In many ways, it was the perfect time for us, because mills were prepared to consider alternatives to mass production. They welcomed the challenge of a new type of customer, designing smaller, more exclusive runs, for a niche market. So we started Wallace Sewell and it became the perfect marriage of creativity and the opportunity to work with the industry.”
“But we had to prove ourselves,” says Harriet, “And persuade the mills that our designs were industrially producible. We spent many hours climbing over looms and learning how to make warps on the factory floor. It really helped us understand industrial weaving. We’ve met some great characters, whose expertise and knowledge is unique.”
Emma and Harriet use handlooms in their workshops in London and Dorset. “We design on looms in the studio, exploring ideas with a variety of yarns and structures.” says Harriet. “Once we’ve selected the final designs, the warp and weft details are sent to the mill where the production is done on power looms. It never fails to amaze us, that the spec sheet we send off is only words and numbers, with no visuals, yet these instructions can become a piece of woven cloth!”
Wallace Sewell has always exported over 60% of it’s products, starting with an initial order from the department store, Barneys New York. “It was incredible when they placed an order for our scarves back in 1992,” says Emma. “It gave us the confidence we needed to set up our own brand. We now have partnerships with approximately 300 stockists in 23 countries around the world!”
And UK manufacturing has been key to this growth. Wallace Sewell has always found that the British textile industry has risen to the challenge of realising their complex designs and woven structures. “The British textile industry stands out, in that it has the skills and expertise to produce our work.” Says Harriet. “It has embraced Wallace Sewell whole heartedly and produces woven cloth of the highest standard, which we continue to sell globally.”
This summer, in celebration of Wallace Sewell's 25 years in business and British manufacturing, we are launching a Pop Up Shop at the Lancashire mill where our products are woven!
The event will be an afternoon to evening celebration on the 11th July 2017, with food, drinks and a chance to see first hand, where all of Wallace Sewell’s production takes place.