Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to see all sorts of things being made. I’ve been to Wayne, Michigan to see a newly re-tooled and incredibly modern Ford plant, to Schaffhausen, Switzerland to see the precision watchmakers at IWC craft beautiful timepieces. I’ve seen multiple generations of tailors sitting side by side in Naples, Italy making Isaia suits almost entirely by hand using skills that look liked they took lifetimes to develop. I’ve seen jeans made in L.A., suits made in Brooklyn and boots made in Minnesota.
After all of this, what I came to discover were people who are amazingly similar even though they hail from vastly different places and backgrounds. To walk into Sunspel in Long Eaton, England and see people making cut and sew underwear was an equally astonishing and familiar pursuit. In American and England, I don’t think people expect factories like Sunspel’s to exist anymore. I for one don’t, even though I have been to so many similar types of places. (I should point out that my marketing company Paul + Williams does work on behalf of Sunspel. Full disclosure and all that good stuff.) It goes to show that people want the real thing, they want quality and they will pay for it. That’s how I feel and over the course of doing ACL I’ve discovered that there are many people out there that feel the same way.
To go against the changes in society and continue to make the highest quality in England was likely not an easy thing to do. It is like swimming upstream. It takes guts and resiliency. On top of that, it takes a lot of hard work and some luck too. The important thing to remember here is that it can be done – these things can still exist in a meaningful way. I admire Sunspel because of its heritage and history. I respect it because it didn’t just close down its factory in the Midlands and chase cheap labor to the bottom over seas. I love it because it is real.
Sunspel began in 1860 by making high quality underwear in its factory in Newdigate, Nottingham. In 1930 the company moved to Long Eaton and changed its name again this time to Sunspel, after its number one selling line of underwear. Since the beginning when founder Thomas Hill began to innovate with textiles, it has been focused on making the finest underwear one can buy. It’s that attention to materials and fit that have earned Sunspel a cult following in the U.K and throughout the world.
While I was visiting the factory the workers were busy making pieces from the new Sea Island Cotton collection of tee shirts and underwear. The photos that I left with and are pictured here do the collection no justice whatsoever. One grab of the hand is all that it takes to understand what makes this collection so incredible. The softness of these pieces makes cashmere feel like sandpaper. That’s a bit excessive, but after being exposed to the hand of the Sea Island makes going back to regular old Hanes (a company that should really be making tee shirts in North Carolina – get it together people, you are a massive company) an overwhelmingly unsavory prospect.
Seeing a company like Sunspel continue to not only exist, but to also excel gives me hope that there are still people in this world that want quality and want things to be real. It all goes back to that old saying that I love so much: Buy Less, Buy Better. [SUNSPEL]