It’s not exactly Barbour season for me, but while my Bedales & Beauforts sleep in my closet waiting for their triumphant return this fall, the factory where they were made hums right along at a fever pitch making great-looking and long-lasting outerwear.
Last summer I was thinking about embarking on a trip around the U.K. visiting the British factories that turn out the classic menswear items that captivate me (like my “Made in Italy” trip). As it turned out, I didn’t end up having the chance to organize the trip –I still might do it, eventually– but I did manage to tour the Sunspel factory last fall, which was my first exposure to â€œmade in England.â€ Recently I was invited as a guest of Barbour to see their factory and home office in South Shields, near Newcastle, England. No brainer.
The Barbour Factory was on a much larger scale than I had anticipated. I knew the brand was popular with healthy distribution, but I was not expecting to see so many workers. The workforce on the factory floor was almost entirely women –which was also surprising. It felt a lot like the Red Wing Shoe Co.’s Plant II in Minnesota, different product all together, but a similar vibe. Having worked with Red Wing for the past few years, and there’s a strong similarity in company structure (each is family owned), historical significance, brand loyalty and manufacturing facilities. Walking around Barbour felt just like walking around Red Wing. I had never made the connection before, but it makes sense in hindsight considering the company arrangements and approach.
Barbour’s factory was almost entirely manually operated, there is very little automation and almost all operations are performed by hand. The amount of jackets in progress was impressively stupefying. I wasn’t expecting to see so much product in work, but the scale of things didn’t disguise the high level of craftsmanship that was on display. The level of proficiency and speed in which the sewers converted rolls of fabric into finished outerwear was impressive. And much like the other factories I have visited in the U.S. and abroad, everyone that works at Barbour was patient, kind and proud to show me around. It’s reassuring to know a product I enjoy so much comes from such a good place. It’s like meeting your favorite band and having them turn out to be great people; only makes the music better. [BARBOUR]
The photos below are from the Barbour repair shop where old jacket go to be reborn as “good as new” jackets. It’s also where my Bedale was repaired on the spot.