Mohair Magic

Ahhhh, the sun. It’s food for the soul. A big Greg Wallace cuddle of warmth and positive energy.

No matter what the weather I always try and remain optimistic and my attitude to business has always been along the lines of Del Boy’s, “He who dares, wins.”

I love to do something different, and my chance to push the tailoring envelope further came when a customer set his heart on wearing a purple mohair suit for his wedding.

I had a cloth that was close, but ultimately, no cigar. So, in the hunt for something of Cohiba proportions, I opened my little black book and went to the beginning of the supply chain. The mills.

One of the luckiest things for my business is having the UK textile trade here on my doorstep in Yorkshire.

Whilst Rick Stein is plucking crabs from his own backyard, I can take a fifteen minute drive from HQ and come face to face with some of the finest cloth producers in the world.

Names like Bower Roebuck, Taylor & Lodge and John Fosters bring tears to the eyes of cloth connoisseurs throughout the world, and when it comes to Mohair, the Brits are without doubt the best.

My mill of choice for this mission was William Halstead & Co in Bradford. Founded in 1875, it’s owned by SIL Holdings ltd and employs seventy staff at its Stanley Mills site.

After a quick chat on the blower with Philip Seal (Sales Manager) and Karen Whittaker (Designer) I jumped into the motor, put the roof down (Flash Git) and headed on over.

I love manufacturing businesses. There’s something I find incredibly exciting about the smell and clatter of machinery. That sense of industry, people working together to produce something tangible.

I then sat down with Iain Milligan (pictured below), their Sales & marketing Director, who gave me an overview of the company.

Here is a man who is the master of understatement. His passion for textiles oozes out of every pore. In a lilting Scottish brogue he quietly showed me the work they are doing with Prada, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Dunhill, some of the younger tailors on Savile Row like Spencer Hart and Simon Spurr in the US.

How cool is that? Certainly cooler than a call centre. Seventy lads and lasses from Bradford providing the top of the global fashion industry with the finest threads on the planet. At the risk of sounding like David Cameron, that truly makes me feel proud and the fact that it’s putting bread on the table for lots of Yorkshire families is even better.

Anyway, Mohair in the shade we wanted didn’t exist, so we hatched a plan…

1) It started with piece of cloth, hot off the loom in its ‘Greige state’ (pictured below). This means it’s unwashed and totally unfinished.

2) The loom had been set up with a black warp (black threads running North to South) and a white weft (white threads running West to East). This means that when the cloth was sent to Roberts the Dyers (also owned by the SIL group), only the white threads would pick up the purple coloured dye, producing a fabulous two-tone effect.

3) Once it had been dyed, it was returned to the ‘menders’ at William Halstead who after working their magic, put it on the ‘perch’ where it was inspected a final time for faults.

4) The final stage was for the cloth to be sent to the most exciting, progressive, tailoring company in the Northern Hemisphere (moi), and two fittings later the results can be seen below.

Here’s Steven in his Michelsberg bespoke three piece suit. I particularly like the mother-of-pearl buttons we’ve used which add a touch of bling and compliment the characteristics of the cloth.

Mohair is a stiff fibre from a goat originating in Ankara and tailors very sharply. It’s got a wonderful natural sheen or ‘lustre,’ is cool to wear and is very ‘elastic’ so it sheds creases quickly.

William Halstead sells ‘Summer Kid’ Mohair. This means the fibres are from the first and second shearing of the baby goat which goes on to produce the softest and finest yarn. It comes from the Camdeboo region of South Africa which is arguably the best in the world.

As a cloth, it was hugely popular in the 1960’s. Here’s a suit in Dormeuil tonik mohair as worn by Michael Caine in the film ‘Get Carter.’

There’s no doubt it’s a firm Michelsberg favourite. I love its texture, the way it behaves under different lights and of course, the clean lines it produces when tailored properly.

I recently delivered my first ‘Uber-level’ fully hand sewn bespoke suit (from £2000) to Barry (pictured below) and the cloth of choice was a midnight blue Summer Kid Mohair cloth from Taylor & Lodge in Huddersfield.

My experience with Halsteads was utterly fantastic. I learnt a great deal about different designs, weaves, cloth in general and it’s truly inspired me to keep pushing the boundaries.

I’m sure chefs get a buzz when they’re making fabulous food using local ingredients and it’s much the same for me. As far as I’m concerned, the larder of Leeds is looking good and that first Michelin star can’t be very far away. Ca marche!

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