King’s Lynn fabric firm cottons on to change in global era
- Credit: Archant
A family fabric firm in King's Lynn whose cloth is worn by the Queen has said a resurgence in sewing is helping make ends meet - despite the rise of eBay and decline of UK manufacturers.
The Fent Shop ('fent' being a northern term for a piece of waste fabric) was begun by Peter Day as a market stall before moving to shop premises on Broad Street where it has stood more than half a century.
In that time, current owners John Day, wife Rose and daughter Louise received a Royal Warrant to supply cloth to the Queen - a running thread through times of great change.
Louise Day, 32, who runs the firm's online site, said the family had been visited by the Queen's personal dresser Angela Kelly for some years before winning the warrant in 2004.
'It's nice to watch the Queen on Christmas Day and wonder if that's our material,' said Miss Day.
Yet not much else has stayed quite as 'British' as having the Queen for a customer since the business began.
With the loss of foreign markets for textiles during the First World War, causing 800 UK cotton mills to have closed by 1933 as countries such as Japan began producing themselves, most suppliers are now half way around the globe.
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'One of the main changes is hardly anything is now made here. Net curtains used to be made in Nottingham, now they're made in Turkey,' said Miss Day. 'Dress fabric used to be made in Yorkshire, but now it's China or Pakistan.'
This puts the company at the mercy of global weather changes, with floods in Pakistan causing the cotton price to jump in 2010 and again in 2014, giving the Days a tough year selling their fabrics to customers.
EBay has also undercut shops as a cheap alternative, said Miss Day..
Yet the internet and TV has also sparked renewed interest in sewing, with YouTube tutorials and the Great British Sewing Bee TV show on BBC 2 bringing in fashion students and young people interested in 'vintage'.
'Crochet has become popular again, and King's Lynn has got some good fashion colleges,' said Miss Day.
Has your industry seen a revival? Contact business writer Jess Staufenberg on 01603772531 or email email@example.com