Friday, 4 October 2013

London Cloth: A New Spin On An Old Yarn


Pamela Ravasio at Shirahime (one of the best ethical fashion bloggers out there, always worth your time) has pointed me in the direction of a story that shows how eco-fashion can frequently be all about the rediscovery of old techniques and methods, and melding them with a modern approach.
In 2011, sewing machinist Daniel Harris (no relation to the famous tweed makers, but you have to love the coincidence) found a rusty old loom in a shed in darkest, rural Wales. He fell in instant love with the heap of old tech, and brought it back to the studio space that he'd just bought in East London. He couldn't get it through the door.
In taking it apart and putting it together in order to house it, Daniel's admiration for the intricate machine grew. Over a period of a year, he taught himself how to use the machine, and how to weave cloth with it. Daniel found himself on a mission, and bought more machines, the oldest dating back to the 1850s. He bought them back to life, and realised that there was a deeper purpose shining through.
Is it coincidence that Daniel's name is what it is, or that he somehow set up shop in an area once famous for textile production? Perhaps, but the fact remains that in a warehouse space stuffed full of samples, bolts of cloth and antique and lovingly restored machinery, Daniel Harris is doing something wonderful.
The London Cloth Company specialises in cloth woven from British wool. As 97% of the wool we see in this country comes from Australia and New Zealand, this is a big deal. Daniel has built up relationships with a network of Welsh and English farmers, which means the wool he buys has impeccable provenance. You can trace his wool down to the flock from which it was sheared. Better yet, the wool is undyed, yet retains a great variety of shade and hue. From herringbone to dogtooth check, there's a whole lot of colour in London cloth.
Daniel is a one-man operation, yet the quality of his cloth is making a big reputation. He exports to markets as far-flung as Sweden and Japan, and has provided cloth for Ralph Lauren. His short-run custom tweeds are ideal for designers and private clients looking for something that bit different and special. He's small-time compared to the industrial yarns of Scotland, pumping out tweed by the kilometre. But London Cloth has little in common with the faux-nostalgia boom, despite attempts by some journalists to label him as some sort of hipster. Daniel Harris is working with machinery and methods that, despite the hard work, boredom and pain involved, produces material that has value beyond the surface. His cloth has enviable eco-credentials, and he's doing things in his own way... the right way.
We need more craftsmen with the grit, determination and vision of Daniel Harris. Half mad inventor, half evangelical missionary, he has created something with solid links to the past, and a firm eye to the future.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to talk to my tailor. Daddy needs a new suit for winter.

The London Cloth Company

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