coastal clothing from the eastern edge of england

Braiding trawler nets in Lowestoft, before the great flood.

Braiding trawler nets at Lowestoft, August 1951, possibly shot in what is now the Blackshore Coastal Clothing factory, on Whapload Road.

We found this old photo, dated August 1951, in a Suffolk bric a brac sale. It shows women braiding trawler nets in a Lowestoft net works down on Whapload Road.

It prompted me to think about many aspects of business, and life.

We can’t be 100% certain (there are a few of these old works along the road) but we think it might be the very same building that we are moving into to create the Blackshore atelier. 

This picture was taken fewer than 18 months before the devastating floods of January 1953 virtually wiped the old beach fishing village off the map. After the floods demolition began in earnest and the last of the old fishing community was lost. 

Only a few buildings remained, including these robust factories. This picture really shows old meeting new. The fashions of the women are post-War ‘new look’ but the skirts and dresses are most likely made at home. 

These young women (even the youngest of whom must now be in their late 80s) were looking to the future: yet there they are, braiding nets by hand as it had been done for centuries. They're the same generation as my dear old Mum, a generation born into the 'modern' era, yet within fingers' touch of a completely different way of life. A generation whose children, like me, are the baby boomers who thought we could change the world for the better, and which succeeded in making it materially better in many ways, yet somehow didn't quite fulfil either our existential promise or our societal responsibilities.

It's easy to look back at these pics and to think we've progressed. But these people, like all those who went before them, are just like us.

And here I am, as creator of Blackshore, almost seven decades on from this photograph, with the plan to make clothes in (probably) this same building. Clothes inspired by the sea, but inspired even more so by the people who once lived and worked in the fishing industry and all the maritime communities along our shores.

It's a responsibility that I'm taking seriously: and we're determined to make our clothes and our business whilst fully facing up to that responsibility to make things of lasting value, which contribute to, rather than fight against, the planet.

The 1953 floods on England's east coast were cataclysmic. Unless we change the way we think about business, and life, they won't be the last, or anywhere nearly the worst.

To that end we've written a kind of manifesto for Blackshore, which you can read here. Do tell us what you think.

And if you recognise anyone in the picture... please let us know! We'd love to meet them.

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