We get asked frequently why we've bothered to set up our own workshop, rather than only selling clothes either from other brands, or clothes made on our behalf (under our brand) in other factories.
The answer is simple to state, but rather harder to explain. The simple version is to say that we see hand-making in our own workshop as a core part of what Blackshore stands for. We're trying to get back to the roots of what it means to buy a garment that you can really love and respect, a garment that you'll want to keep for life.
The best way to do that, in our view, is to make by hand, in our own workshop: so that customers can not only choose a style and a size, but select from a range of fabrics, get measured (at no extra charge) for a bespoke piece, or buy off the rail if they prefer, and – importantly – talk to the makers about what goes in to the construction of the clothes they are ordering.
What's more, working this way means we can also tell people where the fabrics have come from (in most cases we can tell them the exact mill), and discuss the type of fabric and its characteristics.
About half of what we sell falls into this category: clothing handmade by us in our own workshop.
But if we only offered that, then we'd be only offering half of what we're capable of.
So we also do two more things.
First, and most obviously, we buy in products from other factories, and indeed from other brands (in our shop we stock Guernsey Woollens, Peregrine clothing, Corrymoor socks, and Game outerwear, for example). And the reason we do that is simply to allow us to offer products that are currently beyond our in-house capacity to make.
But the important caveat here is that we don't just stock anything, from anywhere. No: we have set out our stall (so to speak), very clearly. We only stock high quality products which are manufactured in the British Isles. We've made this decision for a number of reasons, most daily summed up as it feeling like the right thing to do. It's more sustainable (for the planet, and for British jobs), it helps to preserve skills across the industry, and it gives us focus. Perhaps most important it allows us to build proper, positive, relationships with other UK companies, which in turn means we know exactly the quality that we're getting.
And the final thing we do is to commission the manufacture of specific products that are beyond our resources to make in house, but which are unique to us – because we've designed them – (and which, if we were bigger, we'd love to make ourselves).
A case in point is our new Blackshore Seaspray Ventile® Jacket. We'd love to make this in our own little workshop. But there aren't yet enough of us, nor enough space! So we've searched out a brilliant small factory in London which we know will make the Seaspray precisely as we want it. It's going to be every inch a Blackshore!
We describe this hybrid business model as: make well, stock well, commission well.
What it means for you is that you get the very best of British craft apparel making: whether you're choosing a handmade-in-Southwold piece, a branded product from a British manufacturer that we've carefully selected, or a Blackshore piece that we've designed and commissioned to be made elsewhere (but always in the British Isles).
All you have to do is wear it well!