Friday, February 2, 2007

Surface Interest: Textiles of Today

The River Tweed, Scotland

Researching Surface Interest: Textiles for Today by Harriet Tidball, Shuttle Craft Monograph Two, 1961. Lots to explore online about the textile mills mentioned in the little book.

Linton Mill

From the website:

Company History....
1912 - 2006
In 1912 Scotsman William Linton started Linton Mill in the Caldewgate area of Carlisle, a small city situated close to the Scottish border and near the famous Lake District.

Initially Linton employed two salesmen with ponies and traps who travelled the Lake District buying wool and selling woollen suit lengths. William Linton's great friend, Captain Molyneux, was a Parisian couturier who in the 1920's introduced him to a dynamic young lady called Coco Chanel. This began an association which has flourished over the years resulting in the house of Chanel being Lintons biggest and most prestigious customer.
As the years rolled on, the name of Linton became synonymous with good quality, their exquisitely designed cloths were shown often on the Paris catwalks. This led to massive business with America - the Americans being keen to reproduce the outfits shown in the Paris couture houses and in the authentic Linton fabrics.

During the late 30's and throughout the 50's Miss Agnes Linton, daughter of William, sailed to the USA first class by ship with her cabin trunks packed with samples. Apart from the war years, business in America was so good that the Linton Collection was only shown to a privileged ten to twelve customers each season.

Miss Linton was succeeded by George, her nephew, in the mid 1950's and along with assistance from director Des Matthews managed to keep Linton success going for a while. However, when Leslie Walker joined Linton's in 1963 as manager and designer things had already started to go wrong.

The reasons for this downward spiral in business were many:
Linton was still producing 100% woollen cloth, as were hundreds of firms in Scotland and Yorkshire. Competition was strong with larger firms being able to produce cheaper goods.

With our success in America, 85% of all our production was being exported to the U.S. - all our eggs were in one basket. This became catastrophic in 1967 when union difficulties along 7th Avenue helped to close most of Linton's customers.

The market in Paris (now run by Robert Burg an agent and friend appointed in 1954) was prestigious but not lucrative. The couture houses such as Chanel would order a series of 6-yard lengths but only use a few.

Finally George Linton retired. Des Matthews was hit with personal tragedy and left. This left Leslie Walker as the only working director and designer.
Linton's had a loyal and hard working labour force but closure with the loss of in excess of 100 jobs looked inevitable............instead, with the appointment of Leslie Walker as Managing Director in 1969 we saw the birth of Linton's modern era.
Firstly he set about making changes to the product; it would need to be more unique.
New exotic yarns using man-made fibres were introduced to enhance design.

Linton's would buy machines to make their own fancy yarns.

New yarn dyeings were introduced and colour ranges extended.

The traditional piece-dye fabrics were redesigned and reduced in weight.

Now the new collection was ready to be marketed. With the support and loyalty of Linton's behind him Leslie began to reclaim business.

A ground-breaking trip to Japan found the Japanese very interested in fabric used by Chanel.

Visits to America and Canada were made in search of new customers to replace those now out of business.

The long association with the loss-making couture business in Paris began to bear fruit as the fashion houses began to introduce ready-to-wear collections......a good time to introduce our new style collection.

A good choice of appointments to be Linton's agents included Taka Uchinuma in Japan and Russell Farley in London.

Business gradually increased, re-building a substantial customer base which culminated in the prestigious Queens Award for Export Achievement in 1991. Also in this year, Leslie's wife Carole, who had been made a director in 1976, saw her long held desire to create a retail outlet and coffee shop become a reality.

In 1994 Leslie Walker moved into semi-retirement with his eldest son Keith, taking over as Managing Director and Rob Irvine leading the designers who continue to do a superb job giving today's couturiers what they want in an era where clothes are becoming more and more adventurous. They use new and untried fibres in their search for a unique cloth and are rewarded by having their designs appear on the catwalks of many different countries.
As the company has developed, our range of products and services has grown. We now offer two fabric collections; Linton and Ullswater. Our retail outlet includes the ever popular Fabric Centre, Bobbin Coffee House and recently enhanced Designer Clothing department incorporating our own Derwent collection.

The Linton and Ullswater collection are shown twice a year at Premiere Vision in Paris as well as others exhibitions in Milan, Japan, New York, London to name but a few!

For the future....
We now have the job of maintaining our first class reputation for design and quality. With this as our primary objective we will continue to:

introduce our fabrics into the new and emerging markets around the world;

ensure that our design team are out in the world market place responding quickly to new trends and colours;

maintain a first class personal service to all our customers;

invest in new plant and machinery where new technology improves the quality of our final product.

As always, these objectives are best served through the motivation of our highly skilled and loyal staff, without whom Linton Tweeds would be just bricks and mortar.


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