The Princess of Wales championed the British textile industry last week, by visiting AW Hainsworth, a mill that was previously owned by her family.
In 1958, her great-grandfather, Noel Middleton, helped to sell the family business, William Lupton & Co, to the company AW Hainsworth. The mill was located in Pudsey, West Yorkshire, having been in business for more than 160 years.
AW Hainsworth is a family-owned textile mill, established in 1783, which manufactures British woollen cloth and technical textiles. It holds a royal warrant from Queen Elizabeth II (which will last for five years after her death). The business now supplies fabrics to fashion icons including Chanel and Burberry.
For the outing, Catherine was dressed in British designers including Burberry green trouser suit and a set of gold earrings from sustainable jewellery brand, Shyla London.
The Princess toured the mill to learn more about the manufacturing process of textile and how traditional techniques are a key part of today’s industry.
The visit started off where raw wool from Australia and New Zealand is combed out, where the Princess said: ‘You can smell the lanolin, I love it’.
Asking if the scent was ‘because it is more fine?’, Catherine was told that it was because the sheep wool’s was affected by the amount of time they spent outdoors in the sunshine.
Catherine got to visit the weaving section, as well as the dyeing area, where fabric was being turned red for Household Guards uniforms that form the iconic image of Buckingham Palace.
The Royal saw a life-sized mannequin wearing the finished guards uniform and commented how ‘it’s amazing to see it actually made up.’
The mill has also made the uniform worn by The Prince of Wales on his wedding day in 2011 and the jacket worn by Prince Louis at King Charles III’ coronation.
It was during the tour where something caught the Princess’ eye – cream blankets with a colourful stripe for Hudson Bay, a Canadian firm. Catherine noted how she recognised it, having been given one during a tour of Canada, and that she uses it all the time for her children.
Her Royal Highness also heard how the industry is introducing more sustainable techniques and how it is working alongside local universities and colleges to upskill young people.
The second engagement of the day saw Kate visit Standfast & Barracks, a printworks dating back to 1924, in Lancaster. The business is known for its heritage in textile design and creativity and employs around 160 staff to design and print 35,000 metres of printed fabrics each week.
Catherine toured the factory and was given a demonstration of its work, from conventional flatbed printing of the design known as ‘Strawberry Thief’, to rotary printing of a design, ‘Mr Fox’, to printing the design ‘Hollyhocks’ using digital printing, a more sustainable technique.
Speaking about the visit, Amanda McLaren, Managing Director at AW Hainsworth said: ‘We were chatting about her family’s business and the collar meltons they made. She’s very interested, she recognises that the UK textile industry needs the spotlight and support and the long-term encouragement in this country to withstand many, many hundreds of years more. People aspire still to British-made textiles and we should be proud of that as a nation.
‘We supply interior fabrics to the royal household, to the PPE market, fire technical fabrics and in the fashion industry Balenciaga , Gucci, Balmain, Valentino… all high end, high-brand labels who are looking for the best quality cloth they can acquire. It’s unbelievable this happens in a corner of West Yorkshire,’ McLaren added.
‘The Princess had obviously done her research. Lot of good questions at each stage and intrigued about what happens here but also how we are filling the skills gap, encouraging the next generation in.’