The Hiut Denim Co. Making Jeans in Parc Teifi Business Park, Cardigan, Wales, UK

Cardigan is making jeans again. It sounds like a fashion joke, but it’s true: until 10 years ago, the Welsh town of Cardigan was home to Britain’s largest surviving jeans factory. In November 2002, Dewhirst Ladieswear informed its 400 workers that their biggest customer, M&S, was to move its manufacturing to Morocco. Overnight, one in 10 of the town’s 4,000 people was put out of work. Now, though, local husband-and-wife entrepreneurs David and Claire Hieatt are harnessing the area’s residual expertise to establish their own brand: The Hiut Denim Co.

Jean Day sewed ladies jeans at Dewhirst for 17 years. When the factory closed, she says, “It was devastating. There were whole families working there, husbands and children, too. I was a single parent, and Cardigan’s such a small place that it was hard to know where to go after Dewhirst. I always thought I’d be there until I retired.” Day was lucky; she found work sewing horse rugs for another local firm. Many of her colleagues were less so – and moved away, or into less skilled professions. Amanda Freeman, another former Dewhirst worker, became a customer services manager in Somerfield, then manager of a mobile phone shop. The headmistress of the Hieatts’ local school used to measure waistbands.

In May last year, Day and Freeman answered an ad calling for machinists, in the Tivyside Advertiser. Along with erstwhile Dewhirst floor manager Elin Evans, they make up the first cohort of jeans-makers at the new Hiut factory: a small, sun-lit, wood-panelled premises in an industrial park [Parc Teifi Business Park] on the edge of town. David Hieatt says he wants to bring all 400 jobs back, though for now he’s happy to have employed four: the three machinists and a cutter, who between them have 120 years of jeans-making experience. Their task is to produce a mere 10 pairs a day. Unlike at Dewhirst, where the best job on the production line was sewing inside leg seams, the ladies will now sew entire pairs start to finish. “Dewhirst made 35,000 pairs per week,” Hieatt explains. “They were building Ford Escorts; we’re making Rolls-Royces. In fact, Rolls-Royce will make more cars today than we will jeans.”

For full article in the Independent Click Here.


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