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The second instalment in our Art of Craft series is a visual diary of our visit to the heritage silk mill that creates much of the jacquard silk used in our dressing gowns. Here we explore the finer details and intricate spectacles surrounding cloth weaving.

These ancient textile traditions are kept alive in factories like this one, where knowledge and heritage practices are maintained by the people working carefully to produce the incredible cloth we use in so many of our pieces. British jacquard weaving is a craft we are very proud to participate in and it is a part of what makes clothes such as our dressing gowns so unique.

There are several ways to put a pattern on cloth — screen printing, embroidery, dyeing, etc. What makes jacquard patterns so valuable is that they are woven directly into the fabric itself, using an extraordinarily complex mechanism in the loom that raises and lowers certain colours of thread with each pass of the shuttle to line by line create a larger pattern. With every shuttle pass, hundreds of threads must be positioned within a fraction of a second. If one thread is up when it should be down or the other way around, the whole pattern is ruined. Without computers, it's fiendishly complex work but well worth it for the stunning patterns the process produces.

Our jacquard silk is produced in a factory that uses a mixture of heritage practices and state-of-the-art equipment, fine-tuned to create world-renowned cloth at a level of quality not possible without over 300 years of experience and knowledge behind it. Made in the same facility since 1900, there are little reminders everywhere of how long it has been operating there and how steeped in history it is; old wooden beams, ancient brick walls and the kind of floor plans that can only exist from over a hundred years of gradual additions.

It’s eccentric in places but still highly functional to meet rigorous demands for quality and production output. This is a facility that has evolved with the times to seamlessly (no pun intended) integrate its heritage practices with modern innovations such as rooms with precise temperature regulation for optimal silk processing and high-tech computers that are able to weave complex jacquard patterns in a fraction of the time an old mechanical loom would.

Computer-operated looms weave meters of jacquard silk at breathtaking speeds. Facilities such as the dye house and other rooms are temperature-controlled with absolute precision to ensure the ideal conditions for silk processing. Steam sizzles from rolls of cloth moving through heat coils as part of the finishing process. No detail is overlooked, no corner cut. Nothing leaves the factory unless it is as close to perfect as possible.

With all this technology, it would be easy to forget the human element guiding it all but that would be to miss the most important ingredient in what makes a factory such as this produce what it does. The accumulated knowledge of the craft that every worker carries with them is staggering. In a world where people can change jobs and careers every year, to meet so many people in one building who have been doing the same thing for years, if not decades, to the point of mastering it, is a humbling experience.

Choosing to use British-made silk for our dressing gowns is a decision rooted not only in commitment to the highest quality of materials but also to the preservation of a unique and vital part of British weaving history. Support for heritage factories feeds back into the rich tapestry of knowledge and craftsmanship that enrich our communities, our culture, and is part of what makes our gowns such unique creations.

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