Customers, from builders and mechanics to farmers, gardeners and dog walkers, are generating the demand founders Flavia Paterson and Arabella Hill aim to nail as they call time on the draughty overalls and voluminous protection gear commonplace in male-dominated industries.
“Women are getting on with their jobs in clothing that doesn’t fit, doesn’t last and doesn’t suit their needs. They have long needed transformation. We are about function, a one-stop shop for hardy workwear, not fashion,” declare the Cheshire-based pair whose sustainable design, manufacturing and distribution network is centred in the UK.
Their compelling case for change is also supported by recent figures showing more women are joining the manual trades workforce and there are some three million new gardeners since the pandemic.
After strong sales of its flagship product, the technical Fieldfare Trouser, and organic cotton T-shirt range, Paterson and Hill is forecasting a turnover of £250,000 plus for 2023.
Next year it will look for further angel investment to develop its digital marketing operation while also making festival and trade show appearances to showcase its collections.
It was first-hand experience of what the market lacked for women that a couple of years ago brought together friends Hill, a landscape designer who has won a clutch of RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold medals, and consultant Paterson who worked in the forestry and energy sectors.
But after £50,000 investment, a mix of private funds and a Virgin Start Up Loan, their advanced plans for producing in Europe and Turkey had to be radically rethought.
Concerns had mounted about Brexit import issues then Covid shut overseas factories. As a small startup Paterson and Hill feared they would be at the back of any production queue. But times are changing in the UK as shrunken industries such as textiles regenerate.
The women do source their eco-denim from Italy, but manufacturing is in Blackburn through Cookson & Clegg. The iconic British producer is now in full renaissance mode after it was rescued and reinvented by TV sewing sage and tailor Patrick Grant.
Any savings that might have been gained by outsourcing overseas are now far outweighed by having a maker on the doorstep that treats its employees fairly, explains Paterson.
“It was a decision that has become more brilliant in hindsight. Cookson & Clegg have a history in military and workwear and their quality, machinery and skilled staff are just what we need. Sustainability and being British made matter far more too to people now.”
With reinforced pockets and a tool loop, the multi-tasking, stretchable Fieldfare Trouser (£115) teams perfectly with an organic cotton T-shirt, made in partnership with Teemill on the Isle of Wight.
“Customers can recycle with the manufacturer and contribute to making more tees so a truly circular economy product,” says Paterson.
“The Fieldfare took a huge amount of work and many prototypes. We managed to do the fittings over Zoom. We’re really pleased with the design that incorporates a wider thigh size which works best for active women with a snugly fitting high-rise waist. Fieldfare doesn’t have to be washed often which also saves on resources.”
Two merino tops made in Leicestershire are on their way for autumn and the company also wants to introduce a repair service and strike partnerships with companies providing workwear for employees. “Female manual workers are still overlooked,” says Hill, “but not for much longer.”