Make it British discovers another new British brand – this time it’s the début of premium womenswear label Matilda & Quinn.
Sally Hartfield, the brands founder, tells us why she gave up a career in the legal profession to follow her dream to launch a clothing range, and how difficult it has been to find the right British manufacturers to bring it to life.
Can you tell me a bit more about yourself and why you set up your company?
My background is in the legal sector but design and garment construction have always been a side-line passion. I wanted to pursue a more creative path and took the plunge to turn my life upside down by leaving my job in the city to start Matilda & Quinn. The brand is a direct response to what I felt was a real gap in the market for well-made, stylish clothing that was also work friendly. I did not feel that style or sophistication needed to be compromised in the workplace.
How would you describe the products that you make?
The Matilda & Quinn brand produces softly tailored, stylish, quirky garments with a quintessential British style. We pay attention to feminine details; from the vintage styled buttons we use to the shapes of our collars and the soft ruching of our sleeves. We use luxurious natural yarns and work with unusual, beautifully textured fabrics. Our focus is on clothes that flatter and feel comfortable so that women not only look great in our styles but also feel confident in them too.
In which part of Britain are you based?
Our studio is based in London.
Why did you decide to manufacture in Britain?
As a British company, producing British, ethically made products is central to our ethos. Working with high-end garment manufacturers in Britain has meant that we are very much involved in the production process of our garments with several visits to our factories every week. We would not be able to have such a hands-on approach to fabric costing and learn about innovative production techniques if we were getting our garments made overseas. We can also be confident that the factories where our garments are produced pay their workers a fair living wage and provide good working conditions. Having that personal contact is also key when you are manufacturing a high-end product.
Who makes your products?
The garment manufacturers that we work with are in London. We work with a couple of the few remaining high-end womenswear producers that have a wealth of experience having been in the industry for many years, employing the same staff.
Where do you source your raw materials from?
Most of our fabrics are sourced from European, family run mills that specialise in producing premium, luxe fabrics. All of our Jersey fabric comes from a factory in Leicester. We also try and source as many of our trims, from the shoulder pads we use to the bias bindings and linings, from UK factories.
What has been the hardest part of getting your clothes made in Britain?
Sadly, there are very few quality manufacturers left here in the UK. It has been a real struggle to find manufacturers who produce high-end quality garments. I think good factories also find it difficult to market themselves. Many are looking for new business and brands are looking for factories, but they do not always find each other! It’s great to see initiatives like Make it British and Drapers’ Save Our Skills Campaign trying to forge links between the two. This can only be mutually beneficial and give the UK manufacturing industry the life-blood it so desperately needs.
And what has been the best part?
It’s great to feel that we are supporting other British businesses by manufacturing in the UK in these uncertain economic times. It also feels great to be producing a genuine British designed and made product at a time when it’s so rare to see the words “Made in England” on a garment label.