193 – Running the Oldest Factory in the UK – Ian Maclean MBE

In this episode, I chat to Ian Maclean, managing director of John Smedley – the oldest operating factory in the world. John Smedley is one of the finest knitwear manufacturers in the world. The company was established 235 years ago, at the start of the Industrial Revolution, and they still operate out of the same factory in Matlock in Derbyshire.

In the interview, Ian talks about the challenges that come with operating out of such an old mill, and how he is making his manufacturing more sustainable by investing in upgrades to the mill which will save energy and allow the company to survive for another two hundred years.


  • The history of the John Smedley factory 06:22
  • How the company is bringing the factory into the 21st century 07:55
  • Why sustainability is important for John Smedley going into the next 200 years 11:50
  • The positive reaction John Smedley receives from their customers due to holding a Royal Warrant 13:35
  • How Ian plans to increase the exposure of the John Smedley brand 14:41
  • Why quality is such an important part of the John Smedley business model 16:12
  • How many generations have looked after the business and the challenges they faced through the years 17:17
  • Where Ian sees John Smedley heading in the next ten years and the challenges the business will need to face in order to grow 19:14

More about John Smedley

John Smedley Website


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