We speak to Make it British member, British Millerain, UK finishers of waxed cotton cloth for outerwear who have been making innovative textiles in the UK for over a century
British Millerain may have been keeping people dry with its waxed cotton – all over the world – since 1880, but they are a modern and forward thinking company. Constantly innovating and launching new finishes has led to an increasing demand for ‘Millerained’ fabrics and to the prestigious ‘Fashion Supplier of the year’ Drapers Award. We had the pleasure of speaking to James Keeble, British Millerain’s Managing Director, to find out more about the continuing success of this British textile manufacturer.
Can you tell me about the founders of British Millerain and what inspired them to develop specialist outerwear textiles?
British Millerain was founded in 1880 by a syndicate of labourers and academics, who opened the first factory in Halifax, Yorkshire, UK. John Miller led the team, having studied chemistry and he obtained several qualifications in the field of textile finishing. His passion and desire to develop new canvas proofing techniques fuelled the early successes of the company. Many of the machines used in the textile finishing process were developed in-house and global patents were filed to protect the new technologies.
Millerain’d cotton was initially adopted by the British Army in the 1800s and expanded into the UK outerwear market in the early 1900s.
We remain a family-owned business to this day; the Miller family expertise and passion for textiles has been passed down from generation to generation. Six generations later, we continue to lead the market in waxed cotton finishing and bring new and inspiring textiles to our diverse, global customer base.
You’re famous for waxed and waterproof textiles, but the company has made numerous acquisitions over the years, expanding your skills and services. What other textiles do you manufacture?
We are probably best known for the being the birthplace of waxed cotton and we are particularly proud that his heritage textile continues to go from strength to strength. However, it is essential that we evolve with an ever-changing market and we have achieved this through both acquisition and investment in new equipment. In 2017 alone we have invested over £500,000 in new machinery and a completely new lab. Our range of textiles includes high-spec military and industrial canvases, technical two and three layer laminates, DWR (durable water repellant) fashion coatings and new, innovative versions of the traditional waxed cotton.
We are seeing particular growth in our Staywax® range of machine washable waxed cotton and a selection of novel dry-wax products.
Our technical team are already testing new articles for 2018. Watch this space!
Your base fabrics are sourced from overseas, but with the launch of English Fine Cottons are you looking to source from Britain?
It was great to see the return of weaving to Greater Manchester, originally dubbed ‘cottonopolis’ in the 19th century. We are in discussions with English Fine Cottons about using base cloth woven from their high-quality yarns and are considering a premium ‘made in UK’ product for an exclusive market.
British Millerain textiles are exported all over the globe, do you have any advice you could offer to other British brands who are looking to expand into overseas markets?
When looking at new export markets we research into local market conditions and trends, and more often than not we work with an agent on the ground.
It’s important to be flexible by offering low minimums and be willing to work with your customers to develop bespoke finishes – that really does help. We have forged long-standing, trusting relationships with customers in overseas markets by consistently delivering quality, innovative products – that is essential.
Who do you supply today and do you have any favourite clients from your archives?
In the early days, we began supplying waxed cotton to world famous brands, including Barbour, Belstaff and Filson. We are particularly proud that these partnerships remain strong to this day. In 2017, our active customer list includes around 800 brands globally and as a textile finisher, we are always proud to see the finished garment or accessory – whether in high-end stores like Ralph Lauren, or one of the many boutiques that we supply.
You can find out more about British Millerain here.