What is the first thing you think of when we say Barbour? British, Northern, Waxed Jackets, Country? Whatever you relate Barbour with, their is no getting away from the fact that they are a brand that personifies Britishness, the ultimate British heritage brand that has expanded and grown over the years to become one of the most sought after brands all over the world.
Aphrodite managed to organise a trip to the famous Barbour factory for a behind the scenes guided tour of the working factory and we have put together this blog post showing the full tour including a special archived area, design studios and the factory floor, giving you an insight to the world of Barbour.
Being a company based in Sunderland, we are very proud of the fact that the Barbour Factory is still based in South Shields in the North East of England, the original starting place for the brand. The factory that the company resides in today has been occupied by the Barbour family since 1981, expanding and growing as and when needed. Today the factory has a workforce of 150 people, who all play a vital part of the smooth running of the production team, producing quality products to the highest standards that Barbour pride themselves in. We were actually surprised how smoothly the production process ran as we made our way through the factory from area to area.
Our first stop was in the menswear show room, showcasing the new lines and collection for the coming seasons. Point of sale displays and the visual merchandising of the collections were bang on trend, mixing vintage aspects with new elements to appeal to all age groups. Each collection, for example heritage, department B, lifestyle etc has its own unique look and feel, which is followed through the complete collection and covering all aspects of branding, from lookbook designs, POS stands, photography and even down to the garment labels, making each piece instantly recognizable to its own collection. This is a huge part of Barbour’s branding and marketing strategy, and helps each collection have its own identity, while still being instantly recognizable as a Barbour product.
As we made our way to the factory floor, we couldn’t help but notice the family feel and atmosphere throughout the buildings. You can genuinely tell that this is a family run business and how much pride every person takes in their role in the company. At the present time Barbour is in its 5th generation of a family owned business, with Dame Margaret Barbour as Chairman and her daughter Helen Barbour as Vice Chairman and Head of Barbour Sporting.
The factory itself was a lot bigger then we thought and the number of workers was far more then we anticipated. All together Barbour has a workforce of almost 600 employees, 150 of whom are part of the production team and they are one of the Northeasts largest employers, with over 400 based in the North East area. 90% of the workforce has been with the company for over a year, with many employees having over ten years service. These statistics says all that needs to be said about the staff satisfaction, moral and ultimate enjoyment of the job.
Every single jacket to go through the production process here is hand made and manual work is always preferred to machines. The workers need to be extremely skilled in their rolls to achieve the high standards set by the company. Watching the staff getting on with their tasks made it look easy, but the precision and accuracy needed for every part of the process is second to none, opening our eyes as to why Barbour has the price tag it does.
The above images shows the initial stages of the creation of a waxed jacket, cutting out the templates for each part of the jacket and hand modifying them. This is a crucial exercise, as this is the basis of the jacket, if this goes wrong it could lead to a batch of imperfect jackets, wasting time, materials and ultimately money. Each piece is then moved to the sewing area, ready for the machinists to work their magic.
The above images shows the Bedale jacket under construction. At one time, up to 9 different types of jackets can be made on the factory floor, on this particular day 5 various styles were being produced.
The Machinist work is highly skilled, the art of stitching on waxed jackets cannot be re-worked, as it means that the garment wont be fully waterproof. Accuracy is essential.
After the jacket has been constructed, the buttons etc are added to the product, final checks are made and the final product is packed and ready for shipping around the world.
Each jacket takes approximately 60-95 minutes to make depending on the style and detail, and each machinist makes the equivalent of 25 jackets per week, pretty impressive!
Barbour Jackets have became one the nations most loved jacket, and some people just don’t want to part with their possession. That is why the factory has a dedicated customer service facility, solely for repair and alteration. Wax jackets can be returned for alteration, repair and reproofing at any time to the original South Shields Factory where the jacket was originally made. On average it costs £25-£30 for a full re-wax.
We were allowed into the customer service department, and it was like stepping back in time. We were lucky enough to see jackets from as early as the 1980’s being sent back for repair, showing just how much Barbour is loved and how long they can actually last.
Unusual items which have been found in the pockets of returned jackets to customer service are Keys from St James Palace, sheep’s tails, maggots, foxes teeth, a glass phial of monkey blood, love letters and cash. So a nice collection there!
The popularity of this service is huge, with approximately 13,000 -14,000 jackets coming through the doors of the of customer services each year, where 17 specialists work in the repair and re-waxing center.
The waxing process altogether takes around 20-15 minutes per jacket.
Design Studio and Archive
We were lucky enough to get the chance of going into one of the working design studios at Barbour and got to see the archive collections from over the years. These pieces have shaped the way for the staple Barbour Jacket. Below shows a collection of photographs from the studios.
We would just like to say a massive thank you to the Barbour staff, especially Laura for taking us on this guided tour.
Aphrodite have a wide range of Barbour Waxed Jackets and Clothing available to buy online and in-store now. Head over to our Official Barbour Brand Page Now to view our full collection.