Wigton at the cutting edge
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Wigton has a long tradition in the textile industry and one prestigious High Street company is ensuring it remains on the global map.
Behind an unassuming shop front on Wigton’s High Street lies a business with international reach. It counts some of the most influential people in the world among its customers, and it is keeping the traditions and craftsmanship of its trade alive.
Redmayne 1860 is rooted firmly in this town, even while the skills of its team are known across the world. The company has been the home of Savile Row tailoring for more than 160 years, creating beautiful clothing for men and women, and selling them the accessories to go with it.
Its Head Cutter, Tom Mahon, still uses a pair of shears which once cut cloth for the suits of the likes of Hollywood superstar Fred Astaire. This is a business which is built on strong and famous foundations.
The team welcomes customers through the doors here in Wigton, at premises in London’s Mayfair, and also meeting customers overseas – pandemic restrictions permitting – hosting city visits for clients across the USA and, when it comes to their most loyal clients, travelling to wherever they ask.
But it is the historic market town of Wigton which is the company’s hub. Everything starts and finishes there, no matter where the customer is based.
The team works under the careful supervision of Head Cutter Tom. He’s a Carlisle-born tailor who has created suits for everyone from the Prince of Wales to the chief executives of the hugest international companies – he’s very discreet about exactly who is wearing his carefully-tailored clothes. “They find us,” says Tom. “They do their research.”
Tom started his career with Redmayne 1860 as an apprentice, going on to work with the renowned Anderson & Sheppard on Savile Row, then running his own company, English Cut. He returned to Redmayne 1860 in 2017 to ensure the company carried on its success as its owners looked towards retirement. Redmayne’s Wigton presence was first established by its founder, Samuel Redmayne, in a workshop in Water Street, and, at the start of the 1900s, he built the most modern clothing factory in Europe in Station Road.
The company also expanded its retail offer – at one time there were 27 shops across the UK selling ready-made and made-to-measure garments.
When fashion trends changed and suit-wearing lessened in popularity, the factory suffered and it eventually closed in the 1980s. Today, a care home sits on the factory site, but the historic name remains – Redmayne Court and Redmayne House. The company’s workshop also moved briefly to Warwick Bridge on the outskirts of Carlisle, but the management realised they were transporting most of their skilled team there from Wigton, so it made sense to come back to the place where it all began.
However, throughout its history, some things have never changed, and one of those is the demand from affluent individuals for bespoke tailoring. Around three quarters of Redmayne’s customers live overseas, but Wigton is an ideal base when it comes to their UK clients – close to the Lake District and to the motorway, plus Tom travels easily each week to London, when restrictions have allowed.
And locals do make up a good part of the Redmayne client base. “There are more than you would think,” says Tom. “Cumbrians want to be well dressed.
“Wigton has all the fundamentals and Wigton people are good fun. There are nice genuine individuals here.”
Redmayne 1860’s Wigton building is a fascinating place. The ground floor is the showroom for visiting customers. It’s lined with wood panelling and rows of beautiful garments – the jackets known as ‘coats’ in the Savile Row tradition – and with samples of fabric, in rolls or in books.
Tom adds: “Almost all our cloth is made in England. The only thing that sneaks through is a bit of Italian cloth, and that gives me something to moan about!”
A cutting table stands to one side, where Tom’s famous shears sit when they’re not in use. Nearby, an old fashioned rotary dial telephone still rings out – much to the fascination of younger customers. A radio plays in the background, tuned to a station in Boston, USA, simply because ‘they play good music’, according to Tom.
Top class staff
The room behind the showroom is Claire Mahon’s domain. She comes from a family of bespoke shirtmakers, trained in fashion herself, and now manages the business with her husband. The pair live in Wigton with their three sons. They’re in the process of creating a prize in association with The Nelson Thomlinson School so that an outstanding girl and boy pupil, who are making a difference in local life, can each win a made to measure Redmayne suit.
The wider Wigton team has lots of local links too. Michael Wigglesworth, a fifth generation Redmayne, is officially retired but still involved in the business. Then there’s coat maker Peter Henderson, who grew up five minutes from the workshop’s door and has worked for the company for 50 years. Even apprentice Molly Haney’s grandfather was a coatmaker for Redmayne.
Elsewhere in the UK, they have experienced tailors who play to their strengths – whether that is making trousers or coats, or the tiny details like button hole finishing.
And Tom says reputation is everything – no matter how much their customers want to spend. If they ask something like ‘what’s your most exclusive cloth?’, he won’t let them buy it if it isn’t right for their lifestyle. “That’s a foundation built on sand,” he says.
Redmayne 1860, and its suits, are made to last.
30 High St, Wigton
Cumbria CA7 9NJ