A visit to the Barbour factory.

29.10

Rosie-Reynolds-Barbour

Our final day up North ended with a trip to Barbour HQ in South Shields, to watch those most famous of waxed jackets being made on site. I’d been looking forward to this part of the trip the most- years of having a boyfriend partial to watching shows like ‘How It’s Made’ has rubbed off I guess! So I rose early once again (in my little Newcastle hotel room with its beautiful view over the River Tyne), resorted to laying my full body weight onto of my suitcase just so I could get it zipped up, and we were on our way out to South Shields by 8.30am!

Barbour-South-Shields
Barbour-tartan Barbour-waxed-jacket-in-production

Inside the factory, we began the tour by moving right to the start of the production line, where the waxed cotton is measured out and the pattern for several jackets is cut at once. The machinists in the factory are absolutely incredible- the speed at which they work, and their skill and eye for detail, is a sight to be seen. I spoke with Tracy, who sits towards the very end of the production line and whose job is is to sew the final hem on the jacket, and she told me that it takes on average one whole year to train and get up to production line speed. And considering Tracy works to a pace of sewing 54 hems per hour (YEP!), it’s hardly surprising that the training takes such a long time!

The energy inside the factory was amazing. Photos don’t do it justice at all! It’s noisy- hundreds of sewing machines buzzing and clicking and humming all at once, not to mention the odd screech as the rails of partially completed jackets are pulled down the line on to the next station, ready to have pockets attached or zips sewn on or soft corduroy-lined collars put in place. Every single one of Barbour’s classic waxed jackets are made at the South Shields factory- some 600 jackets are made each day alone, an average of 3000 per week!

Original-Barbour-waxed-jackets

^^ ‘Dress tartan’ lined waxed jackets! ^^

Sewing-Barbour-labels Barbour-waxed-jacket-UK-production

^^ Kerry’s role within the production line is to sew the ‘Authentic Barbour Tartan’ label onto the lining of each jacket. Because of the intensity of the training, each of the machinists specialise in just one or two jobs on the production line. What fascinated me most was how easy they made their task look- one or two quick zips with the sewing machine, and each piece was complete! ^^
  Rewaxing-Barbour-jacket

Once we’d got to the very end of the production line (and watched completed jackets being parcelled up ready to be sent out to customers), we moved on to the repairs department of factory.

Compared with the frenetic pace of the central part of the factory, the repair department felt practically laid back! I hadn’t realised before, but Barbour offer a repair and rewaxing service for all their waxed jackets, a service which is on offer to customers for the full life of their beautiful jacket.

The loveliest lady named Jean showed us around her department, and explained about the process of repairing jackets. Barbour frequently receive jackets that’ve been worn for upwards of ten or twenty years in for repair, that might never have been rewaxed and are beginning to suffer from years of heavy use! Each jacket is assigned to a machinist, who spends time assessing the jacket to understand what on it needs fixing, repairing any rips and tears, and replacing any panels or hardware that might need a complete renovation, before sending the jacket on to be rewaxed. The day of our visit, one particularly old jacket had just undergone a 5 and a half hour repair!

Jean told us that even though oftentimes the cost of having an old Barbour jacket repaired might be equal to the price of buying a new one, customers form such strong bonds with their coats that they’d rather pay to have their old ones fixed up! The jackets become part of family heritage too- some have been sent in to be rewaxed and repaired by sons and daughters wearing their parents old coats!

New-and-vintage-Barbour-jackets

^^ New, freshly made Beadnell jackets, vs. an old, well-loved example in for repair! The colour differences on the jacket on the right are due to the coat having just been patched up with freshly waxed cotton. The faded panels had never been rewaxed, and would have originally been the same colour as the dark green panels on the centre of the jacket. This one was about to go off and be waxed, ready to come out looking good as new and a uniform dark green colour! ^^

Vintage-Barbour-archive

After our tour of the factory, we headed up to the Brand Room to be given a guided ‘tour’ of the Barbour archive. It was nothing short of *fascinating*- I truly could’ve listened to archivist Gary talk all day! He showed us the oldest Barbour jacket in the archive, named ‘Uncle Harry’ after its owner, which was made in 1910 and donated to the Barbour archive by Uncle Harry’s family after he passed away. It was incredible seeing how the years have shaped Barbour’s jackets, from the full length waxed capes they made early in the 1900s (designed to provide protection from the elements for drivers of horse-drawn carts), to the traditional shooting jackets that helped make Barbour the luxury brand we recognise today later on in the 20th Century.

And after all that, (and following lunch, a little talk from Dame Margaret Barbour herself in her very own office, and a visit the Barbour shop), it was time to head back home. The whole trip was such a wonderful one- I always leave experiences like this feeling so inspired, and getting to see the decades of love, dedication, and drive that’ve gone into making Barbour such an internationally successful brand was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Listening to Dame Margaret talk with such pride about her company too was incredibly moving- she took over running it after her husband, John Barbour, passed away when he was just 30, and is a passionate supporter of women in business.

A true role model in every since of the word.

Rosie-tartan-scarf Cider-with-Rosie-Barbour-outfit

What I wore :: Barbour cream aran knit jumper  || Jeans (on sale!) || Scarf || Barbour ladies quilted utility jacket

p.s. My friends, if you’re ever in the vicinity of Newcastle, you must stop by the Barbour factory outlet store in South Shields! Some killer deals to be found there, I’m telling you!

p.p.s. Thanks to lovely Sarah from Barbour and Jen from J for Jen for snapping a couple of photos of me during the trip! Credits to the photographers, and all! :)

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21 Comments
Posted in DAY TRIPS, EDINBURGH, FASHION, PRESS TRIP
  • http://www.rhymeandribbons.com Amanda @ Rhyme & Ribbons

    What an honour to get to meet Dame Margaret Barbour! x

  • http://www.thisparticular.blogspot.com Ala Skrakowski

    Sounds so interesting, I have a quilted Barbour jacket and I love it, it literally goes with anything. I’d never really thought about it but I guess it really will be something I have for a long time. I’d love me one of those wax jackets though. Thank you for sharing all of this with us, I have really enjoyed all of these Barbour posts! x

  • http://newgirlintoon.co.uk Chloe

    Where did you stay in Newcastle? I’m guessing you didn’t have time to do anything else while you were up here? I hope your planning a return visit after seeing how beautiful Newcastle is? I fell in love my first visit and before I knew it I’d relocated up to the North East from London :)

    Chloe x
    newgirlintoon.co.uk

  • http://www.sparklesandstarlight.blogspot.co.uk Rachel Harris

    This looks like it was a fascinating visit! I imagine it was amazing to see them being made!
    Rachel x Sparkles and Starlight

  • http://www.asimpleelegance.com arielle

    sooo I am not a huge “how it’s made” fan, but this was actually super interesting. and you look so pretty! I love that white, cableknit sweater!

    love, arielle
    a simple elegance

  • http://www.katgotthecream.com/ Kathryn (@KatGotTheCream)

    I love factory tours too. I used to do a few of them as a journo and my fave was the famous Dents glove factory in Bath. When you see the time and skill that goes into making a really quality product it make you feel proud that we still do this stuff in the UK :)

  • http://www.gemmasands.co.uk Gemma@Little Pieces

    What an amazing experience! I love Barbour and the fact they still produce their jackets in the UK!

  • http://www.littleobservationist.com Steph

    Oh how cool! I absolutely love learning about the process of how things are made. What a great experience to be able to go behind the scenes.

  • http://www.seasaltandstitches.com Suzie

    Really fascinating post – thanks Rosie. I sew for a hobby so it was great seeing into a factory and hearing about the processes they use in the industry!

  • http://mirandasnotebook.com/ Miranda | Miranda’s Notebook

    What fabulous photos! It sounds like you had such a fascinating and fun trip. I love that blanket scarf!!

  • http://www.taymilstead.com Tay Milstead

    You can really feel the love Barbour has for their craft in this story. Wonderful writeup and gorgeous Zara scarf!
    ✖︎™
    http://www.taymilstead.com

  • http://www.onbackroads.com Hilde

    Wonderful story! I never realized that these jackets are still being made in the UK; makes me appreciate mine even more (not that I am from the UK, but still).

  • http://brunchataudreys.blogspot.com Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

    I just got my first (and second and third) Barbour coat a few months ago before starting my freshman year of college. Seeing this pictures is truly fascinating and makes me really happy with my investment :) -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

  • http://www.aimsui.co.uk Amy Giblin

    I LOVE this outfit so, so much!!!! What a perfect autumn day get up! Adore it, I desperately want the scarf right now, my Primark version does not cut it any longer!! x

  • http://www.owl-girl.com/ Candy

    What a wonderful opportunity! I love learning about family history and I love learning about how things are made, so this sounds like the perfect apex of two wonderful things, as far as I’m concerned! I hope they gave you a jacket too! ;)

    Owl Girl | A London lifestyle blog

  • http://accooohtrements.wordpress.com becky :: accooohtrements

    first, that jumper is divine!

    secondly, what an amazing trip. the factory sounds fascinating.

    becky :: accooohtrements.wordpress.com

  • http://ancaslifestyle.co.uk/ Anca

    Very interesting. Working factories are so fascinating, great pictures.

    Anca @ ancaslifestyle | UK

  • http://www.laurakathren.blogspot.co.uk Laura

    This is so exciting that you got to go visit the factory! I got a Barbour for my 19th birthday which I absolutely adore.

  • http://jess-inretrospect.blogspot.de/ Jess

    I wanna get a Barbour jacket so bad! Maybe after uni when that tedious business of saving every penny is hopefully done with.. haha :) xx

    Jess
    jess-inretrospect.blogspot.com

  • https://twitter.com/BexiAddz Becky

    Amazing! All this just down the road from me, I really have had my head buried in work since relocating to Newcastle a year ago, time to go and enjoy the sights. This has just strengthened my desire for a Barbour jacket, now just to persuade the hubby to come with me to the outlet store!!

  • http://www.prettygreentea.com Daisy

    I would love to visit and see around the factory – that must have been fantastic. I really enjoyed this post and I’m a huge fan of Barbour, I actually need to pick up a pot of wax to re-wax a couple of jackets.

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