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-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!


^^ ‘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! ^^

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, 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! ^^


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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The past week was such an exciting one, I don’t really know where to begin in relaying it all! But I suppose that since the beginning’s always a sure-fire bet, we’ll begin there…

J Barbour & Sons was founded some 120 years ago this year by a man (and visionary!) named John Barbour, and the company has been handed down through the generations ever since. In celebration of this being a landmark year for the company (as well as Barbour’s beautiful collection of tartans and their incredible heritage), myself, the darling Jen from J for Jen, and a fair few journalists from international press teams were invited up to Scotland and Newcastle for a few day’s break. I flew up from Heathrow to Edinburgh (during those ‘we’re in the tail-end of a hurricane, brace yourselves!’ weather warnings, and with enough turbulence to make even the most seasoned traveller a little green around the gills!), and arrived at Prestonfield House in serious need of a little time and space to decompress. And oh my, did I find it.


Prestonfield is without doubt the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever been in! It’s all plush carpets, beds so large you could lose yourself in them, velvet curtains, tall sash windows, and long portrait-lined corridors. The sort of place where nothing’s too much trouble for the staff, and you wind up wishing that you could move in to one of the rooms and live there forever. Right after I’d settled in and unpacked, I sat down by the window and ate little white chocolate truffles alongside a glass of bubbles, whilst admiring the view of Arthur’s Seat out my bedroom window. A ‘pinch me’ moment, if ever there was one!

Prestonfield-Hotel-Edinburgh Prestonfield-hotel

After spending approximately 8 and a half hours attempting to comb out the knots in my hair (again, thank you mini-hurricane), I headed down to a formal dinner hosted by Dame Margaret Barbour. Before dinner, we got to see a mini preview of Barbour’s S/S15 collection (all muted shades, lightweight fabrics and soft tartans, so beautiful!) and were talked through both that and the current season’s collection by the head of men’s and ladieswear respectively. Dinner itself was just wonderful. We ate ‘neeps and tatties’, haggis (which was so delicious, and was even ‘addressed’ in traditional Scottish style!), marmalade puddings, and sweet chunks of Scottish tablet. Toasts were given, glasses were raised, bagpipes were played Robbie Burns poetry was recited, and Auld Lang Syne was sung. I didn’t take many photos (I was too busy pretending to know the words to Auld Lang Syne ;) so you’ll have to trust when I tell you what a beautiful evening it was! There are one or two snapshots over on my Twitter feed, so click through for elegant place settings and table centres and whatnot…

Peacocks-at-Prestonfield-house Eggs-benefict

The following day, after a breakfast which featured a roughly 2:1 coffee to food ratio (just how I like it), we gathered up our suitcases and bags and headed out in the direction of Leith, for a trip to tartan specialist company Kinloch Anderson. Now, I hadn’t realised quite what a serious business tartan is until last week’s trip! Barbour (both the family and the company) has roots in Galloway in Scotland but has been located for most of its life in South Shields, so when they found themselves in need of their own signature ‘Barbour tartan’, they called in the experts. Kinloch Anderson are a sixth generation family business, who specialise in creating tartans, kilts and Highland dress, and a whole range of beautiful tartan products. It was Douglas Anderson who designed the beautiful signature olive green Barbour tartan, which is used to line so many of the waxed jackets.

The story behind the tartan is a beautiful one. Helen Barbour (Dame Margaret’s daughter), had been doing some research into her family’s heritage, and discovered that neither they or the company itself had its own tartan. Up until Helen’s lifetime, Barbour jackets were lined with widely available tartans like ‘Black Watch’, which made them easy to replicate and prone to (poor) imitation. Kinloch Anderson designed a new, totally original tartan for Barbour at Helen and Dame Margaret’s request, which is based upon the Ayrshire district tartan (the district from which John Barbour came) and has an earthy colour palette to echo the company’s countryside roots.

What I think is most beautiful though is that not only is the tartan registered to the company, but it’s the Barbour family’s own tartan too. And so because of this, in wearing our tartan-lined Barbour waxed jackets and those soft woollen tartan scarves we borrow from our parents and never give back, we become a part of Barbour family heritage. The idea captured my heart, and reminded me for the umpteenth time during the week what an incredibly powerful thing family is.

Kinloch-Anderson-traditional-tartan-kilt Kinloch-Anderson-family-tartan

^^ Aren’t those herringbone wool blankets to die for? If I’d had space to get it home in my suitcase, I’d have bought one in a heartbeat! ^^

Kinloch-Anderson-tartan Bright-tartan-picnic-blanket Cider-with-Rosie-Barbour-tartan

What I wore :: Barbour ladies utility quilted waxed jacket || Shirt || Winter dress tartan scarf || Jeans || Boots || Hat (similar)

After leaving Kinloch Anderson, we headed over to the riverside for lunch at The Kitchin. I felt so full up after the previous night’s dinner I thought I’d never manage to eat again, and yet by the time lunch rolled around, I was pretty ravenous! The Kitchin had a lovely modern-elegant feel to it, and the food was wonderful. The emphasis is on ‘From nature to plate’, and we were given a little printed map of Scotland at the start of the meal which showed the provenance of most of all the main ingredients. Inspired! I ate a starter of partridge, then a saffron risotto with pancetta-wrapped cod cheeks, followed by a chocolate and mint soufflé. All delicious, but the cod cheek risotto won the day. It was so rich and buttery, and both hearty and delicate all at once.

The-Kitchin The-Kitchin-cod-cheek-risotto

And so, to Newcastle! I’ll continue on recounting the trip tomorrow, so stop by in the morning for some a sunset that’ll blow you clean away! For now, we’ll leave off with the sun setting over the river Tyne…


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