The world’s finest knitwear. John Smedley.

“If you don’t start with the right raw materials, you’re never gonna end up with a great garment” says Ian Maclean, managing director of John Smedley. Don’t let the name fool you, Maclean is an 8th generation member of the Smedley family so knows a thing or two about garments.

John Smedley is the name of four generations of owners of Lea Mills, near Matlock, Derbyshire. The most famous of these was John Smedley (1803-1874), born Wirksworth, Derbyshire. Lea Mills was founded in 1784 by Peter Nightingale (a relation of Florence Nightingale) (former accountant to Richard Arkwright), and John Smedley (father of the better-known son of the same name). It was set up on a hilly site straddling a brook at Lea Bridge, just outside Matlock. The brook was used to both clean yarn and power machinery.

The company now sells to over 30 countries and has won numerous awards for its export achievements with the largest export market being Japan. “We’re proud to have ‘Made in Great Britain’ on the tag of every garment we make” says Maclean. The company has remained a British, family run business with a net worth of £8.9m. It’s current and past directors runs through a list of family members, and closer inspection shows that 13.54% of the business is owned by it’s employees. Marvellous. However this company has sold shares to private equity firms in order to grow the business but a sale to the giants is not on the horizon.

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John Smedley use a collaborative approach to create new designs…”we work as a team from start to finish”. Classic design is the essence of John Smedley menswear and womenswear collections and they encourage their designers to use a hands-on approach to realise their imagination.

They operate alongside the people who will translate design ideas into finished garments. From initial sketches to final pressing, the designers draw on the specialist knowledge and innovative technology available at Lea Mills.

“We’ve always been a design-led company. Our original designs were produced by mathematicians, engineers and knitters. Then an artist with a good eye for colour joined the company as a designer. With each new season’s collection, our specially trained designers continue to reflect the company ethos.”

Designer: John Smedley
Manufacturer: John Smedley
Year: 1784
Price: from £99.00

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Daniel

Having worked in design for the past decade, Daniel started ateliertally.com as a discussion of timeless, modernist product design. Trained as a graphic designer, he also has an avid interest in typography. You can follow him on Twitter @ateliertally.

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