Monday AM: The T-Shirt factory, with Miguel & team.
At 9am, we meet at the factory to see saw Miguel & Mr D, the owner of the factory. It’s the third time we’ve visited and by now there are a lot of familiar faces. We all jump in Mr. Carlos’ car and drive straight to two of their nearby knitting mills. We’re looking for a new fabric for the Six Mile Tee - a summer version that’s just a touch lighter, and with a slight stubby character.
It’s only a short drive but there’s so much to catch up on. At the first knitting mill, we’re looking for a dry, mid weight, slightly slubby fabric, and we make a selection of 7 favourites ranging from 170gsm to 220gsm. There’s a clear favourite at around 190gsm and we’re hoping to have a sample made over the next month or so. We visit the next mill and find a very good back up, but we’re still thinking about the first choice we found earlier.
Back to the T shirt factory and a trip around the production floor to meet the makers and see their current production. There are +/- 10 workers in the factory, it’s one of the cleanest factories we’ve ever seen, lots of space and no dust. Very impressive! We walk around each part from sampling to lab dips, wash testing to cutting, sewing and quality control, folding and packaging stages. It’s a very beautiful factory with a great spirit.
With an espresso, we go over some changes to our Six Mile Tee. It’s a very popular tee as it is, so the changes we’re making are minimal. There are slight adjustments to make, a few millimetres here, a few millimetres there. We’ve brought a reference of a battered t shirt found on trip to LA (to show the slubby texture we love) and Huw tries on our tees from our first production and second, to highlight some things we’d like to improve on. The ribbing on the neck will be updated, using the same yarn as the main fabric, and the construction updated too. We’re going for a vintage inspired neckline. Once we get a few metres of sampling fabric, Miguel and Mr Carlos will take all the notes and prepare our first samples in the 6 Mile tee summer weight / slubby variation. Final name TBC.
Monday lunch time:
We eat at a very very cold sandwich bar with some teenagers snogging on the table in front of us. Awkward.
Monday afternoon with João:
A visit to a jacket factory we’ve been talking to and getting to know before working with, to make something new, quite technical. They’re in Guimaraes too and was originally founded by a couple who’s sons are now running the factory. We meet mum on the sample machine, she’s softly spoken and has a smile that warms the room. Together we talk about how we work, making to order and filming the process of jackets being sewn, week by week. We’re starting to sample one new style with them that we’ve not worked on before, and we’re looking forward to getting to know them more and more through the process.
Monday late afternoon with Mario:
At 5pm we head to our Denim factory to meet Mario. Since our last visit they have installed an electric car charger, nice! A first look into the factory and it’s so good to see familiar faces who we’ve come to know since making Batch No.9, our Japanese denim jacket. The production line is running beautifully and they’re a tough rival to our t shirt factory for the cleanest floor award! Next up, we go next-door to where Mario stores rolls of fabric. Waiting for us, are neatly stacked rolls of brushed cotton canvas, ready for Batch No.14, our next jacket.
Upstairs, and with another coffee, we go through all our final comments for Batch No.14, making sure everything is ready to go when our order is placed in March. It’s all looking good and we’re all excited to get going. There are tiny adjustments to make to the weight of the thread and the height of an internal pocket.
After the meetings, we follow Mario to Familicao, a town not far away where his current favourite restaurant is. I say current, because Mario is a real foodie and last time we visited another favourite of his. He always says he’d love to open a restaurant one day, but we keep telling him no, please stay in textiles! It’s so good to have the down-time with our factories so we can talk about life as well as work. It’s been a long day so we drive back to the hotel for a glass of wine to decompress and talk about everything we’ve seen that day.
Tuesday morning: Fabrics
Starting early again, we spend the morning looking at fabrics. We’ve brought a lot of references with us, from vintage scraps to checks and wools found at the Rose Bowl vintage market to colours we’d like to use on a classic brushed flannel.
We look through fabrics from some of the best local mills who we can work with to create bespoke fabrics just a stones throw from the factories. For this short trip we brought 1 x 15kg hold bag. I reckon 14.5kg of that allowance is taken up by fabric references!
As well as developing a handful of new checks, we find some very good options of wools we’d like to work with, and another option for a local mill making weatherproof fabrics using recycled materials. We always find that even if you know exactly what you’re looking for, it’s so much better to find the right fabrics in person. Trying to choose from pictures or even being sent selections from mills is so much harder to find ‘the one’. It’s only by going and seeing everything in-person that you find the options with all of the right character and credentials.
A quick bowl of soup from Green Bistrot.
Tuesday afternoon with Sergio, Sonia, Isabelle & Emilia:
A meeting we’ve saved until now, with Sergio & Sonia and the team from our factory who have made nine of our Batches as well as our chambray shirt. If that doesn’t explain it, we love working with them and continue to be very excited about the future of what we can make together. It was around four years ago that we first met and began sampling, and since then we’ve learnt a heck of a lot. We still count ourselves very lucky at the faith they had in us at the beginning when we were just starting out.
We begin with a tour of the factory, although it’s just the same building as before, there has been incredible progression, there’s a new cutting room and pattern room, new storage space and new team members to meet. Hello Isabelle. It’s really exciting to see them doing so well.
Post-tour, our meetings begin and we talk about samples we’ve been working on over the last few months, the quality is incredible and our comments for changes are tiny (hang loop alterations, adding knife pleats on the back, adding 1cm to length and pressing the collar open in just the right way once the shirts are ready to send). No problems, all easy, but easier again to talk in person, shirt in hand and agree on the best ways of moving forward.
There are delays at some fabric mills at the moment, with various reasons from the price of energy to the availability of yarns, we talk about how best to work with realistic timelines and decide we need to order our fabric for Batch No.15 very soon.
After talking about future shirts and jackets, we talk about our current production: The Applecross Jacket! After navigating a short delay at the factory, we now have two production lines working exclusively on our Applecross jackets. Instead of talking about it we go straight to have a look and see how things are coming along.
Brilliant. The quality is so, so good. Stitching is perfect, the buttons are perfect, the fabric looks perfect and the sizing is… perfect. We see the very first finished jacket (a size XS mens in French Navy). The men’s navy jackets are making amazing progress and tomorrow they’ll be working on our Pine Green jackets. Seeing something you’ve designed coming to life and getting the chance to thank everyone who is making them is a feeling that never gets old and I suspect it never ever will.
Wednesday morning with Sergio and Emilia:
Our flight back is at 12 so we’ve not got long until check-in, just enough time for one more factory visit. We meet Sergio at the factory at 8.30am to see our Applecross jackets again. Vitor is there too, who makes the films you receive if you’ve got a jacket on order. He’s lovely, and it’s great to see him again, he starts to film the progress happening on every machine, so you can watch your jacket coming together week by week. After 30 minutes, it’s time to go to the airport. With kisses and tight squeezes from Emilia (head of production) we are sent on our way, until next time. ✈️