How A Carr & Westley Skirt Is Made
At Carr & Westley we take pride in being one of the last bastions of British manufacturing. Our skirts and dresses have been made in this country since 1919 and home-based manufacturing is a legacy we are proud to uphold in today’s heavily outsourced world.
From our workrooms in Kent, we still put the same passion and detail into the production of our clothes as we did 90 years ago. To give you an insight into how our manufacturing process works, we’ve put together this short article that details the production process of a Carr & Westley skirt – from conception to the wardrobe.
The first part of the skirt manufacturing process is creating a design. Our designer will sketch out a number of rough designs for the new season and these will be made up into product samples. With a range of product samples to choose from, our designer and management team will select five or six designs that they want to put into production and include in the next catalogue.
The chosen design of a skirt is influenced by a number of factors. The most influential of course being seasonality. Summer skirts are usually designed from lighter material with flared hems and rarely feature pockets to maintain smooth lines. Winter skirts are more robust and many are designed with full linings for warmth and comfort.
Once the design of the skirt has been finalised, we have to decide which material to make it from.
Taking the finished skirt design, our production team undergo ‘material sampling’. Material manufacturers from all over the country send us fabric samples in 6x6 inch squares. These samples come in a variety of patterns with different fibre contents and washing instructions. We can receive up to fifty different samples before we whittle down to three or four for each design.
The materials we choose for sampling are determined by a number of factors. First and foremost, we want it to look good. Is the pattern right for the season? Is it a unique and distinctive design? Next, we need to make sure that its weight, fibre content and texture is suitable for the time of the year. Summer skirts are generally made from light material like cotton. Winter skirts a denser, wool-heavy material.
With three or four sample fabrics chosen, we make up a working prototype of the product. From the different fabrics, we can observe how the material looks, sits, stretches, washes and endures through everyday use. At the end of this testing phase we choose a final material and put the design into production.
Once a skirt design has been approved and a final sample made up, we have to photograph it for our catalogue. The catalogue production team will take the sample out on location for what we call ‘lifestyle photography’. After lifestyle photography, we then shoot the product again in our studio against a white background for inclusion on the website and examples of all available colour ways.
With the skirt photographed and included in the catalogue and website, it awaits its first customer order.
Receiving An Order
When a customer orders the new skirt online or via the phone, a product ticket is generated in our workrooms. This tells the manufacturing team which model has been ordered and in which size, colour and length. The ticket is passed to our team in the cutting room where the first stage of manufacture happens.
The Cutting Room
From the order received our cutting team have to select the correct material and then cut chosen dimensions from the roll. The material is cut from design specifications which can mean marking out and then trimming a number of separate panels, accounting for pockets and additional design features. If the skirt design includes a lining, this will also be cut here alongside the main material.
Unlike many other manufacturers, all our skirts are made to order. This means that when a skirt order comes through, we actually make it from scratch. This process is not efficient, especially by today’s automised standard, but it is traditional and allows a flexibility not granted by other manufacturers. It allows us to offer five different skirt lengths – a real rarity in today’s clothing trade.
Once the panels, pockets and other features of the skirt have been cut they are passed onto the stitching department. This is where the pieces are put together like a jigsaw.
In the stitching room, we sew the skirt panels together and adjust the waistband and hem to specification. If the model includes them, pockets are finished here along with other design features. Finally, the C&W label is sewn in along with the product size label and fibre content. With all the components of the skirt pieced together, it is pressed, packed and ready to send out to the customer.
Working As A Team
We have to work as a team throughout the manufacture of a Carr & Westley skirt. Many of our workroom staff have been with the company for a long time and have formed strong personal bonds because of it. We believe that these relationships and our respect for traditional manufacturing techniques have helped us maintain a unique level of quality. We are proud of our team and proud to be different.