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Carr & Westley - Blog

  • Spring Testimonials: Customer Feedback

    We regularly receive happy feedback from our customers; here is a little collection of the ones we have received since we released the Spring catalogue. Hopefully this list will grow over the coming days...

    It was such a joy to receive my new trousers and to be able to wear them straight away instead of having to wait for them to be shortened and I love the colour too. Yours Truly, Ann F.  

    Dear Madam, I would like to thank you for your excellent service your company provides. Twice I have ordered goods - posting the orders on Monday, receiving the items on Thursday morning. So thank you. I am delighted with all orders - and pleased I saw you your advertisements in the Daily Express and the Times. Your Truly J. Everington (Mrs.) 01/03/2013

    Thank you for my Spring Catalogue. I just want to say how nice and bright it looked. Please find my order enclosed. A Watson 05/03/2013

    Dear Sales team, I just wanted to say how pleased I am with my new kingfisher top KA50 - I love the colour & the fit. I mention the fit as I find it really difficult to buy for myself these days now I'm older as I'm only 5'2"but only a size 8-10 - all manufacturers consider I should be a 'round barrel' at my age! Thanks again - but please remember to continue to make some small sizes for 'us little ones'! Regards Janet C. 05/03/2013

    Dear Carr & Westley, I'm always delighted to receive you catalogue where I could easily spend more than i should as you give such a variety of choice. In you Spring edition (my order is enclosed) it’s lovely to read all about the company’s heritage and to see a photograph of your staff who obviously contribute so much to your success with their expertise. In this day and age it’s wonderful to know of a family business. This note is just to say thank you for very good service, much appreciated and to send you every good wish for the next 60 years and beyond! From P Hannaford 13/03/2013

    Dear Judith Gorringe. I received the two skirts I ordered from your firm Carr and Westley and I am really pleased with them. I just wanted to say thank you to you all, I shall look forward to recieving your summer catalogue. Kind Regards J Harper 14/04/2013 


  • New Year, New Look

    Carr & Westley BrandIt's the start of a new year and at Carr & Westley, we are very excited to annouce the launch of our brand new company identity.

    As you will see from the logo at the top of the page, we've had a bit of a spruce up.  Our new branding is a reflection of the values that have made C&W the company it is today with a modern twist.

    We are still the same trusted, family-run business with a commitment to excellent customer service.  We still make Carr & Westley and Anna Victoria branded products in our factory in Kent.  The purpose of our new branding is simply to merge our rich heritage with a passion for design and life.

    We are really excited about this coming year and hope you love what we have in store for you.

    Here's wishing you a very happy new year from everyone at Carr & Westley.

  • Happy New Year

    Happy new year from all the staff at Carr and Westley. We enjoyed a wonderful perfromance on Christmas eve in Hadlow Village square by the salvation army band. A wonderfull ocasion enjoyed by all the family. We have all had a good rest and are ready and waiting to help you find a bargin from our January Sale catalouge. The cold weather will be with us for a few months yet, meaning you'll get fantastic winter wear for now and next year.

    As tradition, all Carr and Westley goods come with a "look good, feel good" guarantee -  if your not 100% satisfied, we will give you a refund. No questions, no quibble.

    And if you like icing on your cake, we'll point out that all Carr & Westley orders come with Free UK Delivery. Not a lot of company's can say that - so we do, often.


  • Are We Better Mannered Than We Think?

    British Isles

    Good manners are very important to Carr & Westley and we are proud of our customer service standards. With this in mind, we are pleased to inform you a new report has found that British people are polite. Now this may not seem like a striking revelation to those acquainted with the cultural stereotype of the Courteous Brit.

    However the report also found that, rather worringly, British people believe themselves to be increasingly unpleasant.

    The periscope post collected some thoughts on the news:

     Hurrah! An Observer editorial shared our views: “We are, in the main, tolerant, considerate, caring. We are not so rude Britannia.” The editorial also praised the Young Foundation for bringing the question of manners into the spotlight: “Good manners are not old-fashioned. The Young Foundation has done well to remind us just how much they matter.”

    Diverse politeness. The report’s researchers travelled to both wealthy and deprived areas in order to observe the prevalence of good manners. According to the report, “Assumptions linking incivility to disadvantage or diversity are simplistic; we found very high levels of civility in some disadvantaged, diverse places, as well as instances of serious incivility, in the form of intolerance and rudeness, in more prosperous and homogenous contexts.”

    Dangerous pessimism. Writing for the BBC, Mark Easton argued that the entrenched that British people are getting ruder can become a self-fulfilling prophecy: “If people assume that the world is a rude, individualistic and selfish place, they are more likely to act that way themselves.”

    Rude? Meanwhile, Dominique Jackson at The Daily Mail seemed unconcerned with politeness while considering the report: “The prose is poor and its final startling insights, blindingly self-evident. Who commissioned this research and how much did it cost?”

    Listen: ‘Britain is not a rude nation’ on the BBC radio 4 today show.

    I personally think the best way to influence the manners of the nation is one conversation at a time!

  • The History Of Mail Order

    History of mail orderDespite our use of modern day delivery and order channels (like this website), Carr & Westley is, and always has been, a mail order business.

    Origins In The New World

    The first recorded mail order catalogue was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1744. Franklin realised it as a method of spreading word about scientific ideas in his journals and papers. The commercial benefits of such distribution were obvious and in 1848, Alfred Hammacher established the first significant mail order business selling mechanic’s tools and builder’s hardware.

    Inspired, Aaron Montgomery Ward followed Hammacher’s lead to become the first real pioneer of mail order. Based in Chicago, his single sheet of products in 1872 increased to over 20,000 items within 20 years with his business model built on cutting out the middle man (general stores) – and keeping a bigger share of the profits.

    By then other companies had seen the value in mail order. Perhaps the most famous of those was US department store – Sears. Still a major player today, in its heyday Sears dominated the mail order market. Formed in 1893 by Richard Sears and Alvah C Roebuck, the first Sears catalogue sold everything from sporting goods to sewing machines, dolls and refrigerators. It wasn’t long before the catalogue had grown 322 pages thick.

    By 1897, sales exceeded $750,000 and Sears little publication was now being referred to as the ‘Consumer Bible’. In 1908 they even started selling kit houses through their catalogue. It is estimated that between 1908 and 1940 they sold 75,0000 of them, many of which are still around today.

    British Adaptations

    One of the very first mail order businesses setup in the United Kingdom was Littlewoods. Still a household name, Littlewoods was established by Sir John Moores in 1932, with the first catalogue consisting of 168 pages. Between 1932 and 1952 Littlewoods opened 25 retail stores thanks largely to its hugely successful catalogue. Moores was inspired to start a mail order business after a research trip to America. Studying the operations of Sears, he brought their ideas back to the UK with him and by 1936 his decision was vindicated with sales topping £4 million.

    Other UK mail order catalogues quickly followed including Kays, Grattan, Avon and C&A. The popularity of mail order grew as consumers enjoyed leafing through glossy pages at their leisure and the appreciated the convenience of being able to pay weekly. It enabled many to plan well ahead for Christmas and children had great fun choosing toys.

    Modern Day

    Today, thanks to the Internet, the traditional mail order business landscape has changed somewhat. Online shopping may be referred to as ecommerce, but the basic principles are still similar to that of traditional catalogue ordering. Shoppers look at a variety of products, compare prices and arrange a delivery method to suit them – only via a computer rather than a catalogue order form. Many companies have moved away from the glossy brochures and now focus solely on their company website to showcase and distribute products.

    As far as Carr & Westley are concerned, for the short to medium term at least, there is still a strong need to produce seasonal catalogues. Even though internet sales are increasing, the bulk of our business still comes through catalogue sales and we find it a very useful medium for communicating brand values and creating a tangible connection with our customers. It will be a sad day when the last C&W catalogue hits doorsteps, but we’ve been making them for almost 100 years and don’t see any sign of stopping soon.

  • The Future Of The UK High Street

    History of the High StreetOn the 7th November, The Telegraph produced a report on the number of empty shops found on the UK high street. The figures make quite startling and sad reading. It is now estimated that there are around 48,000 empty retail properties throughout the country. It means that one in every seven shops is left unoccupied.

    The most significant finding about this report, however, is just how fast the rate of this vacancy has increased over the last year. According to the Local Data Company (LDC) and British Property Federation, the number of shops that closed between 2000 and 2009 was estimated to be 15,000. However, between 2010 and 2011 alone, a staggering 10,000 closed.

    So what has caused this dramatic decline? Well it’s a combination of factors. We’ve just experienced our country’s worst ever peace time recession. There has been a growth in online shopping and out of town shopping malls and banks have been reluctant to lend. In reality it’s a perfect storm and the government is now encouraging business property owners to look at the way they lease. We need to get these derelict buildings occupied.

    According to the Distressed Retail Property Taskforce, the industry-wide group headed by retail expert Mary Portas, landlords need to look at new solutions. Many of the buildings they acquired in the good times are now no longer worth what they brought them for and Mary and her team have produced a review that suggests actions to be taken.

    Amongst her recommendations, Portas advises the removal of unnecessary trader regulations, a review of business rates and free controlled parking sites. All suggestions surround the removal of barriers to entry for the business owners and accessibility problems for the shoppers.

    The government have come under criticism for not reacting quicker to Portas’ review and many are losing faith in their reluctance to tackle the issue at all. As more firms like Comet, JJB Sports, Barretts and La Senza go over, consumers are quickly loosing confidence.

    Mark Williams, chairman of the new taskforce and partner at asset managers Hark Group, said: “The wider economic, consumer and retail markets have moved at a pace that our high streets and property in general, have not been fast enough to adapt. The reasons for this need careful examination as a way of understanding what the current property-related barriers to rejuvenation are, and what the range of options or solutions could be.”

    Georgina Whyatt, an academic at Oxford Brooks University, produced a paper in 2004 on Town Centre Management. One of the consequences, according to Whyatt, is that many people feel isolated even when in a crowd. "Increasing numbers of consumers are looking for a system of purchasing goods and services that support social interaction of the communal type," she claims. The high street can provide a wealth of experiences, through markets to street entertainers, a real social hub. If high streets become residential or completely office run, this will be lost forever.

    At Carr & Westley we have always valued community and would love to open a high street shop of our own. In the past we have looked into this possibility but found the rental costs, business rates and logistic barriers too great to make the idea feasible. We feel it is a real shame as we would like to add more touch points to our brand and if only it was more affordable and supportive, we believe we, like others, could contribute a great deal.

  • Different Types Of Wool

    Different Types of WoolHaving recently seen the country celebrate Wool Week, we thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look at one of our country’s most loved fabrics.  While you may just associate wool with knitted jumpers and socks, there is more to it than meets the eye...

    What is Wool?

    Wool is a natural fabric that grows on the back of a variety of animals.  The most popular form of wool comes from sheep and their young, but it is also commonly gathered from goats, alpacas, camels and even rabbits.

    Thanks to its texture and ability to retain heat, wool has become synonymous with winter wear clothing.  The type of wool used to make different types of clothing is usually determined by its ‘crimp’ - the number of unit bends along the particular fibre.  The number of crimps found in wool differs by type and each will be measured in microns (micrometers).  The density of the crimp determines the yarn, which then determines the items of clothing and products that are made from it.

    Merino Wool

    Merino wool is a very fine fabric – measuring between 12 – 24 microns.  The most valuable kind of Merino comes from Merino Hoggets (young sheep aged between 9 and 18 months old).  For the best quality fabric, the sheep must grow up in a relaxed, stress-free, environment where they can grow a full coat free from breaks in the wool (thin spots).

    Merino wool is graded based on its diameter in microns and referred to as Ultrafine, Superfine, Fine, Medium or Strong. The Australian Wool Exchange Council (AWEX) will even score wool against a measurement of fineness, character, colour and style – the very best wool being given a 1PP rating.

    One of the softest wools available, you can expect to pay around £15 for a pair of Merino wool socks and between £30 and £200 for a Merino jumper.  Because of its quality and function, Merino wool is often used to make high performance outdoor products like clothing for mountain climbing, skiing and cycling

    Angora WoolAngora Wool

    Not to be confused with the Angora goat, which produces Mohair, Angora wool actually comes from the Angora rabbit.  This breed of rabbit has a distinctive appearance with big fluffy coat with a silky texture.  This fibre has a hollow core, making the wool warm and light.  The Angora coat is either white, tan, grey or brown through to black with a diameter of 12 – 16 microns.

    Used for centuries in Turkey, Angora wool only became popular in England in the 18th century and it wasn’t until the 20th century that the United States caught on to its popularity.

    As Angora is not naturally elastic, it is often used as mix wool and blended with other fibres to produce a yarn that is easier to work with.  While this does diminish the softness and texture of the garment, it still produces a beautifully distinctive finish.  Due to its low individual yield, Angora is mainly used for making smaller items like sweaters, gloves and craft items.

    Mohair Wool

    Mohair wool comes from the hair of the Angora goat. Mohair is a silky fabric that measures between 25 – 45 microns in diameter.  It is one of the oldest textiles still in use with its names originating from the Arabic ‘mukhayyar’.  Mohair is a tough and durable fabric, that manages to hold a high sheen appearance, giving it the nickname ‘Diamond Fibre’.  It is popularly used in fabric blends for this reason.

    Mohair has become especially popular because it is easy to dye.  This is why you often see vivid colours in garments made from Mohair. It is considered to be a ‘luxury wool’ as it is equally adept at keeping you warm in winter and cool in the summer.  Mohair fabrics from younger goats is used for clothing as it is fine while thicker hair from older goats is commonly used for carpets and heavy outerwear.

    Lambs Wool

    Like its name suggests, Lambswool comes from the first shearing of a sheep, at the age of around seven months. To be classified as Lambswool, the fabric needs to be 50mm or shorter.  It is soft, slippery and has an extra elasticity needed for high-quality textiles.

    Due to it’s softness against the skin, Lambswool is an ideal material for making baby clothes.  It’s also a natural fire retardant and its ability to absorb damp makes it ideal for home insulation. The material used on a paint roller is often made of Lambswool as are many cleaning utensils around the home.

  • Community - Tunbridge Wells Life

    Tunbridge Wells LifeAt Carr & Westley we value the importance of community and also like to embrace any technology that brings people together. If you have everbeen in our area, you may recognise the streets of Tunbridge Wells from our catalogue photography provided by David Bartholomew. David has been shooting our clothing collection for a number of years and he has just set up a brand new website that aims to improve community spirit and communication within this vibrant South East town.

    If you live in, grew up in or ever visited Tunbridge Wells we recommend you take a look at Tunbridge Wells Life.  David has put together a fantastic resource of everything Tunbridge Wells.  In the Galleries section you'll find a visual library of some of the Towns most important sights. In the News section you can see what's going on in the town on a weekly basis - find a tour to discover the real town, or check out what events are happening in the near future.

    The website celebrates all that the Town has to offer in a structured, easy-to-use way. In the Directory section you'll find a list of 'go-to' bars and pubs, communal societies, popular businesses and places of worship. It's also a great resource if you have mobility issues and would like to know what dedicated access areas are available around the town.

    Researched and maintained by a friendly, enthusiastic team who are passionate about what they do, Tunbridge Wells Life offers you the most complete resource on what Tunbridge Wells has to offer.

    We'd like to congratulate David on his website and look forward to seeing it evolve with every week.

  • The Material Dying Process

    Material Dying ProcessHave you ever wondering how clothes get their colour? More often than not it comes from a dye added to the material during the early stages of manufacturing. We’ve written a short article which explains one method of dyeing material and how it is used to colour garments of different types.

    What is a dye?

    A dye is a coloured substance that has a chemical affinity to another substance – in this instance, material. There are two types of material dye, natural or man-made.

    Pre-19th century the only option for colouring material was to use a natural dye. These dyes were derived from plants, invertebrates or minerals. During this time the most common form of natural dye came from plant roots, berries, bark, leaves, wood, fungi and lichens.

    In the late 19th century, however, the first synthetic dye was invented and these are now widely used in the colouring of material. Man-made dyes are formed from different chemical compounds, the most popular being the Azo types. In mass manufacturing, synthetic dyes have become very popular due to their low production cost and easy manipulation. The broad range of colour in clothing manufacture has become possible thanks to synthetic dye.

    The Dyeing Process

    In reality there are many different techniques available for the application of synthetic dyes to fabric. It is usually dependant on the type of fabric you are dying. A common method for applying dye to material however is by using a mordant.

    A mordant is a chemical substance used to help set dyes on fabrics by forming a “coordination complex” with the dye which then attaches to the material. The term mordant derives from the French term mordre, which means "to bite".

    Types of mordants include tannic acid, alum, urine, chrome alum, sodium chloride, and certain salts of aluminium, chromium, copper, iron, iodine, potassium, sodium, and tin.

    The process for dying material with a mordant happens in three stages.

    • Pre-mordanting (onchrome). This is where a fabric is initially treated with a mordant on its own e.g. soaked in tannic acid.
    • Meta-mordanting (metachrome). The next stage is to add the mordant to the dye bath. The material is then soaked in the dye bath.
    • Post-mordanting (afterchrome). The final stage of the process is where the newly dyed material is again treated with a mordant to ensure the dye takes to the material properly.

    The type of mordant used in the manufacture process affects the shade and fastness of the dye.

    Dye Finishing

    After the application of dye the material is treated with extra chemicals for stain resistance, texture and anti-pilling protection etc.

    The application of dye, natural or synthetic, is what gives our garments an almost indefinite range of available colours. The mixing of different pigments creates a rich blend of tones that we see popularised through the different seasons of the year.

  • Hadlow Folly

    Hadlow FollyToday we have been out and about taking photos for our next Winter catalogue in our home village of Hadlow.

    Mentioned in the Doomsday book, Hadlow is situated in the Medway Valley, approximately 25 km south-east of London. Residing in the Kentish countryside, we are surrounded by many historical buildings, including hop ousts and a medieval church.

    Carr and Westley itself is located in a converted water mill where we have been making our products for the last 70 years - moving down from London to avoid WW2 bombing. There are many interesting buildings here but perhaps the most interesting is the Castle Tower for which Hadlow is well known.

    The Castle Tower, or May's Folly, is a really unique and unusual piece of 19th century architecture. Of Victorian Neo-Gothic design, the tower was conceived by the naval architect Ledwell Taylor and built by local landowner Walter Barton May in 1835. It is one of the tallest folly's in Britain and had no original purpose other than for decoration. However, during WW2 the building was used as a lookout point for the Home Guard.

    Following the war, the tower fell into disrepair but was saved from complete demolition in 1951 by the painter Bernard Hailstone.

    In 1987, however, the grade 1 listed tower was badly damaged in a great storm with the lantern, gables, buttresses and roof suffering heavily. After the storm it's condition worsened rapidly and as a result it was added to a list of the 100 most endangered sites in the world in 1998. Following a series of local council meetings the public set up the Save Hadlow Tower Action Group (SHTAG) in a bid to get the building repaired.

    Although the tower was originally built for ostentation not habitation, it had been partly converted for residential use in the mid-1970s. This meant it was necessary to acquire the building through Compulsory Purchase before any restoration funding could be granted and refurbishment work started. As a result of SHTAG campaigning, in 2011 the Vivat Trust agreed to commit to the restoration project in its biggest development project to date. Upon acquisition, the Trust developed a scheme to convert the tower into premium holiday accommodation in conjunction with public access (a condition of lottery funding). Other restoration donations came in from the English Heritage, the Architectural Heritage Fund, Kent County Council and the Country Houses Association.

    The £4 million restoration is now well under way and we are all looking forward to seeing the results. If you ever find yourself in the area, Hadlow Tower is well worth a visit and of course do pop over the road to see Carr & Westley :)

    You can read more about the Hadlow Tower Restoration Project here.

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