Craft / February 2016

Flannelling On: The Fox Brothers Mill

There is perhaps no more patriotic a British mill than Fox Brothers & Co. With almost five hundred years of history, a compelling approach to fabric design and a champion of fine English cloth at the helm, The Rake explains just what it is that sets Fox apart.

'We shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.'

Legend has it, that when Sir Winston Churchill spoke those extraordinary words, he was clad in a suit cut from the finest West of England flannel, woven by his woollen mill of choice, the iconic Fox Brothers & Co.

Much like Sir Churchill, Fox Brothers is a British institution of near national significance; at one time one of the largest and most prestigious woollen mills in the country, an employer to five thousand tradesmen, occupying a monumental site of several square miles, filled with the imposing red-brick towers and belching chimneys synonymous with good ol' Victorian industrialism in Wellington, Somerset. The mill's scale of production at its peak was quite frankly biblical; in 1914, with the outbreak of the First World War, the mill received the single largest textile order of the conflict, for 825 miles worth of khaki - a fabric which Fox Brothers can lay claim to having invented in 1901.

Sadly, such days are long behind many British manufacturers but fortunately, as Mr Churchill prophesied, in the mill's darkest hour, the new world with all its might did indeed step forward to liberate the old. Today, Fox Brothers is experiencing a heart-warming renaissance and has returned to form as one of the finest producers of worsteds and woollen flannels in the United Kingdom.

The mill's modern day liberator is one Mr Douglas Cordeaux, now the managing Director of Fox Brothers. Prior to taking control of the brand, Douglas was a menswear designer with a long history in luxury menswear and a passion for British heritage brands. In 2009, upon hearing that Fox was in dire straits, he and his business partner Deborah Meaden didn't think twice about running to the rescue. His honesty on the subject is rather refreshing: 'it was a bizarre thing to take on, but we just thought, 'We can't let this go. We can't just let this incredible British product die''. Six years later, his brave decision and extraordinary vision has revitalised the mill and business now growing at a rate of knots - supplying cut lengths to the finest bespoke tailors and clothiers far and wide, and also weaving commercial orders for a huge number of international luxury brands; from Hackett to Aquascutum, Louis Vuitton and just about every single house on Savile Row.

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Contributor

Aleksandar Cvetkovic

Aleks is Deputy Editor at The Jackal and former staffer at The Rake. He’s long harboured a passion for fine menswear, well-timed dramatic pauses and stiff drinks.