Manchester used to be the most thriving industrial city in the world, and it specialised in innovative waterproof cotton garments. It was once known as ‘Cottonopolis’ and it’s also where Private White V.C., an outerwear specialist that maintains a strict ‘Made in England’ ethos, is based. The factory’s foundations were laid 240 years ago in an area of the city that’s now desolate, but it used to be populated by tall, functioning buildings that emitted light 24/7 through thick smog whilst a cacophony of sewing and cutting machines provided the soundtrack. At the industry’s peak there were 300 active factories in the area, but following a rapid decline in the 1970s due to the introducing of the Three-Day Week, Winter of Discontent and Thatcherite policies, there’s now just the one. As such, it’s been named ‘The Lighthouse’, and the formation of Private White V.C. less than 10-years ago is the main reason that the factory is the sole survivor of a bygone era.
Following a heroic display of gallantry in 1917 on the Dialah River, Mesopotamia, 20 year old Jack White returned to the U.K. with his Victoria Cross and settled in thriving Manchester. It was the obvious choice due to the abundance of work, and he undertook an apprenticeship at Cottenham House – now Private White V.C.’s factory – as a pattern cutter. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming General Manager and eventually owning the building, before passing away in 1949. For decades the factory produced for other brands, but when it was founded in 2009, Private White V.C. made use of all the factory’s resources, and took inspiration from its namesake’s life as well as British military history and exploration. It’s still owned by the same family, too, with White’s great-grandson James Eden acting as CEO. Then there’s Eden’s godfather, Mike Stoll, who is the Managing Director. Stoll started working in the factory aged 15 and he knows the brand and its history inside out and front to back.