The hunt for good suppliers is always a mixture of frustration and elation as you follow the detective trail to find that elusive company that will offer you something different. Especially if like me you have criteria you try to meet. In my case both an extreme pickiness about quality and a desire to support local businesses for the knock on effect to the economy and the environment. Sometimes you want to keep the suppliers you find close to your chest but other times it pays to shout their name. This was the case with Morton, Young and Borland, or MYB Textiles.
MYB are a lace manufacturer based in Ayrshire, Scotland. They've been there for over a century and produce lace for some very exciting clients on original looms. No other company in the country is doing what they do. More on their history here, https://www.mybtextiles.com/history. Their lace has been spotted in Hollywood movies (the latest one, look for it in the nursery in Maleficient), and used by international designers. More locally they collaborate with interiors stars such as Timorous' Beasties and talented Scottish designers like Judy R Clark. It's just been reported that their latest big name client is clothing retailer, Hobbs.
I had looked at the website for a while but had hesitated to approach them. I shouldn't have worried, I was invited down for a visit, welcomed warmly with a cup of tea, given a tour and allowed to browse samples at leisure. It's developed into a good relationship where I've loaned them garments for showing as far afield as Moscow. It also was key to me being part of a local exhibition on lace and it's connection to the region.
But now to the extra interesting bit, the tour. This was truly fascinating for anyone interested in textiles. To repeat, they've been around since 1900. The business has literally grown around the huge looms. The building is a maze of doors and stairs and rooms squeezed in where they can. Very easy to get lost in. Funnily enough it reminded me strongly of the newspaper office I used to work in, which was another old industrial building with no fixed layout which had grown around the heavy machinery. And I was struck very much by the similarity between the enormous blacked looms chugging away noisily in the heart of the building and the old printing presses that crouched into the dark and noisy press hall in the newspaper office.
The patterns are filed on huge punched cards the size of doors. Many of them original. Technology of course has also entered in as computerised design has taken over. This leads to an odd mix of hi-tech and tradition, the old and the new co-existing. Which rather sums up the use of the fabric too. Lace, the most 'antique' of fabrics being used in new and exciting ways.
The jet black looms rattle away either side of long access galleys with raised platforms. These looms are enormous, enabling them to be able to produce large widths for items on the scale of theatre backdrops. It's a strange contrast, this fine light cloth cobwebbing off the blackened iron. In another side of the hall the cotton madras unique to MYB is produced. And then through into a huge room where yards of cloth are hand checked by women bundled up in jumpers perched on tiny stools amid a sea of lace.
In another room curtain panels are made up, boxes of lace are everywhere and there's a cheerful atmosphere of a business where people work for years, not just a year before moving on. A company where the employees are as 'in with the bricks' as the machinery. I like that in a company, it's becoming rare.
At the end of the tour I was left among racks of samples to note and snap the ones of interest to me before popping back through to the office and design room (another familiar atmosphere for an ex graphic designer like me) for another cuppa and to discuss what would work for me.
I would definitely recommend you research textile companies in your area and make contact. Not only is it interesting and educational, but it's building contacts and relationships like these that make a difference to your business. And of course, it can take you down unexpected routes in your own work, especially if you're like me and dictated to by the materials in your hands. But most importantly, it's these contacts that make your work stand out. Don't fall into the trap of always using the same suppliers and materials as every other corset maker. Find the difference and build on it.
Take a moment and watch the wonderful video above.