Sunspel Fabric Printing

Sunspel pre-production fabric testing

Sunspel Pre-production fabric testing

A responsibility for brand history…is the phrase that comes to mind when screen printing for one of England’s longest surviving clothing brands.

Sunspel was founded in 1860 by Thomas Arthur Hill, who was born at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1822, the 11th of 12 children. His father John was a hosiery maker, and Thomas followed him into the hosiery and lace trade.

Steam Power – Apart from the occasional emission from the works bathroom, steam is not widely found at the October Textiles factory these days, (outside of tea manufacturing), but back in those days it was about to make massive change, with the textile industry being one of the first to embrace this new technology. Thomas was at the heart of this, and his vision was clear, ‘to create simple, everyday clothing from beautiful fabrics’ and this continues to be the Sunspel philosophy today.

T-shirts – considered more in those days perhaps as a luxury undergarment, but prior to Marlon Brando re-styling them as an outerwear piece in the film a Streetcar Named Desire, it was Sunspel  who made some of the first ever T-shirts.

Sunspel Fabric Printing sample

No pressure then – Well yes actually, it is, but a nice one…screen printing for the company that in 1947 introduced the boxer short to Britain, that launched its success by supplying Nick Kamen with the pair worn in 1985 for the Levi’s 501 advert…

“Before the boy in the launderette, nobody wore boxers. Almost overnight, men who would once have seen boxer shorts as stuffily old-fashioned were buying boxers in their droves. And ever since, a pair of white cotton Sunspel’s has been the boxer of choice of those in the know.”  Robert Elms, Style Journalist and Author

And screen printing for a company like Sunspel who in 2006 developed the Riviera polo shirt for Daniel Craig in Casino Royale…

“I have dressed so many different characters in film and theatre in Sunspel because they are classic, timeless and beautifully made. With Daniel Craig as the new Bond, I thought it would be a perfect collaboration of quality and Britishness to ask Sunspel to create all his t-shirts, polo shirts and underwear. He looks very sexy and happy in their clothing.”Lindy Hemming, Award Winning costumier

And hence, the pre-production fabric testing, often onto specialist double twist Egyptian yarns that we need to get right.

Testing, testing, testing – once printed with water based inks to ensure a really soft handle (there’s no point in having a lovely soft fabric with a chunky print) the knitted fabric samples are then tested at a variety of temperatures to ensure that the ink has all cured properly, without the heat from the textile dryers having altered any of the garment colours or textures…pushes flat cap back on head, removes pencil from behind ear, and makes useful production notes.

History – nestled here in the October factory at the foot of Malin Hill, and still in the heart of the Lace Market he would have known and loved so well, we hope that Thomas Hill looks down from the great production floor on high, and 155 years later, still sees his garments being made and printed here in Nottingham.

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