Bobbins, lace and frilly knickers: heritage and modernity at Headen & Quarmby

by Joby Catto on March 29, 2012

Headen & Quarmby production facility, Middleton, Greater Manchester

A small selection of images from a recent shoot at the Headen & Quarmby production facility in Greater Manchester. Recently featured in Mary Portas‘ new show on Channel 4, “Mary’s Bottom Line“, the building’s filled with reminders of the rich heritage, skills and traditions of clothing production in the north of England.

Headen & Quarmby production facility, Middleton, Greater Manchester

Trading for almost eighty years, the building is full of materials, fabrics, machinery and memories which harks back to the glory days of British textile production in the mid 2oth century. There are reminders everywhere of a close-knit community of skilled workers. Now, as the machines operate here once again, age-honoured manufacturing techniques sit cheek-by-jowl with modern computer aided design.

After a decade when the machines were mothballed and production moved overseas, once again the factory is resonating to the sounds and sights of undergarment manufacture, staffed by a group of new apprentices tasked with making Kinky Knickers in Blighty. And right now, these knickers are hot

Headen & Quarmby production facility, Middleton, Greater Manchester

Lovingly made using authentic Nottingham lace, the new Kinky Knickers collection flies the flag for British manufacturing. Championed by retail guru Mary Portas, each pair is handcrafted by local apprentices, and comes in a gorgeous vintage-inspired gift box. Leading retailers… including Liberty, Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, House of Frazer, ASOS, Boots and others… have embraced the chance to carry the cheekily retro, 100% British underwear. Public demand for the new lines is incredibly high, and everyone was working flat out (though not getting their knickers in a twist) when I was onsite.

Headen & Quarmby production facility, Middleton, Greater Manchester

Acclaimed creative agency Mill Co are delivering a new Headen & Quarmby website and brand development, and Anti Limited was commissioned to photograph the detail and character inside in the company’s headquarters in Middleton. As well as a range of intimately observed stills, taking full advantage of the natural light and unprepared working environment, we also captured a 360° panorama of the production floor. This gives vistors a chance to see the story behind the knickers…

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser

This is a superbly positive project; a great story of British talent and optimism, and it provided an evocative selection of details to capture and highlight. The subject matter gels closely with many personal and professional projects we’ve worked on, and it’s always good to support a scheme which promotes locally made, quality products. There was a tangible pride and professionalism with everyone I met – deservedly so, judging by their products – and I hope they maintain their position as a successful, well-respected British manufacturer for the next few decades. Thanks to all the staff at Headen & Quarmby for their unbridled co-operation and enthusiasm.

Headen & Quarmby production facility, Middleton, Greater Manchester

You can view a larger gallery of photographs from the day’s shoot here on Flickr

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