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Fashion Demand Boosts Mohair Producer, A Report by The Yorkshire Post

Apr 12, 2012

THE trend for mohair suits and coats by leading fashion label Prada is boosting business at a Yorkshire textile firm.

William Halstead, a Bradford-based weaver of mohair and worsted, said it had seen a three-fold increase in orders for its fabric from the Italian fashion house this season.

Sales director Iain Milligan said: “They have gone crazy for mohair and have increased their business with us. Prada is very demanding because they want deliveries very quickly but that is part of the service we offer. Normally lead times are six to eight weeks. Prada wants the fabric in one to two weeks but the rewards are there.”

He added: “Italians are leaders of mohair but what we produce is very different. Ours is very dry and thick whereas Italian mohair is soft and lighter. This season, Prada has taken the un-dyed fabric and printed their own design on top of it.”

The company, which was founded in 1875, also supplies a number other designer labels including Burberry, Calvin Klein and Louis Vuitton as well as Savile Row tailors including Gieves and Hawkes.

Actors Pierce Brosnan, Dev Patel and Zac Efron have all been pictured in suits made out of its fabric. It was also worn during a dance sequence in the 2009 film Nine.

The firm’s most expensive cloth is made from 100 per cent mohair, which is imported from Camdeboo in South Africa, and costs £110 a metre. It is sold to luxury menswear brand Dunhill.

William Halstead has a £3m turnover and there are 70 staff employed at the firm’s headquarters at Stanley Mills in Dudley Hill. Although the company has a separate sales team, it centralises production with a number of other firms owned by parent company SIL Holdings.

Exports to countries including Japan, Italy, South Korea, and the United States account for up to 80 per cent of its sales.

South Korea is its biggest market, with £800,000 worth of fabric shipped there in the last year.

Mr Milligan said: “We have become the largest importer of suiting fabric to South Korea and it forms a significant part of our turnover.”

It has also built up business in the US with labels including Ralph Lauren and Simon Spurr. “They always said they would never buy mohair in the States but we have been encouraging them to sample it,” said Mr Milligan.

There is also a push for sales in the Middle East, in Bahrain, Kuwait, Dubai and Saudi Arabia. “It’s a difficult market to get into and a different market to the rest of the world,” said Mr Milligan.

“We used to be in that market because they used the mohair fabric for the long robes they wear but we stopped a few years ago. Now we see good opportunities again.”

China is another target market for the firm.

William Halstead was run by the founder and his descendents until 2006 when it was taken over by SIL Holdings, another Bradford-based family textile business.

According to Mr Milligan, who has worked at the company for 25 years, investment by the new owners has led to a renaissance for the business.

Over the last four years, SIL Holdings has invested £250,000 in new looms and as profits grow, there are plans to update more of its machinery. It is also investing in new skills and has taken on six apprentices in the last year.

Although Yorkshire’s textile industry has contracted significantly, according to Mr Milligan the future is bright for the companies that remain.

“Things are fairly stable and there is a future because those companies are serving a niche market,” he said.

However, he is lobbying the Government to increase its support for the industry. “We get no help from the Government at all, whereas places like Italy have a lot of government support,” he said. “Grants would be useful but it’s more about promoting the industry than money.”

Looking to the future, he added: “I think it is going to be a tough year but we are ahead of where we were last year and we are still looking at growth because mohair seems to be in fashion at the moment.”

To Read the full article visit The Yorkshire Post Website