An insight into the history of the Viyella branded fabric and the company behind it...
Our Viyella History page takes a look at the history of the world famous Viyella fabric and the company behind it, from its early humble beginnings through to more recent years. It's a fascinating story, steeped in rich heritage, and one thats also fairly close to our hearts here at Sanders Menswear, as the origins of this amazing success story began and still continues virtually on the doorsteps of our menswear shops in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in the heart of the East Midlands region.
VIYELLA COMPANY HISTORY:
A history of the companies behind the Viyella brand and fabric...
The history of the Viyella brand and fabric dates back over two centuries to 1784 where spinner and hosiery company, Hollins and Company, started business in Pleasley, a small village situated in between the towns of Mansfield in Nottinghamshire and Chesterfield in Derbyshire.
Hollins and Company was a group of businessmen fronted by Henry Hollins, who sought to establish a cotton spinning mill in the region and successfully did so, with their site at Pleasley Forge. However, it wasn't until a few decades later when Henry Hollins' grandson, William Hollins, became involved in the company and helped to turn it into a major player in the textile production industry.
Following the mill being rebuilt on two separate occasions following serious fires, the company began to gain some momentum and indeed a reputation for producing top quality products made in the heart of Nottinghamshire.
Some years later the nephew of William Hollins, Henry Ernest Hollins continued the family line within the business and took the company to a whole new level. In 1890, Henry Ernest Hollins of William Hollins & Company bought a new mill around 20 miles away close to the scenic Derbyshire town of Matlock, and managed to double the firms output. It was the location of this textile mill where the now world famous Viyella brand name was coined.
The mill was situated on the famous valley road that runs from Cromford to Grange Mill, just south of Matlock, on the 'Via Gellia Road', which forms part of the far less charismatically named A5012!
The Via Gellia Road is a steep-sided wooded valley road and was probably named in a mock-Latin style by or after Phillip Eyre Gell, a man responsible for building this road through the valley, who was of Roman descent. Quite interestingly, this whole region has a very rich and fascinating heritage. Just a few miles to the east in Cromford is the home of the Cromford Mill, a famous Georgian Cotton Mill built by inventor and entrepreneur, Sir Richard Arkwright.
Under the Viyella name everything from mens shirts to ladies blouses, skirts and nightgowns were being produced.
Newcastle House, Castle Boulevard, Nottingham...
In later years the Viyella offices relocated to central Nottingham, where in the 1930's they moved their headquarters to the purpose-built Newcastle House on Castle Boulevard which was a fairly significant move for the company. The company stayed here until the early 1960's when eventually their operating base was moved to London. The iconic art-deco Newcastle House building had fallen into a state of disrepair after Viyella moved its operations, however a Grade II listing was acquired for the building to prevent its demolition and has subsequently been fully restored and retains its art-deco theme and at the time of writing, is currently home to the Gala Coral Group.
The company had a merger in 1961 where Hollins & Co. became Viyella International, led by Joe Hyman, who over the years that followed acquired a range of similar companies. But it was Viyella who grew to be one of the biggest textile businesses in the UK during this period, owning 40 factories across the country.
After a few years as Carrington Viyella, and then Ventona Viyella, the company owning the brand then became Coats Viyella (Coats Paton, now Coats plc), who built a new mill to produce the Viyella fabric in the 1980's in Barrowford in Lancashire. However, this mill was demolished in 1999. In more recent years Coats Manufacturing moved abroad and underwent major restructuring selling off its Viyella fashion retail business together with Jaeger to entrepreneur Richard Thompson, who then sold on Viyella just a matter of weeks later to venture capitalist Harris Watson.
Austin Reed / Morrison McConnell...
Austin Reed purchased the Viyella fashion brand in 2009 and continues to produce the Mens Viyella range in conjunction with Derbyshire-based designers, wholesalers and retailers Morrison McConnell.
History of the Viyella fabric...
The Viyella fabric was initially a blend of wool and cotton that was first-woven in 1893 in England. Originally it consisted of a 55% Merino wool and 45% cotton blend in a twill weave, although this has been refined and perfected over the years to consist of an 80% cotton and 20% Merino wool blend.
The worlds first trademarked fabric...
The fabric was developed by James and Robert Sissons of the aforementioned William Hollins and Company. The brand name was first registered as a trademark in 1894, becoming the first ever branded fabric in the world. It was also registered again for the United States in 1907 and covered not only the fabric itself to be sold by the yard, but also items of clothing.
Originally this was made by separate businesses, but it wasn't too much later before Hollins started producing their own clothes and offering out franchises to manufacturers who would use the Viyella label.
In the early years, the fabric was marketed as one that combined lightness and fashion together with warmth and durability. By the early twentieth century, Viyella came in various weights and widths, some rather narrow by todays standards, and in plain colours as well as woven and printed patterns, and was exported from the United Kingdom to other English speaking countries across the world. Towards the end of the twentieth century, it was woven in 150cm wide lengths, suitable for modern garment design and production.
The first ready-made garments using the Viyella fabric were originally shirts and nightgowns, but this soon evolved to dresses, slips and other garments, much of it produced under the various different franchise arrangements in place using the Viyella trademark. Interestingly, the Viyella fabric was also made into sheets and the Viyella yarn was also even available for home knitting at one stage.
In the mid twentieth century, the fabric had become popular for childrens clothes, including babies nightgowns through to childrens school shirts, pyjamas, and dresses. It became associated with sensible and cosy clothing.
More recent years...
Officers in the British Army as well as other Commonwealth Armies purchased their uniforms during the Second World War, and Viyella shirts were a desirable option for them.
In 1960, Viyella were awarded the Queen's Royal Warrant and to mark the company's bicentenary in 1984, a spectacular televised event was held at Goldsmiths Hall in London, and because of the rich heritage and reputation of the brand it was given a prime-time airing on the BBC.
In more recent years, the 1980's saw the reinvention of the Viyella fabric as a fashionable fabric.
Somewhat curiously, as well as the Viyella brand itself, Hollins also produced the related 'Dayella' cloth used predominantly for baby clothing.
Clydella was a cheaper and less softer Viyella alternative made in the Clydeside area including Glasgow and Hamilton where many yards of Viyella were also woven.
Please note: We are in the process of building our online store, and are hoping to have mens Viyella Shirts available for purchase directly through our website in the near future. In the meantime you can either purchase directly from us in one of our high street shops, or you can also contact us with your requirements as we can often also provide products through mail order.