The loom carries on working as Sarah talks, shuttling back and forth. That wouldn’t be surprising, except that she is powering it herself, pumping two wooden pedals with her feet all the while. “It’s really nice how interested people have been this evening,” she says, pausing and adjusting the yarn, before starting to pedal again. “They ask so many questions – about me, about the process. It’s easy to forget how much there is to explain when you do it every day.”
Alongside four other craftsmen putting on a display of similar skills, Sarah is weaving samples of scarf patterns on a loom in the basement of the new Private White VC store on Duke Street, Mayfair. Around her mills a crowd of buyers, customers and journalists who have been invited to a private event showcasing the high-end workwear that the brand has become known for. The mens- and womenswear brand’s first store on Lamb’s Conduit Street has garnered a passionate following over the past few years; but with the second store, it is making the transition to the luxury market.
Private White, however, is not just a brand – it is also a factory. Based in Manchester, the manufacturer was once owned by Private Jack White VC (a British solider who was awarded the Victoria Cross during the first world war) and brought back into the family in 1997 by his grandchildren. It was they who decided to launch a brand under the Private White name; the manufacturing connection is the reason we are surrounded by craftsmen hard at work.
One of Jack White’s descendants, James Eden, and creative director Nick Ashley, walk around smiling as small crowds form around each worker. Their skills may not be fine embroidery or bespoke tailoring, but they emphasise the company’s core manufacturing connection. We’re don’t just make our products in the UK, the displays say of the brand – we make them ourselves.
But it should be said that Private White’s clothing deserves as much attention for its design as well as its construction. Pieces like the Twin Track (£595, in rust, first picture, and apple green, second picture) – a waxed jacket with two zips down the front, creating a strip that can be removed to alter the fit – completely refresh a menswear staple. The materials are also top-notch – Ventile cotton, horn buttons and striking copper hardware are all trademarks of the collection.
As another couple wanders over, champagne in hand, Sarah begins to explain the workings of the loom again. She doesn’t skip a beat.