When you think of the fashion capitals of the world such as London, Paris, New York and Milan, the small town of Cardigan in west Wales doesn’t come to mind. However, the town has various connections with jean-making through history and has, for the past five years, been home to a high-end jeans-maker called the Hiut Denim Company.
Endorsed by a growing number of fashionistas, stylists and designers from far and wide, Hiut now ships its expensive jeans on an international level, reaching destinations all over the world. They have a workforce of just 15, but that doesn’t stop busy hands getting to work hand-cutting and sewing the trousers. They use giant rolls of indigo-coloured denim that the company imports from Turkey and Japan. At the moment, they make around 120 pairs of jeans in an average working week, but founder and owner David Hieatt has plans to expand.
While Cardigan might not be the first place you think of when it comes to the manufacturing of high-end clothing items, but the town has a long and extensive history of clothes production, and particularly jeans. Cardigan was home to a factory that made jeans for high street retailer Marks and Spencer for nearly 40 years until the facility closed in 2002. In an attempt to cut costs, the production was relocated to Morocco, which also led to the loss of around 400 jobs in this part of Wales.
Ten years later, enter Mr Hieatt, a proud Welshman, looking to open a factory to start making jeans. He chose the name Hiut as a combination of his surname and the word ‘utility’, and chose Cardigan because of its history within the industry. He employed people who had previously worked in the old factory, and thus maintained their years of jeans-making expertise. Mr Hieatt says he was confident that the business could be successful because of the focus on using the website to sell bespoke items directly to consumers.
Mr Hieatt refers to the internet as the main reason their jeans-making business has not only been able to stay in business but flourish. He emphasises the advantages of being able to sell directly to consumers and therefore keeping the profit margin, which has allowed them to compete with other high street markets.
The way in which the business works is slightly different to other retailers. Workers are referred to as ‘grand masters’, and this is in recognition of the fact that some of them have more than 40 years of jeans-making experience. New employees are required to train for at least three years before they can start making jeans for sale to customers.
Mr Hieatt and his co-owner wife Clare previously owned a firm called Howies, which was sold to the US firm Timberland in 2011. However, he ascertains that it is his previous career in advertising that is at the root of the success. The extensive knowledge and know-how have meant that he can effectively market and promote all things Hiut, from a lavish new website to utilising social media adverts. David also credits social media, claiming it has given a platform for those without budget to tell their story to consumers. He said: ‘If David wants to beat Goliath, the best tool in the world is social media.’
Hiut utilise their knowledge of the social mediascape and send out free pairs of jeans to what’s known as influencers, including fashion bloggers or famous people, in the hope that they will write positive posts about the brand. One example of this is when he sent a pair to UK TV presenter Anthony McPartlin of the duo, Ant & Dec, who then tweeted about the company.
Mr Hieatt’s overall goal is to recreate all those jobs that were lost 15 years ago and reinstate Cardigan’s reputation as a clothes manufacturing town.
This reminds us, here at Quality Unearthed, just how important it is to support local businesses to the best of your abilities. Independent companies that grow and expand in the UK not only create jobs but spares the environment in terms of packaging, shipping and transportation; an invaluable advantage in our eyes. If you’re looking to be more green in 2018, shop as locally as you can and perhaps opt for an eco-friendly staycation with Quality Unearthed, like a treehouse holiday!