17th April 2020

Craft / Featured / Spry Workwear

Made in Britain: Spry Workwear. An Original Interview with Some Good Ideas

28 6 mins 1

FFounded by Daisy Bridgewater, Spry Workwear is a collection of hard-wearing women’s clothing inspired by workwear and re-modelled for modern, style conscious women. Daisy’s boiler suits have been a key item of The Good Life Experience’s team uniform since we had some custom-printed back in 2017. For a hands-on team such as that of TGLE -think lifting, shifting, painting, partying- this classic workwear uniform is the perfect fit.

This interview was conducted by Sarah Hellen, our curator of the Makers' Row and all things craft at The Good Life Experience. Sarah studied Fashion Design and worked as a menswear designer before returning to her hometown in Wales to pursue her love of craft and making. She is passionate about sustainable fashion and the future of making in Britain.

Some Good Ideas: Firstly, can you briefly tell our readers how you came to start Spry Workwear?

Daisy Bridgewater: Spry very much grew out of my own lifestyle, I had moved to a remote part of East Suffolk and was stumped style-wise by the need to go from city living to country, from power dressing to practical. Wearing a boiler suit was the obvious solution, but I found it impossible to find one fit for purpose.

SGI: Have you always had a penchant for workwear? What was it that first caught your interest?

DB: I have always loved clothes that are designed to be purely practical, like fisherman’s smocks and army trousers which age beautifully because they are sturdily made from lovely, natural, hard-wearing fabrics. My mother had a bottle green boiler suit which she wore throughout my childhood, and over the years it got softer and softer and faded to the most beautiful colour. Thinking about it that is probably where it all started.

SGI: How do you go about your research when looking at new collections? Is there a key piece of archival workwear you refer to most often?

DB: I never set out to be a fashion brand, and I don’t buy into the idea of seasonality. My clothes are designed to be worn all year round (give or take the odd hot spell). My classic boiler suit shape is unchanged since I first launched, but I have it made up in different colours and weights of fabrics. It is roughly based on a 1950s mechanic’s overall.

SGI: What can we -as modern-day consumers- learn from very traditional workwear garments?

DB: That when something is carefully made it will last you a lifetime. That there is real value in a properly constructed garment with strong seams, deep pockets and proper buttonholes. That if we value traditional craftsmanship our clothes will be with us for the whole journey.

SGI: Being ‘Made in Britain’ is a key part of your brand DNA, was this a conscious decision for you when creating Spry?

DB: Yes. I was very keen to start very small scale as I was a complete novice when it came to manufacturing. I was also keen for my clothes to be made not just in Britain, but as locally as possible, so that I could maintain a good relationship with the factory. When I heard that there was a traditional workwear manufacturer in Great Yarmouth (about an hour away from where I live) all the pieces started to fall into place.

SGI: Have you ever felt pressure to move parts of your production abroad?

DB: I know it would be cheaper to manufacture offshore, but I would be wary of the scale of production this would entail. At the moment I can keep my orders manageable and limit my risk by making in Britain. But more importantly, I love the fact that I know not just where my clothes are made, but who makes them. And I am proud to be investing in the local economy. There is a fabulous skill base at the factory which I am keen to build on.

SGI: Which companies and/or designers do you feel are the pioneers of the ‘Made in Britain’?

DB: My sister, Emma Bridgewater, has been a huge influence. She has always been adamant that her pottery should be made in Britain and she invested in Stoke at a time when so many factories were closing as manufacturing moved to China.

SGI: What do you see in the future of British manufacturing?

DB: I think we still need to learn to value British manufacturing, and in the fashion world, where people are still buying into cheap, fast fashion, this is a big ask. It is undeniably more expensive to manufacture here, and consumers need to value this if the industry is to continue.

 SGI: Lastly, can you tell us about Spry’s commitment to sustainability and the environment?

DB: Spry is small and cautious, two words that you probably shouldn’t use when talking about your business, but it is an approach that has so far kept me sustainable. I prefer to sell out rather than over-order and find myself with an excess of stock. I buy my fabrics from British mills where possible, and always from British suppliers.

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Spry Workwear

Spry Workwear, founded by Daisy Bridgewater, create hard-wearing women’s clothing, inspired by workwear and re-modelled for modern, style-aware women. They keep their collection consciously small and work closely with their factory to ensure that the production is as sustainable as possible.

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