Tower Mill is home to the new English Fine Cottons spinning mill

Tower Mill is home to the new English Fine Cottons spinning mill

Cotton spinning could be about to enjoy a revival in the UK with the imminent opening of a new mill in the north of England, which claims to be the most modern in the world and will spin the highest quality yarns for high-end apparel.

The project, run by English Fine Cottons, will see the regeneration of a former Victorian cotton mill in Greater Manchester producing luxury yarn for the domestic and global markets. Set to open later this summer, the new facility is expected to create around 100 jobs.

Supported by parent company and textile specialist Culimeta-Saveguard, the mill will have the capacity to spin up to 100 tonnes of cotton per month on completion, with space to expand further if needed. It will comb and compact spin extra long staple varieties of cotton, which the company says attract a price premium, such as West Indies Sea Island, Egyptian Giza 45, Peruvian Pima and Indian Suvin cotton. 

As such, English Fine Cottons says the luxury apparel market in particular will be an important sector for the company. 

"There is a strong demand across the UK and across the world for luxury goods and it's a grey market," says Tracy Hawkins, vice president of sales and marketing for English Fine Cottons. "Our business is passionate about beautiful, fine cottons. We are passionate about British made. We are passionate about helping to revitalise UK textiles, to pull back together all those supply chain links which once made us all one community."

The facility has benefited from substantial investment: around GBP5m of its own money, in addition to a GBP750,000 loan from Thameside Council, and a GBP1m grant awarded by the Alliance Project. This allowed the company to invest in the latest technology and machinery.

As a result, once fully up-and-running the facility will be the most modern, end-to-end, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in the world, English Fine Cotton says. 

Sustainability and ethics are also at the heart of what the company is trying to achieve. There will be a quality combing waste system that will also be able to handle recycled fibres and blend with other fibres such as wool and viscose. It is also investing in its own power supply, with a dedicated combined heat and power plant, offering "significant savings" against market prices and long term supply stability. Additionally, the company says it is re-establishing a sustainable UK-based stock supply of fibre and yarn, offering fabric makers and garment producers the flexibility to obtain yarn when and where needed, rather than investing in large quantities from overseas.

And, with West Indian cotton key to the business, Culimeta-Saveguard has been directly involved with the Barbadian government, farms and cotton growing communities to improve seed stocks, planting and management of picking regimes. Similar agreements and practices are also being developed with Egyptian cotton suppliers, Hawkins says. 

As an international trading company, Culimeta-Saveguard has subsidiary companies worldwide, exporting around 85% of its goods primarily to China and the US. Other export destinations include Italy, India and Australia. 

Made in Britain momentum

Ultimately, however, the company believes that bringing cotton spinning back to the UK will have a "huge positive effect" on the reality and sustainability of UK manufacturing. It will be the only commercial spinning company in Great Britain, enabling UK brands, retailers, weavers, knitters and designers to source home-spun, quality cotton yarns.

"This will enable us to spin some of the most luxurious and best quality yarns available at the high-end of the market for customers who demand quality, provenance, heritage and Britishness as well as flexibility, which only the UK can give.

"The UK textiles and retail landscape is completely different now. We know we have to drive the return of cotton spinning to the UK to ensure its success, help build back those links and create a new look landscape. We want to forge new partnerships and bring new opportunities to the wider textile industry – in some cases by simply being there, but also, because of our unique position, by heightening awareness within like-minded brands and retailers of the new possibilities now available to them."

Indeed, Hawkins says the company is talking to customers right along the supply chain, from fabric producers to the brands and retailers at the front end, in a bid to push further the Made in Britain momentum, as well as to "bridge the gap" if advice is needed on sourcing the right fabrics. 

"Brand Britain is strong and growing in importance, led by iconic British brands such as Burberry, Mulberry, and Paul Smith," Hawkins adds. "UK-made fits with the demand for shorter lead times. We want to reduce risk through lower stock holding. And with no shipping or customer delays it means more delivery reliability, ensuring the right product hits the right market at the right time. We have concluded at English Fine Cottons that the market is ready and the consumer is ready."