Friends create workwear brand that sells to women working in outdoor trades
Two friends from Cheshire are behind a new sustainable clothing brand aimed at women in trades as well as those enjoying more manual work outdoors such as gardening or farming.
Entrepreneur Flavia Paterson and award-winning gardener Arabella Hill are co-founders of Paterson and Hill which they created over lockdown and launched last September.
Manufactured by textile experts Cookson & Clegg in Blackburn and Teemill in the Isle of Wight, the clothing range uses sustainable and circular fabrics and technical detail to cater not only for the growing number of women in traditionally male-dominated trades, such as farming, but also the large number of new gardeners and DIY experts following the pandemic.
“Since the pandemic 3m women have taken on gardening and ONS stats show there are growing numbers of women in skilled trades such as farming, engineering and construction,” said Flavia, who is also a director at Quantum Communications.
“Yet there isn’t a range of durable clothing that suits their needs so they’re either shopping at high street shops or trying to find menswear that fits.”
The lightbulb moment to create a new range came from Arabella. While working on an award-winning garden at Chelsea Flower Show she was struck, while standing in the middle of a construction site, that the men working alongside her were amply catered for in clothing unlike herself.
She wanted clothing that was flexible for the type of hard manual work she does week in week out, that was durable, practical but flattering and sensitive to the environment.
She mentioned the idea to Flavia who had spent years working in the energy and forestry sectors, where she also had found that safety wear was largely geared towards men.
“We spoke about it one evening and realised there was a gap in the market,” said Flavia.
“It was difficult to find clothes for women working in physical outdoor spaces.
“I worked in the energy sector and the forestry sector for a number of years and I found that while men were catered for and kitted out, I had to find the smallest pair of boots or jacket which were still a little large.
“We did a lot of research and focus groups in London, Manchester and Edinburgh and the feedback was that there was a gap in the marketplace.
“One woman was buying three pairs of jeans a year from Primark which didn’t last long.
“For us, it was about getting her to buy a pair of good quality and durable trousers that would last years.”
The main range includes trousers that have been ‘field tested to destruction.’
Not only is it high waisted but is made from durable but stretchy fabric and includes nine pockets that can carry notepads to tools.
They also sell organic tops that can be recycled after use and put back into the circular economy.
Flavia added: “One of the things I like most about our range is that it is suited to so many different purposes, you can use them in trades, but also if you’re just walking the dog or digging in the garden.
“Sustainability also plays a huge part in what we do. This isn’t throw away fashion, it’s made to last and it’s made not far from us in Cheshire”
Arabella said: “We’ve made numerous amendments to our designs and tested them exhaustively in the field.
Customers, from builders and mechanics to farmers, gardeners and dog walkers, are generating the demand founders Flavia Paterson and Arabella Hill aim to nail as they call time on the draughty overalls and voluminous protection gear commonplace in male-dominated industries.
“Women are getting on with their jobs in clothing that doesn’t fit, doesn’t last and doesn’t suit their needs. They have long needed transformation. We are about function, a one-stop shop for hardy workwear, not fashion,” declare the Cheshire-based pair whose sustainable design, manufacturing and distribution network is centred in the UK.
Their compelling case for change is also supported by recent figures showing more women are joining the manual trades workforce and there are some three million new gardeners since the pandemic.
After strong sales of its flagship product, the technical Fieldfare Trouser, and organic cotton T-shirt range, Paterson and Hill is forecasting a turnover of £250,000 plus for 2023.
Next year it will look for further angel investment to develop its digital marketing operation while also making festival and trade show appearances to showcase its collections.
Fits to a T: sales are flying for the organic cotton T-shirt
It was first-hand experience of what the market lacked for women that a couple of years ago brought together friends Hill, a landscape designer who has won a clutch of RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold medals, and consultant Paterson who worked in the forestry and energy sectors.
But after £50,000 investment, a mix of private funds and a Virgin Start Up Loan, their advanced plans for producing in Europe and Turkey had to be radically rethought.
Concerns had mounted about Brexit import issues then Covid shut overseas factories. As a small startup Paterson and Hill feared they would be at the back of any production queue. But times are changing in the UK as shrunken industries such as textiles regenerate.
The women do source their eco-denim from Italy, but manufacturing is in Blackburn through Cookson & Clegg. The iconic British producer is now in full renaissance mode after it was rescued and reinvented by TV sewing sage and tailor Patrick Grant.
Any savings that might have been gained by outsourcing overseas are now far outweighed by having a maker on the doorstep that treats its employees fairly, explains Paterson.
“It was a decision that has become more brilliant in hindsight. Cookson & Clegg have a history in military and workwear and their quality, machinery and skilled staff are just what we need. Sustainability and being British made matter far more too to people now.”
With reinforced pockets and a tool loop, the multi-tasking, stretchable Fieldfare Trouser (£115) teams perfectly with an organic cotton T-shirt, made in partnership with Teemill on the Isle of Wight.
“Customers can recycle with the manufacturer and contribute to making more tees so a truly circular economy product,” says Paterson.
“The Fieldfare took a huge amount of work and many prototypes. We managed to do the fittings over Zoom. We’re really pleased with the design that incorporates a wider thigh size which works best for active women with a snugly fitting high-rise waist. Fieldfare doesn’t have to be washed often which also saves on resources.”
Two merino tops made in Leicestershire are on their way for autumn and the company also wants to introduce a repair service and strike partnerships with companies providing workwear for employees. “Female manual workers are still overlooked,” says Hill, “but not for much longer.”
New North West Brand Launches To Revolutionise Workwear For Women In Trades
A new brand has launched to provide clothing for the growing number of women in trades as well as those enjoying more manual work outdoors such as gardening or farming. Paterson and Hill has launched with a range of workwear designed specifically for women working in skilled manual or indoor trades.
Designed and predominately manufactured in the UK, the clothing range uses sustainable and circular fabrics and technical detail to cater not only for the growing number of women in traditionally male-dominated trades, such as farming, but also the large number of new gardeners and DIY experts following the pandemic.
It is estimated that there are 3 million new gardeners in the UK following the pandemic and ONS stats show there are growing numbers of women in skilled trades such as farming, engineering and construction.
Flavia Paterson, co-founder of Paterson and Hill, said:
“We started designing and field testing workwear for the growing number of women in skilled manual jobs two years ago. We didn’t feel women working in these areas were properly catered for with clothes that not only fitted but were technical, durable and sustainable. We were moving towards production, but then the pandemic struck.
“After a horrendous year for everyone, one thing has become clear. The pandemic had made a large number of women look at their jobs and lifestyles and many have reconnected with the outdoors.
“One of the things I like most about our range is that it is suited to so many different purposes, you can use them in trades, but also if you’re just walking the dog or digging in the garden.”
Arabella Hill, co-founder of Paterson and Hill, added:
“The idea for Paterson and Hill came to me while I was working on a award-winning garden at Chelsea Flower Show and was struck, while standing in the middle of a construction site, that the men working alongside me were amply catered for in clothing.
“We’ve made numerous amendments to our designs and tested them exhaustively in the field.
“We want to bring about a revolution in workwear for women not only working in and enjoying the outdoors but also skilled indoor trades such as plumbers, decorators or mechanics.
“We want to showcase the amazing women in these areas and how their clothes should not only be fit for purpose, but respect the environment.”