British from the Bottom Up!
Members of Asby WI weren’t quite sure what to expect when Shirley Crisp’s return visit was billed in the program as ‘British from the Bottom Up’. But 19 members and one guest were soon fascinated by the story she had to tell.
In the two or more years since Ms Crisp had spoken in Asby she had given up her lingerie shop in Windermere and single-mindedly set up a brand new company called UNIBU – uni-British-underwear.
The trigger for her change of direction was the fact that the quality of the goods she was ordering for her shop began to dip. On enquiring, she discovered that lingerie was no longer being completely made anywhere in Britain: it was being made in places like India, Turkey and China. Following the outsourcing the fabric used had been downgraded and quality consequently lost.
Through much research and hard work Ms Crisp linked up with a company in Nottingham to supply her with fabric, and a redundant machinist in the Midlands who had sewing equipment available to make the garments. Yes, the cotton and rubber (for elastic) have to be imported, but otherwise her products are 100% British made. From a single machinist at work the business has grown sufficiently already for 6 machinists to be employed making 5 styles of ladies’ knickers and also men’s underpants in several colours.
Her mantra ‘Comfort, quality and style’ has lead to a successful beginning such that she was recently invited to Downing Street as one of the top 100 businesses in the UK. Not content with where she has got to she is beginning to consider making garments for other companies, and also branching out into the production of bras. But these are apparently very technical to design and make so it may be a while before they come on the market.
Pat Bevan thanked Shirley for her very interesting talk and then, with Pam Cowey, served refreshments before the business part of the evening. The raffle was won by the evening’s guest, and Jackie Lambert won the ‘article made in Britain’ competition.